Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Power of Pessimism

I have been a pessimist all my life. It could be a perfect day with no clouds in sight, and I would stare right up into the sky and think, you know what? I think we're due for a black hole sun any day now.

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But ever since I started taking writing seriously, I have become a pessimist times ten. No, scrap that. Times a million! As soon as I send something out, I'm all like, nobody's gonna want this shit. You're a bad writer and you should feel bad. Why are you wasting these people's time? Your email is not worth the button click you just used to send it out with. Shame on you!

But here's the thing. Browbeating myself and thinking I'm worthless is actually the secret to my drive. A good friend of mine once got a tattoo beneath his waist line that says, "Failure". When I asked him why he would ever get a tattoo that would likely doom his chances with any future girlfriend, he told that he got it as a reminder of why he needs to push himself every single day. Failing is always a possibility, and it's better to be prepared for it than to ever hope things will turn out alright.

And honestly, I live by that rationale. Quite recently, I entered a writing competition called Pitch Wars. Now, if you don't know what Pitch Wars is, it's basically this really great community with super nice people who are willing to help you with pretty much anything writing related. I've already met quite a few people who have helped me and who I've helped in turn, so if you haven't checked it out yet, you definitely should. It's an invaluable resource and a great place to meet other writers.

But back to my story.

So, yeah. Every year, Pitch Wars has this writing competition where you can possibly get a mentor to look over your finished manuscript to get it to a much better place. Now, upon entering this competition, I was just coming off of this other writing competition called Query Kombat, which is another amazing contest with really nice people (In fact, in my journey to be published, I find that most writers are really nice).

So, being the Debbie Downer that I am, I of course never thought I would get selected for Query Kombat, because like I said earlier, I suck at writing and at life. It's a wonder I can even breathe and walk at the same time. But then, the unthinkable happened. I did get into Query Kombat. Not only that, but I also got pretty far. Now, if there's one thing you should know about pessimists, it's that you should never let them get a taste of anything remotely close to success, because once you do, that's it. The floodgates of hope open up, and you're likely to get flooded by optimism. I'm talking category four downpours of hope. Evacuate your town, people! Because this hope floats, baby. So when I entered Pitch Wars this year, I wasn't going into it with extreme pessimism. Quite the opposite. I went into it like the big man on campus.

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I was all like, just watch me. Things are gonna start to look up after Pitch Wars. I'm not gonna be some mook toiling away in my basement anymore with no signs of success. This is gonna be my big break. Hey, you want my autograph? Sure. Who do I make it out to? Didi? What a lovely name.

(Image taken from: Mortal Kombat wiki fandom)

But after a couple weeks of no communication from any mentors, I have to tell you. I crashed. Hard. I felt much worse than I ever did when I just flat out thought nobody wanted my stuff. And for a good two days, I was all like, is this real life? Is this reality? I burrowed deep down into myself like all writers do when we get depressed, and I punched the wall. Not only that, but I also kicked my chair. I was all like, take that, chair! Take that!

My depression lasted a little while, but afterward, I got a renewed sense of pessimistic purpose. I immediately got to work on a short story that I sent out to a respectable publication. I also went back into my folder of older stories that I haven't sold yet and gave them a spiffy new look, cutting all the crap that prevented them from being sold in the first place. I'm currently waiting for those rejection letters to fly into my inbox so I can find another home for them. And then, another. And another! Until eventually, these stories will find a place to call their own. Because no pessimist, no matter how little hope we have, is entirely hopeless. We do have hope, but we stamp it down as a coping mechanism. Because honestly, if I did have hope, I think I would be depressed all the time. So embrace pessimism, people! When you think nothing will go right, nothing can hurt you.

It's awesome.

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