Essential Optimism

Yesterday, I watched the televised running of the Belmont Stakes, where an 11-1 colt who'd run a disappointing sixth in the Derby and hadn't even raced as a two-year-old slipped in to steal the lead. And I got to thinking how similar horse racing must be to writing, where we continually pin our hopes on the next shot instead of looking back on past defeats.

If you're by nature negative, both racing and writing are endeavors that will eat you alive. They're rife with rejection, disappointment, and unfair breaks, and criticism is often both unkind and public. Both career paths are riddled with the bodies of the talented and deserving.

And yet, for many of us, our chosen calling is a glittering path of hope. A pattern of belief that the nextrun will be special, the next
venue the lens that focuses our talent to a beam so pure and perfect, the effort will be distilled into pure light. Victory will surely follow, or at least a showing that proves us as a contender.

Some might call this cock-eyed optimism, others lunacy, but when one stops believing in the dream, one loses her ability to transmit it to others. And loses the possibility of triumph, too.

So for today, like Summer Bird's owner, trainer, and jockey on the eve of the Belmont, I'm making the choice to stick with the belief that my best races are ahead of me. I'm betting it all on resilience, adaptability, persistence and talent.

And then I'm going to do the work to make it happen.

Come along for the ride, why don't you? And see how far your faith can take you, too.


jennymilch said…
That tireless focus on the future--the very next one--which you describe is a blessing and a curse, I think. On the one hand, we need it, or we'd be swamped as you say by the inevitable rejection and discouragement of the biz. But on the other, it instills in us (in me anyway) a difficulty staying in the moment.

I reach milestone X or cross hurdle Y and immediately I am on to the next I have to do this, and this, and this. I finished a novel--woo hoo--now I have to land an agent. Got the agent, need the...

And on and on.

It's a high wire balancing act, staying in this game.
Colleen: I think you're spot on with "lunacy."

I always find myself telling newly pubbed authors that being a working writer is highs and lows--incredible highs and bottom of the barrel lows. Finding the middle ground is the trick. To let the disappointments go but to not get so manic with the highs that you lose track of what you're doing.

But you're right, we need the hope. That anticipation of joy and the belief in what we're doing.

I'm working on a new project that's scaring me, and I know I need to go over it and over it before I turn it in. But at the same time, it's so much fun!!! I hope my enjoyment will come through to the readers. I'm sure being entertained writing this book. The hope is up. :-)
I can definitely relate, Jenny. It's tough to celebrate any achievement when your brain's busy scrambling for purchase on the future!

Good luck to you, Jenn. I find the "riskiest" projects often turn out to mark turning points in one's writing/career. From time to time they fail spectacularly, but you always learn and grow from them. And when they succeed, they succeed big. I have faith in you!

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