Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fueled by Hope

Hallelujah and whoo hoo and yippee yahoo! I finished a first draft! It took me ten months, which is by far the fastest first draft I've ever written. For ten months, I've been thinking about this story, poking at it bit by bit, tunneling through to the end. For ten months, I haven't received a cent of payment, yet I've worked my hardest, struggled, and persisted, all fueled by hope. The hope that I could finish. The hope that this story would be worth writing and then worth reading. The hope that someday, after I revise and revise and revise, this will be the book that breaks me out of the mid-list. This will be the book about which people will say, "You have to read it!"

Lately I've been thinking about hope and how the authors I know get so excited and filled with hope before their book comes out, and then how those same authors are often disappointed when their book, no matter how great it is, doesn't get the attention it deserves. Doesn't get shelf space at the book stores. Doesn't get starred reviews. Doesn't get publicity or buzz from their publisher. Doesn't sell movie rights or foreign rights or hit the best seller lists. It's incredibly frustrating.

They've done this amazing thing that most people never do... they've gotten their book published! But then the reality of it hits... their book is one of around 25,000 new books for children and young adults published every year. It might seem impossible to get published, but the truth is lots of people accomplish that goal. Unfortunately, only a tiny percent of those people are ever published successfully.* You've got to be a fool to hope for that.

So call me a fool.

One of my author friends said she doesn't get swept up by the hope or by the disappointment. She just keeps doing the work. And though I admire her balanced way of approaching this journey, I know that will never be me. I need the hope to fuel me. I would never have spent ten months of my life torturing this story out of me if I didn't think there was a possibility of a huge reward someday. Yes, the writing is the reward... I get that. And as difficult as it is, I love to write and can't imagine doing anything else. But it's too easy to give up if I think I'm just doing this for myself or for mediocre rewards. The hope that maybe this time I could be writing a breakout novel keeps me going. I'll take whatever disappointment comes my way. I understand that's the consequence for hoping, and I'm okay with that. Because without the hope, I'd just be standing still. Dreaming, not doing.

* I realize everyone will have their own definition of success. And it might be that the nature of success is that you always want what is just out of reach. For example, Julia's Kitchen could very well be considered a success. It won awards, got great reviews (even a star from Kirkus!), was translated into German, and worked its way into the hearts of many readers. And though I'm so grateful for all of that, my dream of success goes beyond what I've accomplished so far.

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