Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Optimism and Pessimism

At first blush, this topic doesn't seem entirely relevant to writers, but in point of fact, it is. But I'm going to take the long way around the barn.

Generally, I'm not what you would call an optimist. In fact, for the first twenty-odd years of my life, I cultivated pessimism because I found it more soothing and less distressing to have no expectation of great things happening. Not that I didn't always make my best darn effort to be the best at whatever I was doing. It's just that sometimes, even when I thought I did a fabulous job, things didn't turn out so good. Being a pessimist seemed to make this easier to take because it meant I could either be thrilled when something good did finally happen, or...not as crushed as I might have been.

After a while I realized that oddly enough, optimists seemed...happier. Not to mention that things went their way more often. They seemed very lucky. I was never able to determine if they were optimistic because they didn't have the bad experiences and awful luck I had (and continue to have) or if they had good experiences and good luck because they expected to do so. Sometimes, it seems, Fate has a way of meeting expectations.

There was really no way to scientifically determine this, though. However, I did realize one thing. Even if I couldn't really figure out this chicken or the egg thing to know if being an optimist made good things happen or if someone became an optimist because good things were always happening to them, it didn't matter. Because optimists were happier people than pessimists. They were also nicer to be around. Other people liked them better.

I wanted, and still want, to be happy. If there is one thing I have learned is that we are all responsible for our happiness. We can choose to be unhappy or we can choose to be happy. Sure there are people caught in desperate circumstances, like being an innocent civilian in a war zone, but in general, in ordinary circumstances, our decisions and the way we choose to look at things determines our happiness. We can simply decide to be happy.

So, I tried--am trying--my darndest to convert from my natural pessimism into an optimist. It's not easy, and here is where this topic is relevant to writers.

Writing isn't easy. You have to take a lot of rejection and keep trying. For those who read my blog, I wrote one a few weeks back about publishing the first manuscript you write, but I left out one of the qualities these amazing writers who accomplish this feat seem to have: they are almost universally optimistic and SURE, absolutely SURE, that the manuscript they write will be published.

One writer I know just got her first manuscript published and she insists that if you have the INTENTION, the serious intention and confidence in your work, then the forces in the universe will align and your intention will come to be reality. This is expressing this very badly - because it's not niave belief or wishing, and it's not just writing some terrible junk without expending any effort. It's the serious intention to accomplish something, putting all the sweat and tears into that effort that is necessary, that will cause you to succeed. If you have this INTENTION.

I'm not good with this sort of stuff--if I can't prove it from evidence and experience than I tend not to believe, and my own experiences trying to publish have not lead me to completely eliminate all doubt about this aerie-faerie concept, but ultimately, I think it may be better to believe this and act on it, than not. Because I have seen it work for other people, even if it seems not to work for me. I have a manuscript that I was convinced would be published and had the complete intent to get it published--and I've had some success with it--but so far, it has not found a home with a publisher. It is not my first manuscript, and is, in fact more like my 10th, but I was so SURE that this one was the one. It is very difficult to maintain that level of confidence when the months stretch into years.

However, that is why it is important for a writer not only to maintain an optimistic attitude that will keep them going in the face of rejections, but maintain a serious INTENT. Keep writing because during those months or even years, you will continue to develop your skills and you will eventually create the manuscript that some editor will love. Your intention to be a published writer will create that destiny for you.

You just have to keep going until it does and be happy during the journey.

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