- J Hopkins
Don’t Abandon Your Dream, Part I – March 22, 2022, by Jude Hopkins
One day, long ago, I sat on the floor in my apartment in Tempe, Arizona, surrounded by notes, outlines, and a copy of a well-known novel from the past.
That morning I was determined to begin my writing project, a self-help book that would explain to a specific female demographic why they yearned for idealized unavailable men instead of the ones right in front of them who already loved them. Toward that end, I used the protagonist of the aforementioned novel as my illustration. I was going to show how having an unavailable father resulted in a daughter’s yearning for such a man in her romantic life.
As the child of such a father, I felt I could write such a book and interweave the story of the fiery protagonist with my own, making it representative for all women with similar backgrounds.
I thought I could convince myself of the book’s premise as I wrote it. At that stage, I was more unenlightened than the transformed narrator such a book needed.
As far as the comparison to the novel, I realized I had little to go on: The book really didn’t fit into my premise, but I found a few passages that I could squeeze into my framework.
That was enough for me.
I worked on it when I could, but as a graduate student and teaching assistant at Arizona State University, I knew writing time to be scarce.
Nevertheless, I kept spinning the idea in my head, visualizing chapters that compared the heroine’s ambition and willfulness in beguiling her longed-for ideal beau to my similar quest.
My busy life, however, continued to get in the way. Eventually, I earned my master’s degree and moved to Los Angeles.
I picked up the project once again while in California and doggedly kept at it when I could, flush with information from my own life.
I worked on getting it into some kind of order: a proposal plus several chapters. Then I sent it out to some New York agents.
To my surprise, I got a fast reply. One of the biggest and most well-known agents in New York at the time asked to see a few additional chapters. She liked what she saw, she wrote, adding that as she had already successfully agented several self-help books, she would be the perfect one to represent me.
But I panicked. I lost my confidence. An avid reader of the self-help genre, I thought I needed a psychologist to add professional gravitas to my first-hand experiences and reflections— even though the agent had not asked for this. She had only requested more chapters written by me.
Still, my doubts persisted. A friend at work had a sister who was a psychologist. So I contacted this woman who said she was interested in being a co-author.
By the time I updated my chapters to include her contributions, several weeks had passed.
Then, when I had it ready to go, the co-author hit me with the news that she was withdrawing from the project, preferring to go it alone with her own ideas, her own book. I had to scramble to put together a new proposal featuring only my input.
In the meantime, the agent withdrew her request to see more chapters. I had waited too long.
My dream of being an author was over. The disappointment I felt in myself couldn’t be measured.
I put the project away, aware of the great opportunity I had missed.
In her book “Silences,” Tillie Olsen addresses the ways in which writers have been prevented from realizing their creativity, work being one of them. But in spite of having one full-time job and several part-time teaching jobs, I still blamed myself. I knew in my heart if I had possessed the requisite confidence, I could have completed it.
Even though I had scuttled my project, the idea of abandoning it entirely never left me.