Are You Infected With Optimistic Denial?

optimismOptimism is good, right? Usually. But not when it’s a cover-up for fear and denial.

I read a quote last week that got me thinking about the current publishing economy and my career. I’ve lived through a couple of publishing recessions before, and without me making many changes, the wavering market eventually “righted” itself.

Not In Kansas Anymore?

Until last year, my attitude was the same during this recession. I planned to just ride it out and not make any changes. The following quote, plus some recent reports on the state of the industry, made me re-think things.

Climber Yvon Chouinard made this statement:

“There’s no difference between a pessimist who says, ‘Oh, it’s hopeless, so don’t bother doing anything,’ and an optimist who says, ‘Don’t bother doing anything, it’s going to turn out fine anyway.’ Either way, nothing happens.”

Digging Deeper

Fear is hard to face–for all of us. Sometimes we disguise it as optimism or having faith, assuring ourselves that things will somehow work out (whether it’s a problem at work, an issue in our marriage or with our children, or the increased difficulty in getting published or finding an agent.)

I’ve always been an action-oriented person, but something about the above quote bothers me. I think it’s because until recently, it described ME.

According to Timothy Ferriss (The 4-Hour Workweek), most people don’t like to face fear, so they dress it up as optimistic denial. They don’t want to quit their jobs, so they assure themselves it will all work out eventually. They don’t want to face major marital issues, so they assure themselves it’s just a bump in the road. The issue with the child is just a phase–it will pass.

And publishing as we knew it will be back–we just need to wait it out.

Maybe–but Maybe Not!

How can you tell if your optimism is realistic or simply denying a problem you don’t want to face and deal with? Here are some questions to consider:

  • Do you really think it will improve–or is it wishful thinking and an excuse for inaction?
  • Are you better off than you were one year ago or one month ago? (If not, things will not improve by themselves.)
  • Are you taking any concrete steps to embrace changes and find the good in them?
  • Are you hanging out with “gloom and doomers” or do you hob-knob with people looking to the future?

Life Beyond Optimistic Denial

I think I’m finally moving out of optimistic denial about the state of the publishing industry. Do I wish it would go back to how things ran in the 80s? Without a doubt. Do I think they will? Nope, not anymore.

The good news is that it no longer frightens me. I’m starting to see some of the positive aspects of the new order. I’ve seen writers achieve great success with newer small publishers and even self-publishing.

I’m sorting out what types of social networking I enjoy (this blog and writing e-books) and what types I don’t enjoy (Twitter and LinkedIn, for example). I’ve accepted that I can’t do it all–and that I really don’t need to be active on eight different social networking sites. (Yes, eight!)

The Bottom Line

Sometimes we just have to grieve the way things used to be, and then accept that they no longer are, and move on. Quite often, the place we move on to is even better–or could be if we approached the change with a better attitude.

What about you? What do you find the hardest to deal with in the current publishing climate?


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10 Responses to Are You Infected With Optimistic Denial?

  1. Audrey McLaughlin says:

    I’m getting a late start on my writing career, and in some ways I’m glad. First, I have a whole lot of life experience to tap into for ideas and inspiration, and secondly I don’t have to relearn the way “it all works”. From what I hear and read, the writing world is changing whether writers like it not. When I had to adjust to big changes in my world in the past, I found that I needed to give myself some time to lament that things weren’t the way they used to be…and then simply get on with the hard work of getting on with it. Change will always be difficult and uncomfortable, but I know that I have to be willing to change if I want to flourish in this always changing world. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us Kristi.

    • kwpadmin says:

      Audrey, you are very wise. I think I kept waiting for things to go back to the way they were. After all, I’d lived through two major publishing upheavals, and things settled down both times to the former status quo, for the most part. I was expecting that again–wrongly, as it’s turning out! Thankfully, even old dogs can learn new tricks. 8-)

  2. I still struggle with self-publishing taking over the landscape in some respects.

    If I had ten dollars for every writer who suggested I self-publish when I wasn’t having success in enticing agents or with one of the few publishers open to the unagented I probably could afford to do it! (I’m dead serious, Kristi…)

    Too often people confuse lack of money with lack of will.

    There really is a difference between “I shouldn’t have to pay thousands of dollars for several stages of editing from outside eyes” versus “I simply can’t afford thousands of dollars for several stages of editing.”

    I don’t know how to begin to settle in a way that’s not shooting myself in the foot. AS much as people tell me not to sress and compromise, I still feel like if you want to have any fair chance at self-publish, it’s either go all out or not at all.

    Like you, I’ve learned I neither can nor am I able to do it all, but it’s also not any easier to know what you need to do or can personally handle.

    Still, it’s HARD to keep myself reading about self-publishing for overall learning experience when I can’t do it. Does that make ANY sense, Kristi?

    I’m trying to have an open mind. Really.

