Hope is my muse

Read sometime back of a paramedic who, with as much pride as glee, spoke of how he tells people in his ambulance they’re going to die if he thinks they might.

As someone who is only alive because of hope, I resent such a flippant and arrogant choice.

His argument is that some of the people he pronounced doom upon thanked him. Maybe some have but I call bullshit for a number of reasons.

Even if others in their position had died of similar illnesses or injuries, there was no guarantee those patients would succumb likewise.

Removing all possibility from their minds that they might survive may have been the very thing that killed them.

Just think of how many stories you hear about people lost in the woods or at sea or staggering bleeding through a field or on the verge of death with cancer who fight to stay alive and do so.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think a person can will themselves well. I don’t believe in magic. But, I do know that giving up on something, especially life, dramatically increases the chances of failure.

How dare that shitty little grim reaper steal something so precious as hope.

His patients are already scared shit-less and praying to their gods and asking for mothers and husbands and wives; begging for one more day on Earth.

Telling them they’re going to die in that situation serves no purpose. He said he didn’t want to give them false hope.

Who’s to say what’s false?

My guess is this paramedic is a psychopath or sociopath. Either way, fuck him.

Hope is as precious to me as air and water. Hope is what gets me out of bed in the morning and keeps me putting pen to paper.

I don’t believe in inspiration or muses—not in a magical way.

But I do believe in hope.

More than anything else, hope is my muse.

Whenever my work is rejected by a literary magazine, I grumble and question how they could fail to see the goodness of my creation.

Then I mark the occasion in the file of active submissions I keep and I move on.

Hope that, someday, magazines will see value in my writing keeps me penning short stories and essays and bad poetry … and hope keeps me sending those pieces to dozens and dozens of publications each year.

Yes, I write for me. And even if I’m never published, I’ll continue to do so.

But, writers need to be read. Anyone who says otherwise can join the aforementioned paramedic in getting bent.

Hope that I have something interesting to say is what has compelled me to write four (unpublished) novels.

Hope is what pushes me to edit and revise, edit and revise. Hope is what keeps me from quitting when a rejection from an agent makes me feel like crying.

Hope is why I bust my ass at my day job so I have plenty of time to spend on my writing each week.

That said …

While hope is an integral part of the authoring process—namely in the motivation to do the thing—hope does not belong in the writing process, the actual doing of the thing.

Writing badly is fine so long as you rewrite it into something good.

This is advice you’ve heard before. But, as I look around on social media and blogs, published books, and even some literary magazines and websites, the advice is often disregarded.

Writing one draft of a story or essay and hoping it will be good enough is a recipe for ridicule and failure.

Hope has no place in honest writing. Not in the actual writing.

Stone masons don’t go to work hoping their blocks will lie true. Carpenters don’t cut boards hoping their edges will be straight. Plumbers don’t run waterline hoping to connect sink with water heater.

They study and practice.

As writers must study and practice.

That means reading many hundreds of books. Good books. Read some bad ones, too. It’ll show you what not to do.

It’s become trendy to shit on the Western Canon but, if you want to see how the masters did it, you should super-probably plan on reading as much of it as you can … along with anything else you can get your grubby little hands on.

Read dozens and dozens of articles on writing by people who know what they’re talking about.

Get all the best books on how to write effectively.

At the very least, you should have on your shelf Bird By Bird, On Writing, On Writing Well, The Elements of Style, and a thick dictionary and thesaurus (because Google doesn’t know everything).

Writing is hard and largely thankless.

Some folks may declare your ability hopeless. They’ll tell you your work is DOA.

A couple MF’ers will say they’re just saving you from future grief by grinding your “false” hope under their jack-booted heels.

Do yourself a favor and learn the difference between when someone is giving you fair and useful criticism and when they’re just pissing down your back.

We all start out as shit-heels and have to work our way up. Most of us won’t be great but you’ll never know what you can do unless you go for it.

Be hopeful in your career as an author but purposeful in your practice as a writer.


Here are some good pieces on hope and writing:

Should mentors and workshop leaders give false hope?

Words that matter: hope

Writing as an act of hope

10 things about writing that give hope

There’s Hope For You, Struggling Writers

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