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Question of the Week: Hope

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What gives you hope when times are tough? What do you hold on to?


Wednesday, Jolene Siana will be here. Her book is a compilation of letters and journal entries from a time she felt hopeless. Come join us and find out how the singer from Skinny Puppy helped her get through.


Tonight is Nile Rodgers’ We Are Family Foundation gala, and I’ll have more to say about it at the end of the week. I’ll bet I’ll have some swag to give away, too. Kenny, Kathy, and Mike, don’t forget to pick me up at 2!

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  • PD Smith
    April 23, 2007

    When times are tough, then it’s my partner who always gives me hope. John Donne put it more eloquently than I ever could:

    “All other things, to their destruction draw,
    Only our love hath no decay.”

  • Anneliese
    April 23, 2007

    I try to hold onto my reality of how the world works and picture whatever adversity I’m going through as the rapids on a full-flowing river. I try to let go and let the river carry me along, bumping into the logs and detritus, knowing that eventually I will settle on a bank, deposited by the slacking current.

    The mantra, “This too shall pass,” repeats itself in my thoughts.

    Of course, that is what I say when I’m not in it. When I am in it, I do try the above, but intermittently I abandon hope, and use curse words while flailing my arms in a struggled float downstream. 🙂

  • David Niall Wilson
    April 23, 2007

    I’m not usually prone to hopelessness. I’m one of those annoying people with the ability to let go of things beyond my control, but when it gets worse than even I can stomach, I take some time and talk with my three year old daughter…or read her a Dr. Seuss book…or play with the Maltese puppy…life is too short to give in to hopelessness…remind yourself of the reasons you have to get on with it, and of those who count on you…


  • Clare Grant
    April 23, 2007

    The thought that I’m a tiny speck in a vast universe and a moment in a very long time.

    I love the poem by A.E. Houseman, ‘Wenlock Edge’. It’s about a man looking at the woods in a storm and reflecting that two thousand years ago, a Roman might have stood on the same spot considering his problems. The last verse comes out like a sigh of relief:

    “The gale, it plies the saplings double,
    It blows so hard, ’twill soon be gone:
    To-day the Roman and his trouble
    Are ashes under Uricon.”

    You can read the poem here.

  • A.S. King
    April 23, 2007

    I am similar to David in this respect. Annoyingly, I am one of those perpetually positive folks. But when times do get me down, my loving spouse and a rendition of Dr, Seuss’s ‘Oh The Places You’ll Go’ to my 4 year old will usually pull me out.

    Also, loud swearing.


  • Nathalie
    April 23, 2007

    New ideas.
    They keep streaming in.
    And since I cannot (or rather refuse to) tackle more than 3 stories at the same time, they push me towards progress. And show me that I’ll always have new projects to cheer me up and to look forward to.
    They soften the blows from daily life (writing is my favourite form of escapism, after all).

  • Aurelio
    April 23, 2007

    Hopelessness puts me in a state of lethargy, so my answer is to do something. It doesn’t matter what: dig a hole in the yard, clean the house, sort my desk. It has to be something immaterial because usually hopelessness comes as a result of facing something beyond my control.

    The small exercise of positive change helps.

    (I’m sounding all Dr. Phil, but actually I throw fits, curse, blame myself and others, and clump my feet whenever I walk, like a pouty child, first.)

  • *Joe*
    April 23, 2007

    What gives me hope when the going gets tough? Humor and chocolate and the thought that ‘things could be worse’ though I’ve been wrong about that before.

  • Betsy
    April 23, 2007

    Weird, my comment didn’t stick. Well, at least it wasn’t very long. But basically I said the same thing as Annelise – at a certain point in my life I realized how true it was that “this too shall pass” – that all things change, and they’ll change again. That’s helped me through some times where the light of my hope was pretty dim. That said – I’m a pretty hopeful person in general. Sunny – not so much. Hopeful, yes.

