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Optimist or Pessimist?

I’m getting excited about my local chapter’s annual conference coming up on October 16.  Randy Ingermanson will be our keynote speaker and I can’t wait to hear him speak in person.  I’ve been following his blog for months now and receive his free online ezine regularly.  He has lots of great information that always gets me thinking and trying to figure out how to make my writing stronger.  

Recently, he touched on optimism vs. pessimism and how it can affect our writing and our characters.  I’ve never thought about it before.  As writers, we can’t help but add our own emotions and beliefs to these characters running around in our heads without even realizing it.  The way we think really matters. 

If we are generally optimistic people in real life, our characters probably portray those same qualities.  Nothing will knock them down for long.  They will trudge forward through whatever we throw at them determined to make it and come out better for going the extra mile.  Toss a bit of pessimism into the mix and the picture changes drastically.  Who wants to read about a character with the mentality of “Poor, poor me?  Why should I try?  Life sucks and it’s never going to change.” Maybe in the beginning as we set up the story, but through the whole book?  That’s not what I enjoy as a reader. 

Yikes.  The sad thing here is I have a few characters like this.  I need to go back and make sure I don’t have them wallowing in their misery for too long.  Hopefully I’ve used this as a great character arc.  Fingers crossed. LOL

Optimism can also help when dealing with rejection or a hard critique.  I know I tend to shut down afterward and let self doubt get the best of me at times.  So I guess I’m more of a pessimist when it comes to my writing, which surprises me.  I’ve always thought I was pretty optimistic.  You know, good conquers all and happy endings rule. Thank goodness this is something that can be changed.  Here’s to optimism and getting through the hard times on this bumpy road full of twist and unexpected turns!

Randy’s definitions made it clearer for me.

Optimism is about looking for alternative plausible
explanations that might lead to improving your life.

Pessimism is about looking for alternative plausible
explanations that might lead to disimproving your life.

A few links in case you’d like to check it out yourself.  🙂

Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine

Learned Optimism by Martin E.P. Seligman

Lone Star Writer’s Conference
October 16, 2010
Houston, Texas

Do you consider yourself a more optimistic or pessimistic person?  How does it affect your writing or your life?


6 Responses

  1. I can wholeheartedly say I’m an optimistic person. I think it’s served me fairly well in this business.

    I’m also one who visualizes my success. I think that’s important too. See yourself succeeding, dream big, expect big. That doesn’t mean I’m delusional. Okay. I could be. I often dream of myself on the stage accepting a RIta and giving a pithy, warm acceptance speech. What does it hurt? I *could* get there one day 🙂

    I hope this translates into my writing. I sincerely strive for warmth and realness in my writing and personal life.

    Wish I could go to the conference, Mel, but it’s my 20th high school reunion that weekend. I’ll be busy remembering when I looked good in my cheerleading uniform and how disgusting the food in the lunchroom was 🙂

  2. Liz, you keep on dreaming! Seeing yourself succeed can only work in your favor. And it doesn’t mean you are delusional at all, just means you know what you want and are determined to get there. I love it! 🙂

    I would have loved to see you again, but a 20th reunion is big! Hope you have a blast and that the food is much better than the lunchroom’s was. LOL

  3. In my younger years, a definite optimist, today, not so much. I’ve lowered expectations so any positive occurrences will bring a pleasant surprise.

    I’m not sure if it’s the right approach, but that’s where I am right now. So now rainchecks, cancelled plans, broken promises, air conditions problems (wink) don’t affect me. LOL

  4. I WAS a hard-hearted pessimist growing up, but a lot of things changed. I had to face facts, and I became a full-blown hopeful optimist! I believe in so much now. I believe in success, love, happiness, a power greater than myself, and the list goes on and on! But like Terri, I try not to have expectations. That can lead to anger.

  5. Terri, what an interesting strategy. I guess like anything else, we have to go with what works for us. 🙂 Hope you are pleasantly surprised by a multitude of positive occurrences from here on out. And, good luck with the air condition problems!

  6. Our beliefs are a powerful tool. Love what you listed here, Jamie! It sure feels better to think positive thoughts doesn’t it. 😉

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