Optimism 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.”
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?