Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Optimism is Overrated

Here's today's burning question: How do writers manage to avoid becoming the most pessimistic people in the world? Given the amount of rejection even the most successful authors experience or at least have experienced in the past, how do they manage to keep a cheery (or at least a sane) view of the world?

Obviously emotional makeup has a lot to do with it. Some people can have the most horrific, earth-shaking tragedies befall them and still wake up with a smile on their faces every day. It's amazing, and more than a little creepy. Then there's me.

My wife says the glass isn't just half empty with me, but that the entire thing is bone-dry, and has been thrown on the floor and smashed into a thousand tiny pieces as well, and that I have stepped on them and now have dozens of glittering, razor-sharp shards embedded in the sole of my foot. Unless I'm missing her point, I'm pretty sure she thinks I'm something less than a full-fledged optimist.

On the other hand, every time I send a short story out to a publication; or I send a query, a partial manuscript, or (wonder of wonders!) a full manuscript out to an agent, I can honestly say I do so believing this is the one that will be accepted with open arms; that the agent or editor will get what I'm trying to say and will be enthusiastically receptive. Sometimes that even happens!

But the success rate isn't exactly high, and so more often than not I find myself stepping on those shards of glass. I'm like Charlie Brown running up to kick the football that Lucy is holding. Every time he runs up to it she pulls it away and he falls flat on his back, but the next time he runs up to it, he does so fully expecting her to leave the ball on the ground so he can kick it.

All of which brings me back to my question: how do writers avoid being the worst kind of foul-tempered, curmudgeonly pessimists? And if I believe when I send material out that it's going to be looked at favorably, doesn't that make me the opposite, and I am in fact a bold-faced optimist? And does it even matter?

These are the sorts of things I think about while trying to motivate myself to research shoulder-fired missiles or begin outlining my new novel. But, still, the fact that I'm procrastinating doesn't make the question any less valid. Does it?

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