Re: The Writer’s Book of Hope

The first hope offered by The Writer’s Book of Hope, by Ralph Keyes, is that no one can tell who is going to make it as a writer. Therefore you should encourage all aspiring writers. The next hope is a bit darker: that it’s okay to get all worked up about how hard it is to write. Everyone feels that way. Successful writers persevere through those feelings. If they did it, you can too. All you need is encouragement.

The book collects this constellation of feelings into “AFD syndrome,” for anxiety, frustration, and despair. If you write, you’ll probably recognize your own pains in this. So here’s a few quotes that leapt out at me.

  • Anxiety comes because for when you take your writing seriously, it becomes harder to put words on paper. (So maybe we shouldn’t take it so seriously?)

Even though anxiety is a normal response to the act of writing, it is rarely faced head-on….Anxiety is a master of disguise: laziness, procrastination, evasiveness, blocks, giving up altogether. Anxiety is the main reason that writers don’t complete projects they start, can’t put completed projects in the mail, write evasively, or don’t write at all.

  • Frustration comes because what you write is never as good as what you want to write.

Frustration is a sign of seriousness; an indication that your reach is exceeding your grasp. That’s why feeling discouraged is not necessarily a bad thing. It could mean you’re on the right path….if you are not discouraged about your writing on a regular basis, you may not be trying hard enough.

  • Despair comes because writing is hard, and sometimes you wonder if it’s worth it. But you can’t let it stop you.

Desperation defeats far more aspiring writers than lack of ability. What they don’t realize is that desperation is the writers’ norm, serenity the exception….Despair is not just an affiliction of neophytes. It is part of every writer’s job description.

Having described the problem, the book goes on to offer more encouragement, while remaining clear-eyed about the obstacles. The chapter on excuses for not writing was listed as one of the resources used in How to Write A Lot. There’s a long list of writers who get writing done by scheduling, though it’s not very specific about it. There are also examples of writers who snatched a few moments wherever they could find them. And there’s also the warning that having all day to write doesn’t mean you’ll get more writing done.

The book’s description of the insular (as in island of Manhattan insular) nature of the publishing world goes a long way toward explaining why no one knows which books will make it. It discusses using rejection to spur yourself on, and looking for encouragement in classes, workshops, peer groups and writers conventions.

So long as you keep writing, there is always hope.

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