WARNING: This is a no-edit zone…
Hope is a fragile thing.
It is also enduring and powerful and, as the saying goes, it springs eternal.
But none of that means that hope can’t be traumatized–and the individual daring it, being traumatized right along with it. Hope can be crushed under the weight of discouragement. Despair can snuff it out. Even neglect can cause hope to shrink so small we can’t feel its spark anymore.
We all know these things to be true. We’ve all had a dream or desire to do something that fired our imaginations and aroused our spirits and determinations only to present it to someone else and have it shot down or ripped to shreds and decimated. We remember how that felt. The sense of loss that ran through our veins, burned an empty pit into our stomaches, and hollowed our hearts.
It wasn’t just the loss of a specific thing, it was the loss of the promise it held. There’s a big difference. We can shift our focus to another specific thing. But that loss of promise runs deeper, hits us harder, because it means so much more. In the promise is hope’s power. And the power of hope is elemental, as essential to our spirits as air is to our bodies.
Imagine your life without hope. No chance for a better job, a better relationship, a better life, a better anything. Imagine being in darkness with no hope of light. No hope of love. No hope of life. Imagine being trapped in a horrific situation with no hope of escape. No hope. None.
On all fronts, you are doomed to this dismal and bleak, hopeless existence forever. There will be no reprieve, no rescue, no mercy.
But then something happens. Not a big something. A little something. And in it there is a speck of hope. Just a speck. You fear daring to believe it. Elect not to believe in it because, well, it’s a speck and daring to believe in a mere speck leaves you with a long way to fall.
But the speck persists. And it keeps persisting until you can no longer resist. You tentatively grasp it, certain it’ll fade away. But it doesn’t. The speck gets a wee bit bigger. You embrace it, cling to it, give it all your focus and attention. You nurture it, dwell on it, do whatever you can to fan that hope into growing.
And so it does. Where you’d once felt helpless and hopeless, downtrodden and oppressed, you now feel a surge. In that surge, you glimpse the power of hope.
That power encourages you. It nurtures you. You dare to dream. You dare to be determined, to pursue the unlikely, then the impossible. You dare to believe that the unlikely and impossible are attainable. And your belief strengthens hope, infuses it with even more power.
You feed on its strength, you dare to try even harder, to pursue more doggedly, to shun the naysayers and unsupportive and endure being called foolish and full of folly. You risk. You dare. You persist. And you achieve.
You get that better job, salvage that irreparable relationship, seize that better life. You do it because you understood the power of hope.
As writers, we need to understand the power of hope. In fiction, our job is to entertain. We attempt to do that by engaging the emotions. We manipulate story events, character, motivations to elicit the emotional responses that best serve the story. That’s our job. Many do it very well.
But our purpose in storytelling runs deeper. We also explore the human condition, and it’s that aspect of writing that has claimed my thoughts and attention today.
In the past few weeks, I’ve heard from many readers who are struggling. They’re facing challenges in all areas of life. Jobs, relationships, financial hardships, challenges with kids running astray, getting into trouble. Just every facet of life imaginable. They need help to cope. Solid strategies, plans, assistance. But collectively what they need most is hope.
They need to know and believe that things can get better.
In your writing, in your life, be aware. Often we’re so busy looking at what’s going on in our own circle, we neglect to note others have circles much less what’s going on in them. That’s the purpose of this post. To remind us all (and that includes me) that others are in pain. They’re struggling and, in our lives and in our stories, they need hope.
Bonding with a character requires an investment from the reader. Readers make that investment. Some do it to be entertained. Some do it looking for something that helps them in their own lives. Some can’t identify what they’re hoping to find but they recognize it when they feel it.
An important question we should ask ourselves about our works: In what are we asking the reader to invest? In what we are offering, what is worthy of reader investment?
In our work, our lives, are we embracing the power of hope? Are we, through our works, nurturing it in others?
Personally and professionally we all have the ability to embrace and nurture hope. On recognizing it and in understanding its power, the question then becomes: Will we do it?
Will we look within and then reach out?
Will we embrace hope–for ourselves, and for others?
I dare to hope that we will. Because while enduring and powerful and springing eternal, this truth remains true:
Hope is a fragile thing…