Optimism and the Lack Thereof
Do I really need to expand on the title? Oh, you're right, it wouldn't hurt. Everybody alive has some degree of optimism and hope. Those who don't find more reasons to be dead than alive. As a writer, optimism is essential. A short trip around the internet will net us thousands of cruel, critical comments that we can easily imagine being applied to our work. We'll also find at least five writers in the first ten minutes who are better than we can imagine ourselves becoming (although we could be that good, if we shut ourselves away in a cute little writer's apartment with all expenses paid for a few years, or maybe if we scrounged up the money to go to a week-long workshop like Clarion...). But none of that matters, because we're optimistic. We can see that if we just persevere long enough writing, reading, people-watching, self-editing, submitting our work, then eventually we'll be published, or get a series deal, or reach whatever writing-related goal we've set for ourselves. We are writers, and this is what we do.
It's amazing how easily excellent positive attitude can slip away, though. I won't say that optimism in professional writing is always a case of self deception, because some folks have much better chances of success than others due to their talent, skill, circumstances, or friendships. But for me, whose fiction has never been published, I definitely need my self-deception to be successful as a writer. And it's far too easy for some change in my life (cheerful supportive husband gone for a week on a business trip, chemical imbalance of the brain, lunar cycle) to make me look around and realize what a steep hill I've decided to climb to get my work published.
But writers, like swimmers, can't afford to succumb to pessimism (reality) completely. As we all know, the brick walls of breaking into any field are there for a reason. They let us prove how badly we want things. They let us know what we need to work on to improve, who we need to talk to to make progress, and how to prove that our words are worth sharing with others. And for more ideas on how that determination can reward you, watch Randy Pausch's last lecture on the subject. I think I'll do that right now, and then get back to writing!