  • Richard Cooper
    April 23, 2007

    Susan and da gang,

    When the going gets tough, the tough get going–literally, meaning (for me) that it’s time to make some *travel* plans. We (all of us) must have *something* to look forward to: whether it’s a quick trip to the museum in town or to multiple visits to the Jack Kerouac scroll exhibition at the Palace of the Governors (while it’s “On the Road,” see my blog!) or to a weekend getaway to Ojo Caliente’s hot springs or to a long-planned vacation in a distant city. And it’s even better, I believe, when you can share the plan and the experience with a loved one. This year, not even the heat of July will deter us from NYC!

    I believe in surprise and serendipity and satori: these always keep me going and find me no matter how far I travel or hard I hide in strange surroundings. But travel–especially that finite wait between plan and place–is what keeps me revved.


  • David Thorpe
    April 23, 2007

    When in deep shit I recall a woman I saw on tv being rescued after a flood had destroyed her village and everything she owned, members of her family swept away, the landscape and all in it at the mercy of the tumultuous waters and the continuing deluge.

    She was marooned up a tree, all around nothing but swirling water. A BBC helicopter was filming her.

    In this scariest of situations she was giving birth.

    Fortunately, she and her baby were rescued. You’d like to know that both survived: and this is true.

    Moral: there is always someone worse off than you.

  • Kimberly
    April 23, 2007

    I’ll second most everyone above’s emotions; I’m pretty much a positive scanner: 99% of the time, I’m proverbially drinking lemonade.

    Like this week – I’m down in Florida helping my parents out of a pretty terrible jam, and all I can think about is how lucky I was to get out of New York before the terrible weather last week, how lovely it is when it’s 72, sunny and breezy, and how much nicer working on excel spreadsheets is when your card-table desk is next to a swimming pool. 🙂

    When I’m feeling desperate/hopeless myself – I am a huge pro/con list maker. Writing everything out and seeing things in black and white really helps keep things in perspective for me and reminds me constantly how blessed I am in life.

    Sorry to rain ‘Pollyanna’ on everyone’s loud swearing parade… although some can attest to my favorite stress-relieving rant: ‘pissshitfuckdamn’!

  • Antoine Wilson
    April 23, 2007

    Simple, for me: Surfing.

    Instant reconnection with nature, an opportunity to think in a totally different way, physical exertion.

    Of course, I might be definining “hope” here as “the antidote to periodic writerly depression.”

  • Tish Cohen
    April 23, 2007

    I’m with Nathalie. New ideas are delicious with hope. I cannot control what happens with my books once they’re out of my hands, but I can pour my entire spirit into another one.

    Susan, your question is especially timely for me – about half an hour ago I finished a YA outline and sent it off. Hope hope hope…

  • Robin Slick
    April 23, 2007

    My kids.

    I’ve had so much death and destruction in my life and made so many wrong turns there are days I’m honestly surprised to be out in the world functioning as a fairly normal (ha) person. But then I look at Julie and Eric. The love I have for them and the way they love me back in return is my greatest accomplishment and nothing is ever going to top that. As much as I fantasize about book deals, etc. and sometimes feel like I’m writing for no one but myself, the truth is, even if I end up with fame and fortune (as if), it will all pale in comparison to the joy of being their parent.

    As well it should.

  • Carolyn Burns Bass
    April 23, 2007

    I am generally an optimistic person. Yet, even optimists have tough times. The toughest times are those over which one has no control.

    After I’ve examined my situation from every angle, rebooted my system a few times with dubious means, and tried to wrestle the remote from controller’s hands, I eventually hand it back over. I believe a higher power, who I call God, is ultimately in control.

  • Carolyn Burns Bass
    April 23, 2007

    And what Robin said. Bravo.

