Thanks to the fickle magic of Twitter, I came across a quote that seemed especially meaningful to me right now. It’s from my favorite literary badass, Junot Díaz.
Díaz spent ten years writing the book that would eventually win him the Pulitzer Prize. This quote makes me wonder if there was a moment, or many moments, within those ten years when he really believed nothing showed any sign of promise, when he felt there was no hope.
I wouldn’t be surprised. Writing is hard, and my journey has been more difficult and humbling than I could have imagined. But Díaz kept at it, and so have I. Not because I think if I keep trucking at it maybe I’ll turn out something that could win a Pulitzer. But because I believe there’s value in the act of creating something from nothing.
I had a friend years ago with whom I’ve unfortunately lost touch. He would sometimes talk about his wife, an artist whose creative endeavors he always supported and encouraged. He told me once, “I honestly believe that even if she never sells a painting, the world is a better place because she made art.”
Maybe there’s something to that. It’s not “making the world a better place” in the way taking reusable shopping bags to the grocery store is, but by creating something that wasn’t there before, maybe we’re making our small corner of the world a little more beautiful.
It takes trust, not just to craft a story from nothing but imagination, but to commit to it. To believe it exists and believe it matters. When deep in your heart you feel nothing shows a single sign of promise, when you have no hope and you leap anyway, then you are a writer.
And if you are a writer, you know as well as I do that no matter how hard you fall, you won’t be able to stop.
If you haven’t read Díaz, you should. My favorite is This is How You Lose Her. Also excellent is The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which really should be required reading everywhere.
6 thoughts on “When there is no hope, you write anyway”
I’m about to start The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao!
It’s a great book! I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.
I certainly believe that is why I paint. However, I get loads of appreciation from my children and grandchildren.
Family is such an important source of support for me also!
Sarah — One would think there’s no improving on Diaz’ sound bite, but you gave us a beautiful expansion of his sentiment. A novelist I know worked on his first novel for about 20 years, and has spent the last 10 or so with an agent. All told, he gave about 25 years to that novel before moving on to book #2, though his heart is still with the first one, and his agent –thankfully, last I heard — also still believes in it. When I get discouraged, I think of this novelist, and know — despite our differences in our publishing history — that, between us, he’s the true writer. And the inspiration. Thank you for reminding us of why we do what we do, despite all the odds.
Wow, 25 years. That must take an amazing amount of dedication and faith in your art. It’s great that his agent is supportive and still believes in the book. I hope that he finds a place for it someday!