Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Optimist/Pessimist Ratio for Writers

It seems to me writers live on the blade’s edge most of the time, precariously balanced between an almost childlike optimism and a no-holds-barred pessimism. It’s the nature of the beast.

To be a writer is to be an optimist. Only an optimist would spend years hunched over a keyboard, spilling their souls onto the page, shunning friends and family for long stretches, with absolutely no guarantee anyone will ever like their story—assuming it even gets finished. Heck, I’m not sure optimism is even the proper word. Perhaps delusional is a better choice. Either way, we writers are blessed with an almost amazing ability to ignore reality for long periods of time.

In between those periods of optimism, however, writers often find themselves deep in the abyss of pessimism. At least I know I do. Times when we’re convinced there’s no way anyone will like our story and, no matter how hard we try, no matter how much we study the craft, no matter how many gallons of ink we spill, nothing is ever going to change that simple fact. Those times when it seems the only reason we still write is because it’s the only way to purge that story that’s stuck inside our heads, screaming to be let out.

Hmmm… Maybe I should have saved these thoughts for the next Insecure Writers Support Group post.

Is your Optimist/Pessimist ratio greater than, equal to, or less than 1?



  1. I flop between the two all the time, but I'm stubborn (or delusional, as you say). :) I figure some people like some of my writing, so there's hope for improvement. I can get better. I can do it! RAWR!!!

    I hope you spend more time on the optimistic end than the other.

  2. I think I often experience both at the same time, if that's possible. Or maybe I just don't take my delusions all that seriously. Pessimism tends to win most of the time.

  3. I think the ratio is different for every writer. Those who lean pessimistic never finish their work, or if they do finish, they never show it to anyone. Or maybe they get initially poor feedback and never bother to edit and revise. In short, at some point they give up. Meanwhile, the optimists keep going. They write a second and third book, thinking, "Maybe this will be the one that sells." They have their down moments but somehow manage to pull themselves back up (or have a good support system, which can make all the difference).

  4. Most writers have high highs and low lows. Which is why I wonder how I became a writer since I'm even-keeled most of the time.

  5. Can you be optimistic in that you push yourself to do the writing work but pessimistic about your chances of getting noticed like you'd hope? Is that possible?

  6. I can't give up--literally. I try, go back at it, fail miserably, and still plod forward. I've never penned a red line in the sand I couldn't cross.

  7. Yeah, it just varies for me. I mostly worry these days that I will never finish anything to publish, let alone fear it will never be read. It's tough staying positive, but I try.

  8. I flip flop constantly between optimism and pessimism. It does not go away after you get a book published. If anything, the pendulum swing gets worse. Those childlike hopes soar even higher when you have a book coming out -- making the drop even greater if reality doesn't match the dream. But so fa,r I have picked myself up and dusted myself off after every disappointment, turned to the computer, and got back to writing.

    Darn hope, still hanging in there! :D

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    1. Gawk--trying again. :-/

      Our emotions are like a swing pendulum and always in motions.

      Anna from Elements of Writing