Without despair

30 Nov

The hero of my early writing life, Raymond Carver, kept a file card over his desk with this quotation from Isak Dinesen on it: “I write a little each day, without hope and without despair.”

Through the years, the opposing poles of this call to Zen-like detachment have sustained me through writing thick and thin.  Not letting despair stand in the way is easily enough understood.   What many find astonishing is Dinesen’s admonishment not to hope.  But hope can block the path as much as despair.  In artistic endeavors, the imperatives of the work itself must take precedence, and hope for what might become of the work beneath your pen can twist and distort intentions.

Now it’s time for me to heed the second half of Dinesen’s two-point credo.  I just heard through my agent that the publisher with whom I have a contract (see previous posts for rantings about said contract’s meaninglessness)  is not interested in publishing my upcoming book.  Though they assure my agent that they are ‘very find’ (sic) of me, they wonder how they can market the book, times being so apparently tough.

This is a blow.  Despite all I’ve said disparaging the job they did promoting my last book, they are a prestigious house, and there was a considerable amount of imaginary money at stake.

I do feel slightly freed, knowing this decision, which I’ve suspected was coming, has finally been made.  And this does nothing to change comments I’ve made in earlier posts about the possibilities that may open up upon the collapse of the big time contract.  But let me be honest with myself: rejection is rejection.  And it’s very discouraging.

Nonetheless, I do have faith in the new book.  And I did, as I laid out here in yesterday’s post, get up this morning and get my minimum amount of work done on an even newer work:  I wrote three pages, doubling the length of the current manuscript.

If Carver were here, he’d advise me to listen to Dinesen.  So I am.


4 Responses to “Without despair”

  1. bushidoka December 1, 2010 at 11:37 am #

    Time to look at self publishing. I’d be in for a chunk of work (in exchange of course for a small percentage :-))

    • Leo McKay Jr. December 1, 2010 at 8:59 pm #

      15% of zero is zero. But 15% of 1000 bucks in the hole is 150 bucks in the same hole.

  2. rcdesjardins December 1, 2010 at 2:00 pm #

    To take Dinesen’s idea a little further; I think the trick is to ignore your hopes in favour of concentrating on your goals. I suspect the two could be confused.

    Rejection stings, but I doubt it’ll slow you down much, creatively at least.

    • Leo McKay Jr. December 1, 2010 at 9:00 pm #

      Hopes vs. goals. Good point.
      And thanks, Ryan.

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