Digging for Words

One writer's quest to bring the past to life through imagination



Sometimes hope is an elusive prospect in the face of the daunting task of writing. The work can seem a chore, endless, lonely, unforgiving, even pointless when one considers the perhaps bigger chore of finding a publisher and an audience.

Those hours spent, those days and weeks soon grow into years of trying again and again, knowing the effort might lead to nothing, sensing that everything you write isn’t good enough, that it will never be good enough, that maybe you should reconsider your passions, if not your career choice. It’s very hard to swallow even for the most stubbornly determined among us.

So I take great delight in sharing this very brief but lovely essay by Junot Diaz, Becoming a Writer. (I know we had an interview with him earlier this session, but I can’t help myself.) His authorial heartbreak and astounding breakthrough are powerful antidotes for that feeling of frustration.
There is always hope
Writing sometimes is not about how much you can take as it is about who you really are. If you are a writer in your soul, then you must go on writing, despite all counter-indications. Every rejection, every challenging critique, every soggy tissue and ream of paper you throw out with the recycling, are just pebbles (Yes, pebbles, I know, I know!). They are the rubble upon which a stronger foundation will be built for the monumental work – short or long, published or unpublished – that you put forth. It is as strong as the pyramids because it bears your sweat and blood and bones.

Writing is unrequited love. Writing is being jilted and still having the courage to return to the altar. Writing is also the intimate wonder of cuddling an infant and examining it delicately to make sure that it is absolutely perfect in every minute detail.

So on this week before Thanksgiving, I wish each of you hope. And I thank all of you who have shared this journey with me. Having this precious circle in which to soothe grief and nurture joy makes every drop of sweat worthwhile.


Author: Judith

Judith Lindbergh's latest novel, Pasture of Heaven, is about a nomad woman warrior on the Central Asian steppes in the 5th century BCE. (And there really were!) Her first novel, The Thrall's Tale, is a literary historical novel about three women in the first Viking Age settlement in 10th century Greenland. The Thrall's Tale was a Booksense Pick and a Borders Original Voices selection. Judith is also the founder and director of The Writers Circle, a creative writing program offering workshops for children and adults.

3 thoughts on “Hope

  1. Thanks for sharing the link to Junot Diaz’s essay. Your post, and his thoughts, on being a writer, were exactly what I needed to read tonight.

  2. Beautiful, Judy. Thank you. I was going to cut the Junot Diaz essay out of my O Mag and copy it for the class. Glad I don’t have to waste the paper now. It humbled me to read about his relentless work. I am such a whining baby about my writing. I have to stop the mantra that it shouldn’t be this hard. Writers work harder than I ever imagined. Heavy sigh.Thanks for continually supporting us.

  3. Christi and Sandra, I’m glad this latest post made a difference for you. Sometimes we all have to remember that our agony is a shared one. Nothing worth doing is easy – I tell my children that! But when I’m faced with yet another malformed chapter, I’m as frustrated and despairing as the next.

    Sandra, remember that thing I wrote for class comparing writing to hiking? It’s a long, sweaty slog up and a treacherous path down. Then you have to do it all again. (I should put that up on this blog, shouldn’t I?)

    I also think of performers – singers and dancers particularly. We know from experience work VERY hard. Their job, just like ours, is to make the finished product look effortless and even fun – HA!

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