    I took part in Indie Recon this week, and while I learned a lot, I also felt more discouraged than empowered, nothing I learned felt doable for me personally as a writer, often because I just don’t have the money or have any skills I can barter, at least not now.

    While it’s great writers have more options to mold their careers, when you can’t afford the alternatives, it can still feel like there’s only one way. How do you navigate this realistically without losing all hope?

    • Kristi Holl says:

      I think you do what I have always done, Taurean. You find alternatives. I have always needed the money I made for paying bills, either when I was raising my kids, was a single mom, had major operations to pay for, and any number of things. I couldn’t afford conferences and didn’t go unless I was asked to speak and they paid for it. My first one I went on a scholarship, but if I hadn’t gotten it, I wouldn’t have gone. Even today, while my best friend has been getting her MFA in writing (which I can’t afford either), I’ve been working along with her for free, reading the recommended texts and books from the library and studying advanced craft books. I buy very used, cheap books if I have to buy them. Early on, as a beginning writer, there was no Internet, I had no help, and I lived on an isolated farm with my family. I just wrote on the backs of stationery donated to me by a defunct company. (I couldn’t afford to waste paper, and only typed final drafts on decent clean paper.) Today, with the wealth of information free on the Internet, you can get a good writing education. You learn, then you apply what you learn. Over and over. You read a lot. You find people to do a manuscript swap for free and get feedback while you also give feedback.

      And if you self-publish, you use free services like CreateSpace on Amazon. That’s what I did with the second Writer’s First Aid book you see here. It got rejected, so I self-published it. Only after it sold for a while did I get an offer from the Book Store to publish it. (I DID spend $100 for a cover design though–I’m no artist.) Doing self-publishing “right” no longer needs to cost an arm and a leg. And professional critiques don’t need to cost thousands of dollars. I know because I do them. I just did a 35,000 word novel for under $300.

      My way may be slower–it probably IS slower–but it works. And more people are doing it like me than the expensive way. We’re just quieter about it. 8-)

  3. Thanks for replying, Kristi.

    My only other question I can’t help but ask-

    “How do you know your self-study plan is working?” Even though I’m better now, I still struggle critiquing others, because I feel like I haven’t given the writer the help they gave me. I just struggle with how much I can really do and learn on my own, it’s different for everyone, but there IS a limit.

    But to stay on a positive point, I hope we all find what works for us.

  4. kwpadmin says:

    You won’t know your self-study plan is working for a long time. I won’t either with my pseudo-MFA thing I’m doing–I may not know for years. I’d recommend a book for you that I plan to review on the blog pretty soon that would be encouraging, I think. At least, it was to me. It’s called THE SLIGHT EDGE by Jeff Olson. It is really helping me to follow through on some commitments I made to myself in several areas of my life that are hard to keep doing when you don’t see any visible signs of improvement or growth for a long time. Writing is like that too, I’ve found.

    • ….?

      I have few (non-negative) words. Other than you are in a FAR different place than I am now, as much we may have in common, my only constant is that I’m not the quitter I once was in childhood (Which I personally defined from age 8-18) and I’ve been at this literary venture for more than 9 years now, so I don’t consider that a “Short” time.

      You have to admit, mortality doesn’t help with the lectures about patience we frankly give ourselves more than we give to or are given to others, is that fair to say?

      I trust your judgement, but I’m going to have to try and find this at a library somewhere, I can’t afford another book for some time.

      Sometimes I really wonder how much these incremental methods really work.

      I don’t think you have to be an impatient brat to feel this way.

      • kwpadmin says:

        The fact that you’re not a quitter is what will see you through eventually. I’m sure that nine years must feel like an eternity to you. It would to me too. But I’ve read a lot of famous writers’ biographies, and there are a LOT of writers out there that wrote more than ten years before publication, but went on to build enviable careers. I hope your time comes soon!

  5. Audrey McLaughlin says:

    Thanks for your follow-up discussions here with Taurean. Your suggestions are great, and I appreciated your account of how you did it on the proverbial “shoestring” and how affordable (I realize that affordable is a subjective term) a professional crituqe from you could be! I love how you’re shadowing your friend’s MFA in Writing. You are right in saying that time will tell…but in your case I think that time is going to tell that you were very wise doing what you’re doing right now!

    • kwpadmin says:

      Audrey, thanks for your very kind comments. :-) I think there is so much pressure these days on writers to spend money they don’t have (for state-of-the-art technology, for self-publishing packages, for expensive conferences), and there is the pressure of “hurry, hurry, get published!” like never before. I count myself blessed to have begun writing in oblivion, before the Internet, when it was just me and my pencils and used stationery and revising, revising, revising. For some reason, in isolation, it was easier to believe in my writing dream (and I was a kid with basically NO self-esteem, so that wasn’t the reason.) :-)

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