A letter to, and inspired by you, my dear readers
If you had nothing better to do than read these posts each month, you know I don’t hard sell my books. I don’t soft sell them either. I distract you and sort of sneakily float them into your awareness. Then I take most of the message to craft a short, humorous essay.
I had intended to do the same this month. It would have been the funniest thing I’ve ever written and you would have laughed until you cried. You might even have laughed so hard you would have ruptured a carotid artery and perished in one minute flat, which would have been sad, but it would have been a better way to go than dying from an aggressive colonization of your tongue by a hideous extraterrestrial fungus, as we’re seeing everywhere these days.
Instead of writing an amusing piece, I am inspired by you, dear readers, to write about hope. Recently, I have received a number of letters from those of you who say that my novels give you hope about life, people, and the future. Of course, the incredibly gripping storylines, breathtaking suspense, dazzling prose, brilliantly developed characters, profound themes, and clever use of the semicolon are important aspects of my novels, which you have been kind enough to note when pressed during my follow-up phone calls.
However, if I can take you seriously—which I believe I can, as none of your letters has been hilarious—you don’t find much that’s hopeful in a lot of the books and movies you turn to for relief from the vicissitudes of life. How, you ask, can I be so hopeful in a time of inflation, rising crime, epidemics, war, injustice, and horrific problems getting tickets to Taylor Swift concerts?
Well, since you have forced me to brood on the issue, I have arrived at one suggestion about how to remain hopeful, based on my own experience. I spend ten hours a day alone in my office with my imagination, watching no news and never going online. You might try being alone in a room ten hours every day, doing something you enjoy, whether it’s knitting toboggan caps or painting smiley toad faces on blank cards to mail to friends, which is what I do when the writing isn’t going well. As long as whatever you do isn’t something evil, you might develop a rich sense of hope. If your life is so busy that you can’t be alone in a room for ten hours, try twelve hours. If twelve hours isn’t possible either, try a different room. (It’s all right to have a dog with you.)
Finally, here’s what I’d say if you were here and I could give you a hug. The world is dark, but it’s also incredibly beautiful. Appreciation of beauty builds hope. I’m 77 years old, and the world is more beautiful than it was when I was six and thought I would be the first firefighter astronaut President of the United States. (I never was.) Life is full of challenges, but if it wasn’t, it would be boring; overcoming challenges is how we build hope.
And a sense of humor is vital. Even the darker moments of life are threaded through with humor when enough time has passed and you can look back with less emotion. Nine years ago, when I was in the ER, having lost half my blood overnight to a bleeding ulcer, my heart rate over 200 per minute, I was making jokes about death to the physician and nurses. If they hadn’t laughed from time to time, I would have insisted on being moved to another hospital with a more easily amused ER staff.
My most recent novel is The House at the End of the World. It sounds scary, and it is, but it’s also full of hope. It’s available in hardcover, eBook, and audio—though if you never buy it, that’s all right; you’re still aces with me. But if you want my undying love, buy it.