The Impossible Dream: what keeps you from giving up?


If you were on Google’s home page anytime Wednesday, you will have noticed the German physicist Heinrich Rudolf Hertz’s 155th birthday was being celebrated by Google, who turned its logo into an undulating frequency wave.

Heinrich Rudolf Hertz

What I didn’t know about Hertz was that he died without realizing the significance of his research.

Wikipedia says, “While his discoveries would eventually lead to the inventions of the wireless telegraph, radio and television, Hertz didn’t realize the importance of his work at the time. After an experiment that helped establish the photoelectric effect, he commented that, ‘It’s of no use whatsoever.’”

He died at age 36, and it wasn’t until thirty-six years later that the hertz was established as a standard unit of measurement.

As writers, we sometimes downplay the importance of our efforts. We write,  revise and refine with the ultimate goal of publication, but we realistically understand that it’s a dream that might be beyond our reach. And, like Hertz, there are days when we feel justified in saying, “It’s crap… no use whatsoever.”

The thing is, just like Hertz, some writers never live to see the success of their endeavours. There are many books published posthumously that go on to great success — The Trial by Franz Kafka, Queen: The Story of an American Family by Alex Haley, Between the Acts by Virginia Woolf, The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson, and The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien – to name a few.

Consider what the world of literature would have missed if these writers had given in to the despair that is typical when the internal critic creeps in under the radar and sabotages morale — if they had destroyed those manuscripts instead of allowing them to collect dust on a shelf somewhere. Or if they had completely given up on writing before ever finishing the first draft.

There are undoubtedly many excellent writers who never see their dreams realized, not because they couldn’t find a publisher, but because they stopped too soon — stopped writing, stopped querying, stopped dreaming.

Are you ever tempted to throw in the towel … to give up writing and find something else on which to focus your time and energy? If you aren’t, what would you say to encourage those who are?

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