Does a Writer Need Hope?

We all have our hobbies. I can’t resist a good criminal trial.

I’ve followed, for example, the Bernie Madoff case from the get-go. Now, nearly fifty years in the making, we’re up to sentencing of the convicted mastermind of the most sweeping Ponzi scheme in history, Judge Denny Chin of the U.S. District Court presiding.  Defense counsel Ira Sorkin’s last pitch for his client probably looked something like this:

Okay, judge, he’s something else, this guy, a mind like no other. All the superlatives are in this case: the biggest, longest, most massive, most sweeping, most stunning.

But a 150 year sentence? A 71 year old man? How about 12? His projected life is 13 years. How about hope that the last year of his life might be spent in the sun? Would you deny a man hope, your honor?

Whatever Sorkin’s exact words, his plea failed.  No hope for Madoff. Judge Chin gave him life.

What would life be like without hope? What would happen to your writing?

Nothing good, says my vote, as it’s the possibilities that drive the process. It’s the wishful thinking. It’s the idea of something terrific coming from your own labor. No hope, and the thing dies.

150 years vs. 12.

Hope vs. no hope.

I’m very glad that Judge Chin, not me, was assigned to weigh it up and arrive at a sentence. But, when it comes to a writing life, that is something I could decide, or at least this is where I draw the line: go to work with hope that your labor may bear fruit, or go get coffee instead and contemplate your more promising options.

Comments welcome and edited to include first names only, and website, if provided; never your email. Photo credits: Bernie Madoff portrait by Yan Pei-Ming at the San Francisco Art Institute, photographed by Steve Rhodes; youngster’s expression by Lolita 8.