Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for July 21st, 2014

Keeping Hope Alive . . .

with 10 comments

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been doing my best to keep hope alive. Life has been difficult and frustrating; it’s almost inconceivable to me, sometimes, that I’m still alive and my husband Michael has been dead for nearly ten years.

And I’m all that remains of what we’d hoped and dreamed for. I’m the only one who can finish his work, as well as my own. And as it’s difficult for me to figure out just what Michael had intended to do — writer Ursula Jones called this phenomenon “breaking into” someone else’s thinking (she was discussing finishing up her sister Diana Wynne Jones’ novel THE ISLANDS OF CHALDEA in the end-notes) — sometimes I wonder if I’m doing the right thing in carrying on Michael’s work.

Then again, I loved Michael, and I loved his stories, too. It makes me feel closer to him to do whatever I can to keep things going, even if what I write isn’t exactly the same as what he’d have written. Even if it’s taking me ten times as long to figure out this new novella set on Bubastis as it undoubtedly would’ve taken him, at least I’m trying to do it.

And that, in and of itself, is worthwhile. Michael would tell me so, if he were here . . . though of course, if he were, I’d not be doing this.

Mind you, I’m not the only writer who has ever wondered whether or not what I’m doing makes any sense. This blog from writersrelief.com about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and writing explains why writing and hope are so inextricably mixed:

As human beings and creative writers, we sometimes have a tumultuous relationship with hope. Hope keeps us going. We hope someone will understand what we’re trying to say with our writing. We hope the world will be a better place for our children. But when times get tough, hope can also feel like cold comfort.

Why have hope? we ask ourselves. What good will it do me if I know I can’t succeed? Sometimes when the task ahead seems truly impossible, hope seems futile.

But few people understand what it means to be hopeful as deeply as the man we honor every year at this time: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a pioneer of the civil rights movement. King’s dream was simple, but achieving it meant overcoming countless barriers and complexities. In many ways, hope was the driving force behind his remarkable achievements.

I missed this blog when it was first put up in January of 2014, but I find its words to be especially meaningful right now. (After all, studying the work of Martin Luther King, Jr., is never a bad thing.) I cannot imagine the odds against Dr. King when he first started agitating for civil rights and fair pay for laborers and equal rights for women and any number of other positive things — and he must’ve felt discouraged from time to time, too.

He didn’t show it very often, because Dr. King knew that people needed to believe that their lives, however meaningless they seemed, could indeed make a difference. So on bad days, he must’ve said, “I’m going to go out there and do the best I can,” and given whatever speech he had planned with whatever energy he had. And in so doing, he helped to lift people up with his words.

Words matter. Whether you’re an orator or a writer (or somewhere in between).

When I write a story, I want to make you think about something beyond yourself. Pondering something else can give you hope, because it means you can still think, still feel, still understand.

And I know that was Michael’s motivation for writing, also. He wanted to divert people, get them outside of themselves, and give them a few hours of entertainment that might actually make ’em smile . . . maybe that’s why I’ve pushed so hard with my own novel AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, because as a comic fantasy, what else can it do but make people smile?

Before I go, let me share one quote (also cited in the Writer’s Relief article) I found especially meaningful from Dr. King: “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

That, in a nutshell, is why I keep writing. Because I believe in hope. And that hope has to come from my own, hard work and effort — otherwise, why would it be worth anything?