Several writers I’ve interviewed have spoken of their desire to write about the difference between expectation and reality. The implication being, though I have never asked specifically, that the reality is less desirable than the expectation. This is what we call growing up, and this is inevitably the domain of what gets called literary fiction, the world as it is, not as we would like it to be. I came from the world of literature, it was my homeland before I ventured out into the world of writing, and so I tried for many, many books to write about this difference between expectation and reality. Again and again I believed I had come up short in my efforts. I often felt like a kind of fraud, someone who, if he were a little deeper, a little wiser, might actually be able to see the world as it is and then be able to write convincingly about it.
Somewhere in all this writing, however, my personal view of what we call reality began to change. It was ever so gradual, but one day I looked up and realized that I did indeed want to write about the difference between expectation in reality, but in reverse, so to speak. I understood that it was my expectations that were consistently less desirable than reality, not the other way around.
But of course by reality I don’t mean what’s happening. By reality I don’t mean war or hunger or rape or murder or disease. That had been my biggest error, you see: I mistook events for reality. It is an easy enough mistake to make, but it is akin to mistaking Hamlet for Shakespeare. One is a real man; the other is a product of that man.
Why and how reality as I have come to understand it is superior to expectations is the subject for another blog, perhaps another book. In the meantime I will leave you with this: I used to expect disappointment and I got it. I used to expect rejection and I got it. Those realities changed the moment I stopped expecting them.
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