Each weekend a different editor at ATTICUS REVIEW writes a letter. Today's by the creative nonfiction editor Chauna Craig has me thinking about the hope necessary to sustain a longer project. I regret abandoning my essay collection DO-IT-YOURSELF NIGHT when it was just about finished. I kept thinking I needed a stronger arc and ending, and started THE LUNATICS' BALL thinking it would be a flash chapbook (ha!) that I could complete as a distraction. Here's what Chauna Craig says about hope:
"In my morning reading I came across this quotation from writer and revolutionary Vaclav Havel: 'Hope is not a feeling. It is not the belief that things will turn out well, but the conviction that what we are doing makes sense, no matter how things turn out.' I paused. I printed those lines into a journal. I pondered. A conviction is something much more lasting than a feeling, and Havel reminds us that hope is less a look to the future than a deep grounding in the present, the affirmation that what we are (currently) doing makes sense, no matter how things turn out. When I examine my own writing life through this frame of hope, I see how much — to the detriment of my own joy — I still tend to value product over process and give too much weight to external evaluation. I’ve set aside difficult and complicated writing projects, telling myself they just need to rest. Rest is generally good, but some of my projects have gone Rip Van Winkle on me, stirring again long after the cultural moment has changed. The more that happens, the more I succumb to the belief that the current project will go the same way, that I’m not capable of really finishing, that I’m only wasting my time and energy if I don’t. The opposite of hope."
It's hard not to overvalue external evaluation, and the brief thrill of having something published and acknowledged by editors and readers on social media. It's hard to maintain the belief that what I'm working on "makes sense, no matter how things turn out." THE LUNATICS' BALL keeps growing instead of neatly cohering, but the process of discovery makes some kind of sense to me. I hope I can maintain that process.
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