Saturday, 12 November 2016

Optimism – by Ruth Hatfield

It’s Wednesday. I’m lying on the bed with a sad teething baby. Someone has just been elected president. I’ve just received my latest royalty statement. For the first, and only, brief moment of the day, I feel a grinding sorrow in my stomach. And then it goes.

Why don’t I feel sadder, today? I wonder if the business of getting books published has flayed so many layers of skin off my back that the nerves underneath are now dead. These days, I spend  90% of the time telling myself that my books are bound to sell, one day soon. I spend the other 90% telling myself  that nothing I write is in any way original, and the last 90% being certain that some of my ideas are so precious and extraordinary that they are worth struggling for years to express to an audience of 28 (between January and June). These things should make me feel something. 

But after the first good review and the first horrendous one, I concluded that no amount of happiness or heartache from me would make a difference to the fate of my books (or myself as an author), and so I took good care not to allow myself to feel anything, positive or negative, about what people said. I tried to focus on the things that were under my control. It makes me happy to write, so I write. Actually, it makes me far happier than it should do, given the lack of royalties and the poor crying child and the unbelievable miasma that is rising off the rotting pile of decency now discarded by several notable governments.

Is it a good thing not to allow sadness in? I don’t know. Probably not, of course, but I know that writing gives me hope, and I don't ever want to think that it's not worth writing. Perhaps I'm pinning too much on writing, on the thought that as long as I can keep going and write good books, everything will all come out right eventually, although I know that, practically, this isn’t the case. But then, I always do believe that books will, in some way, save the world. Otherwise – but there is no otherwise. They can, and they will.

Actually, it isn’t the books that will save the world, I know that. That particular task will be left to the people who read books. 

Perhaps there is no such thing as too much hope. I really hope so. 


Steve Gladwin said...

I'm so glad you've written this Ruth. I'm sure that there are so many 'early still' authors' like me who share your feelings about this. The truth is we always have the writing of course and part of the reason we write is to create hope for others - some of whom don't have much. I wish you so much luck with your books and their unique and gentle vision. x

Joan Lennon said...

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

Good old Emily Dickinson - wise, delicate, slightly sideways - thanks for posting, Ruth, and I hope those teeth "erupt" (do they still call it that?) soon!

Lynne Benton said...

You're quite right, Ruth - there is no such thing as "too much hope" or "false hope". Without hope that something or someone will put things right, however wrong they seem at the moment, why would any of us keep going? Your books are brilliant, so keep that in mind as you wait for Maera's teeth to come through and she becomes a happy baby again, and as you start working on your next book. Very good luck, and keep hoping for better days ahead!

Ruth Hatfield said...

Thanks all! Especially for the poem, I should frame it!