Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hope and the last Straw

When we're getting ready to do something, we hope it goes well. From going on a audition to preparing for a presentation at work, we hope for the best. These days we hope the economy will improve and our 401(k)s will return to normal. Most people recall the role hope played when Pandora opened her box.

How much hope do you have?

I remember a game I played as a kid called the last Straw. A brown plastic camel with wheels on its feet wore two yellow baskets. Players took turns placing colored plastic sticks in the baskets. You hoped yours wasn't the one to break the camel's back.

Just like that camel, most of us have our breaking point. Some people might quit after a single failure. Others persist until they succeed, no matter how long or how hard the journey.

How do you know if you should press on toward a goal in the face of rejection or failure? Sometimes it's hard to tell if you're beating your head against the wall or are about to become an example of that quote, "Winners never quit..." Are you that auditionee on American Idol who clearly has no talent whatsoever, except in his own ears? Or are you the next J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter got rejected a dozen times), Margaret Mitchell (GWTW got rejected 38 times) or Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintenance, over 120 rejections)?

Imagine for a minute sending out 100 submissions, following each agent's or editor's guidelines...some would be queries, some would include sample chapters and/or a synopsis. See the reams of paper printed and tidily stacked, the 100 envelopes ready to be mailed. (Yes, some agents/editors accept e-submissions today but many don't.) Imagine the hope you'd feel.

As each rejection rolled in, you'd think, "One NO closer to YES." (I give a workshop called that.) You'd hope, "Maybe the next one." What if all of that effort yielded nothing but a pile of letterhead? Would you keep going?

Persistence is a lot like gambling. What separates the person who sends out just one more submission and the one who bets on just one more race...that the goal of being a published author is more laudable than trying to make money via luck? The person putting a bet down on a horse with even 20-1 odds has a better chance of winning than the person sending out queries does of snagging an agent or selling a book.

Just because the odds are high doesn't mean we should give up. Let's hope that hope isn't quantifiable. That it regenerates and grows stronger while we persist until we achieve our dreams.


Morgan Mandel said...

Dreams are what makes life fun and not boring. When I get something, I always want something more and better. Then I spend time trying to get that new thing.

Morgan Mandel

Maureen McGowan said...

Great post, Ruth...