Is Realistic Hope an Oxymoron?

July 31, 2018

“Hope… is the companion of power, and the mother of success; for who so hopes has within him the gift of miracles.”
~ Samuel Smiles

If I’m putting my work out there, I’m asking for the ups and downs that go with it. Hope plays a big role in that.

Am I Crazy to Get My Hopes Up?

Back in 2016 I wrote a post about getting your hopes up. I’m a big fan of it. I wanted to address it again because of my recent discouragement and also because my agent just recently submitted a project and I have basically doing everything I mention in that other post since she submitted it and you can bet I’m getting my hopes up. 🙂

But before I get too far into it, I wanted to share something. Just for fun, I did a search on “getting your hopes up” quotes, looking for a quote for this post. What came up was a plethora of negative quotes about getting your hopes up and how it makes things worse, blah, blah blah.

First of all, I found it very disappointing to see so much negativity around hope.

Second of all, I call bullshit. (BTW, in the interest of being more authentic, I will be including cuss words where appropriate. That’s how I speak in certain situations and I’m getting tired of using euphemisms to avoid offending people when a well-placed “shit” or “damn” works better for me.)

Luckily I kept scrolling and found a lot of positive quotes, like the one for this post. But true to human nature, the negative was first—a topic for another post. 🙂

Okay, now I’m going to talk about hope in the context of my own work.

What Does Not Getting Your Hopes Up Look Like?

Let’s imagine this not getting your hopes up scenario for a second. So I’m telling myself not to get my hopes up. I’m keeping my feelings low, probably expecting the worst. How do I feel during this time?


Why would I purposely put myself in a position of feeling bad? Sounds a bit masochistic, doesn’t it? It makes no sense. By trying to “protect” myself from disappointment, I begin to feel low and, well, disappointed, as if the negative thing I’m expecting—this agent or editor is going to reject my work and by extension me—has already happened.

No, thanks.

(And seriously, is it even humanly possible not to get your hopes up after working so hard on something and believing with your whole being that it’s wonderful and belongs out in th world? I think not.)

What Does Getting Your Hopes Up Look Like?

Anticipation. Excitement. Pride in my work. I feel all of those things. And I felt all of those things when I sent that picture book to my agent and she didn’t think it was as brilliant as I did. As I said, I was incredibly disappointed and discouraged. But the golden lesson that arose was that I hadn’t fully developed what I now see as the second “half” of hope, at least for me.

First Half: Positive Emotions. The first half of hope is feeling those emotions I just mentioned and having all the author fantasies we all have (and if you say you don’t have these fantasies, you may be lying just a wee bit).

Second Half: Detachment. The second half is being able to detach from a specific outcome so that if I do receive a perceived negative response, I can weather it more easily. In my case, I need to detach from expectations that go from the grand “It’s going to auction!” to the more basic “It will be accepted by a publisher.” It may. It may not. I imagine these scenarios. I feel joy around these scenarios. But I can’t hold on to them as the only outcome that will arise from submitting.

This or Something Better

I want to be able to say, and more importantly believe, what creative visualization guru Shakti Gawain says: “This or something better now manifests for me in totally satisfying and harmonious ways, for the highest good of all concerned.”

If this doesn’t happen, I must believe something better is out there. If this story keeps getting passes, maybe it’s not supposed to be published right now. Maybe it’s a stepping stone for a story that will get published. Maybe it’s not going to be for the highest good of everyone who would have been involved with it. I don’t know. But sitting in frustration does me no good. Releasing my pre-conceptions of what should happen to allow for what can or will happen leaves me free.

I don’t want to go through my life expecting the worst. I want to expect the best, yet be able to bend and flow with whatever comes my way.

That’s what I want. Now I’ve got to do the work to get there.