Hope. Every human being knows what it is. It's what most aspiring novelists survive on. We slog away at our day jobs, writing in the few spare hours we can carve out of our already full week, or devote our lives to looking after our families, multitasking to the point of insanity. We type in solitude hour after hour, living inside our imaginations and drawing discipline from the Muse we cannot shake, with only a distant hope that one day some editor will deem our labors worthy of publication and thus validate all the hours that we have sacrificed in the journey. Writers generally don't write with fantasies of becoming rich and famous. Most, I believe, are more practical than that. We write because we want to share the vast depths of human emotion, allowing us to connect with others. We write to be read.
What has often kept me going in this elusive pursuit is the recurring daydream that one day I'll be in an airport bookshop and see someone standing there holding my book. MY book. That creature that I slaved over, wept over and sweated over day and night, for years, at the expense of my ever-dwindling bank account, to the neglect of housework and exercise and a hundred other things I could have done. And I would see that person, eyes fixed on the pages, completely absorbed, and know that I had done something rare and wonderful - breathed life into the name of a historical figure centuries long dead, and for someone else, if only for a few hours, made them real and alive. Just as writers like Alexandre Dumas, Sir Walter Scott and J.R.R. Tolkien did for me as an adolescent, convincing me that that is what I, too, wanted to do in life. That is a writer's hope: to be read, to share, to entertain, to put a finger on the soul of another human being.
Through the years, I have ridden the roller coaster of hope – often doubting the power of my words or my skill in arranging them, sometimes spurred on by a smattering of confidence when someone else took notice and said encouraging things. I have come tantalizingly close to that pinnacle of validation when an editor's interest has been piqued – and deflated by indifference when it was not. Assured that persistence is an element to success, I quietly soldier on, even as I see those more talented than me mirroring the same game of wait and hope and try again. A few make it. Most do not. The assumption for those who do not garner a traditional publishing contract is often that their writing is not good enough. But having come to know some very, very talented writers still struggling to be discovered, I don’t believe that anymore. The same, I’m sure, is true for actors and singers who march to audition after audition, hoping to be that one in a million who’s in the right place at the right time.
So, after years of trying the traditional route and never getting a foot in the door – what next? Stay tuned, this could get interesting . . . I have a plan. There's always hope. Sometimes we just have to look for it in other places.