Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Great Expectations

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that sometimes our minds prevent us from seeing the truth, even when it looks us square in the face.  Expectations always get in the way.”  Molly Trail of Crumbs

I blame it on reading the wrong kind of books and watching the wrong kind of movies  during those critical growing up years. You know, the ones where you walk through a wardrobe and end up in Narnia, you find the secret code that solves the secret of the hidden stairway or a nanny floats down from the sky with an umbrella.

These set me up for great expectations, for magic just around the corner, for fairy dust.  It’s not that I haven’t been disappointed;  I have. Too many times to count. No one gets to publication without a gauntlet of disappoints. Like eager dogs in an agility class, we learn to navigate obstacles of all sizes. And if you listen to us talk, we speak as if we know better than to have great hopes.
My critique partner says, “After the ride I've been through, keeping my expectations at bay is easier than buttering toast.” But I’ve seen him butter toast. He’s all thumbs. And I’m not fooled. Because if we didn’t have hope, we wouldn’t be here sweating over every line of subtext. Even those heart grinding and gut wrenching seasons, when none of my writing is accepted or book sales are moderate at best, don’t prevent my hope meter from running.

I am writing this post on Emily Dickinson’s birthday. She is the muse of hope. After all she told the world about that endlessly singing  bird:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

As a writer, a reader, as a person, sometimes expectations do get in the way. As my husband reminds me, if I didn’t get my hopes up, I wouldn’t be so disappointed. Maybe this Christmas he’ll give me that pair of Reality Check glasses, the ones with rhinestones. When I put them on, I will know the odds. I will clearly see how few books break out, how few manuscripts are even accepted. I will know that I can’t make my book a best seller with one more tweet or conference. I will know even the kindest endorsements won’t sell my book.  I will also know I can only do the hard work of perfecting my craft each time I write, word by word.

But on the periphery, just outside the glasses’ frame, I’m sure I see a miniature door in the wall and a very tiny key.  Who knows what lies on the other side? I cast off the glasses and go for the key. All the while thinking of Gandalf’s words… It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
But that’s what writer’s do, step on to the road with great expectations. How do you manage yours?


Mary said...

Beautifully said, Maureen! Thank you.

Sechin Tower said...

Keep fighting the good fight! I think I've seen too many of the same movies, or maybe I've read too much of the same mythology. I always think of the Norse gods, who know they will be defeated in the end but they fight anyway. Why? because the fight defines them, I guess. Or maybe because they enjoy it. Or because they just don't know any better. For me, when I'm "fighting the good fight," it's all of the above... maybe especially "I don't know better."

Whatever the reason, keep fighting the good fight! And be sure to post a picture of those rhinestone glasses :)

Maureen McQuerry said...

I also talk to crows and expect answers. Now you know way too much. If I knew how to post pics in comments, I'd show you the glasses.

Sechin Tower said...

Crows are startlingly intelligent animals and some have been known to mimic words like parrots.

That means you might just get an answer some day. Those glasses might just be steering you in the right direction after all.

Stephen Wallenfels said...

I have an app that manages my expectations, ranks them using a reality based matrix with filters for age, geography, relative IQ (my relatives are wicked smart), talent, and whether or not I talk to birds, which I do: owls. Great post, Maureen. You exceeded my already lofty expectations.