  • Jonathan Evison
    April 23, 2007

    …i just remind myself that no matter how bleak the outlook may be, it still probably beats the inside of a coffin…

  • Julie Ann Shapiro
    April 23, 2007

    When hopelessness gnaws at me – I get out of my head and notice the world around me. This means running on the beach, listening to the birds sing, finding the contageous joy and laughter of others. And studying the root of the hoplessness and finding a way of way to work through it and beyond. Most of all this involves movement. There’s an old expression someone shared with me – the universe helps those in forward movement. I heed this by getting up and moving.

    If nothing washes away the hopelessness I go through the thankful list and think of everything that I’m thanful for…and pretty soon I see reasons to be happier, not sad.

  • Shelley Marlow
    April 23, 2007

    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. ~ Hunter Thompson

    Like Julie Ann, I work out, listen for the stream of good energy, laughter, children, etc. Sometimes I listen to music, read poetry, used to be Rumi, or my poet friends… Lee Ann Brown, Deborah Bernhardt, Joanna Furhman, or hit the beautiful Dr. Suess books.
    Cool to hear that woman survived and gave birth in a tree, David!

  • Mark Bastable
    April 23, 2007

    It never occurred to me, when times were tough, that hope was going to be any help to me at all. Where’s hoping goging to get you? Either *do* something, or give up.

    And, incidentally, there’s nothing wrong with giving up. Quitting is a perfectly valid and sensible response to all sorts of failure, and I’ve never understood why that option gets such bad press, especially in America.

  • Aurelio
    April 23, 2007

    Hear, hear, Mark! This American agrees with you. Sometimes the wisest thing to do is to give up. It can end a hopeless situation and give you a fresh, clean slate, new and better possibilities.

  • Terry Bain
    April 23, 2007

    I don’t want hope. Hope is stagnant. A second cousin to a wish. I need motion. So when things seem “hopeless,” I try to remember to move.

    Move. Get up. Get down. Shake.

    Woo. That feels betta don’t it?

  • Robin Slick
    April 23, 2007

    Ha! I’ve transferred my fan girl crush from Neil Gaiman to Mark Bastable.

  • Jordan E. Rosenfeld
    April 23, 2007

    First of all, Robin, your post about your kids really touched me. I know parents who compete with their children!

    For me, it’s a game of will. I think being a good old “ACA” (adult child of an alcoholic), I have a near pathological habit of getting back up on the horse. I just get so sick of myself when I’m down too long, and then I feel guilty for wasting my talents–because somewhere out there is at least one person who wishes they were a white woman of moderate means living a free life to do pretty much as she wishes.

    I’ve got it bleepin’ good.

    That, or I just read.

  • Simon Haynes
    April 24, 2007

    I write in the hope that my oddball pair of Hal Spacejock and Clunk will find a worldwide audience, rather than just being popular here in Australia.

    Money doesn’t motivate me, since I run my own small business and could increase my income by working longer hours.

  • lance reynald
    April 24, 2007

    somehow my earlier comment was lost in the shuffle…

    now I’ve forgotten it…

    though I think it was a good one.


  • lance reynald
    April 24, 2007

    I’m pretty sure it was something about writing though…

  • Susan Henderson
    April 24, 2007

    Terry Bain – Any reason people have been losing comments when they try to post?

    Guys, I got in very very late last night but I’ll come back and comment this afternoon. Great discussion!

    Rest in peace, David Halberstam.

  • Ric Marion
    April 24, 2007

    Ditto to much of what has been said – Lance excepted.
    As someone prone to depression, hope can be mercurial. That said, I am one of those optomistic happy people most of the time. Being in sales, an enthusiastic smile can make the difference between eating steak or McDonalds. And those smiles cannot be faked.
    Hope is never getting to the point where your future cannot be dreamed. Reaching the spot in your life where you realize it isn’t going to get any better, that this is it and just going through the motions from then on. That is the loss of hope.
    Starting a new novel, getting published anywhere, putting that germ of an idea down on paper, this revives my hope – hope of recognition, publication, realizing the dream. When things get really bad, sitting alone in the coffee shop, pad of paper, pen in hand, imagining the couple in the next booth – their dreams, their lives, their hope – and the muse comes.


