On optimism

I am not a born optimist. I was not a dour child, but I think there was always an air of suspicion about me, as though I was never quite sure when the other shoe was going to drop. I was afraid of the dark, for a good long time, well past a reasonable age, and I still can’t let my foot hang over the side of my bed at night.

I’m still never really sure if everything is, as they say, going to be alright. I would love to couch this on intellectualism, but I think it’s more of a combination of pessimism, and a healthy dose of the above-mentioned suspicion. Is everything really that easy to believe? Can things just go okay?

Optimism, in my case, has had to be a learned trait. My natural skepticism, and strange tendency towards literalism, makes this rather difficult. I am not a dour person, but believing the best will come is not something I default onto.

Optimism is kind of a required skill as a writer. When you’re asked to, repeatedly, put your work out for a 99.9% of rejection out of the gate, you need it more, likely, than you do actual writing ability. How else do you expect a person to do this, to write their brain and fingers into exhaustion, edit, craft catchy letters and comb resource sites for agents and publishers, and then try to sell this hard work for almost no guaranteed reward? It could be delusion, or masochism, sure, but, mostly, it’s optimism.

I’ve been rejected more than 100 times for several different projects. I’ve written, altogether, likely somewhere in the millions of words. My ratio of writing to rejections is rather high – I would think, if I could do the math. Suffice to say, logic would indicate that I’m not doing so well. But…

Optimism! Optimism is the thing that gets me up in the morning, sits me at the computer, and makes me pound out another several hundred words – it’s a voice in my head (usually inexplicably British) that says that, someday, someone will want to read what I write, that, someday, I will have a life doing the thing I love the most. Optimism gets me through the week of 6 rejections (I think that’s my record), and months where absolutely no contacts are made.

Does this sound depressing? It isn’t to me. Recall: I am not naturally optimistic. If I didn’t dislike touching dead things so much, I would have made an excellent scientist. The first thing out of my mouth, at any news, is “are you sure about that?” I sit in grey areas. I want proof.

There is no proof that I will succeed. This, for me, is optimism: to keep going forward with no guarantee.

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2 responses to “On optimism”

  1. melissashawsmith says :

    Good on you, L.C.. In my humble opinion, this is the best kind of optimism. Keep plugging away, and as Samuel Beckett said, Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.

  2. cooldeb says :

    I’m in a new role at my job and I can tell you, this eternal optimist has seen the other side. I have been on a roller coaster of optimism and pessimism. Or hope and reality. Or do your best and you can’t affect squat. After about a month and a half now, I realize there is ebb and flow that I can’t control. So I am choosing to embrace it and learn all I can along the way. Thanks for the great post.

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