  • Lori Oliva
    April 24, 2007

    I’m a big energy person (pre THE SECRET). Sometimes I put too much energy into events or relationships. I keep positive people as friend (e.g. people who are genuine, who exude peace and love, have a good idea of where they want to go in life, and live their lives without unnecessary drama.)Hope for me comes by retreating and reflecting on what’s going on in my life, then reconnecting with the good people I call my friends. It helps me gain a better perspective.

  • Susan Henderson
    April 24, 2007

    I’m posting this for Lance (with apologies that his comments didn’t go through):

    my writing has never made me feel hopeless. it’s the times when I can’t or don’t write that drop me into despair. a feeling of muteness that makes everything about my life feel just a shell. Yes, I’ve had spells where either I was so muddled that I couldn’t write or I defiantly didn’t want to be just another hopeless writer so I wouldn’t. A self imposed exile of words. Sometimes weeks, months, the longest spell four years. For me those were the hopeless times. Traumatic events make me mute; give me the sense that words have abandoned me; hopeless. But, the simplest of daily journal entries, the genesis of a new story, a irreverent blog, a dozen pages in a moleskine, a note to a friend…even these words and the dialogue they mesh into; always Hope.

    for me, hopelessness is wordlessness.


    lance reynald

  • Gail Siegel
    April 24, 2007

    Thanks to Clare for that poem. Wonderful. I am an ignoramus when it comes to poetry, so I really appreciate it.

    I’m going through a pretty hopeless time, but I think that visiting Clare’s blog –which I just visited for the first time — could cheer up anyone. It’s lovely.

  • Ric Marion
    April 24, 2007

    Wow! Obvious apology to Lance. Been there.

  • Shelley Marlow
    April 24, 2007

    Yes,Lance, I agree that muteness is roughest. I barely talked for a year as an 11 yr. old.

  • amy
    April 25, 2007

    What gives me hope is remembering all the writers and artists and people I admire, and how many of them had it so much harder than I do now. How some of them even made a virtue out of desperation, using poverty and failure as excuses to live marvelously marginal lives.

    Even if I never achieve traditional success, I can at least make my life a work of art.

  • Jim Hanas
    April 25, 2007

    I think the painter Francis Bacon perfectly summarized the irreducibility of our situation.

    “One’s basic nature is totally without hope, and yet one’s nervous system is made out of optimistic stuff.”

  • Susan Henderson
    April 26, 2007

    Fascinating to see all these ideas. Aurelio, I think I might try your idea of simply getting up and doing anything next time I feel hopeless because I get womped by a sense of fatigue more than anything else. I like that idea. Beautiful quotes and stories, you guys. I’ll link every one of you tomorrow for the Weekly Wrap.

    I’ve been busy with my book deal stuff, but I’m not complaining one bit. God, it feels so great to be past the anxiety and the waiting and the unknown. Busy definitely suits me.

    Okay, I’m off. Hey, Antoine and Jim! It’s been a while since I’ve seen you here and it’s a nice treat.

  • Jason Boog
    April 26, 2007

    When things are bad, I generally go to my friends. A few good conversations with somebody I love usually sets me straight. When I need hope for writing (or feeling better), I usually read Bruno Schultz. He takes me back to being a kid, and turns the world into this wonderful new place. That usually gives me enough energy to keep going…

  • C
    November 23, 2007

    When I feel hopeless its a deep down, to the bottom of the feet feeling of intensity. I have to pull myself up. I look at art or muster some words and just start writing . It’s amazing how much this helps.

  • […] * Near-Death Experience * Where? * Mistakes * Writer Communities * Hope * Now What? * Independent Press * Generosity * Nice! * Zodiac * Style * Professional Jealousy * AWP […]

  • […] * Near-Death Experience * Where? * Mistakes * Writer Communities * Hope * Now What? * Independent Press * Generosity * Nice! * Zodiac * Style * Professional Jealousy * AWP […]

Susan Henderson