Optimism and the Writer

- by Deb Mullins

Right now I am reading Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist by Michael J. Fox.  The book picks up where his previous work Lucky Man left off.

Obviously the book deals with how his diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease has affected his life.  Like us writers, he is a creative artist.  He loved to act.  He was successful in his career.  But when his body started rebelling, it got harder and harder for him to do the thing that he loved-until the thing that he loved got to be more work than joy.  So he gave up his spot on the TV show Spin City but found a new career in running the Michael J. Fox foundation, which pursues research to find a cure for Parkinson’s.

I think about that sometimes.  What if my health somehow prevented me from writing?  How would I survive? 

Writing=breathing for me.  How does Michael J. Fox do it?  The actor was known for his physical comedy.  Now the disease has stolen control of his body away from him.  How does he get through?  And how do we get through every day in a business where we get knocked down more than we get embraced?

Optimism, that’s how.

In a career that tends to offer more rejection than acceptance, writers have to be optimists.  We have to believe in our work and cling to that tenacious faith that the book will sell once we hit the magic combination of right editor/right manuscript/right time.  Sometimes that right time is years later.  Sometimes it’s right away.  We never know, and the only thing that keeps us going is the utmost belief that we will sell the work; we will achieve success.

But there are times when optimism falters.  Insecurity is a common enemy of the writer.  It’s so easy to worry, isn’t it?  So easy to lose heart after that last rejection (or five, or ten).  So easy to wonder if you’re good enough.  If you’ll ever get an agent.  If you’ll ever sell-or ever sell again.

When the Pit of Despair beckons to me-when that word ‘quit’ enters my consciousness-I hold fast to whatever scrap of optimism I have left and push through to the next page or next paragraph or even the next word.

Sometimes optimism is all we have in this uncertain career.  So hang on tight-and never give up the dream.


  1. Deb, I really enjoyed this blog posting. Optimism truly is the foundation of this career we pursue. Thanks for the reminder.

    Denise Meyers

  2. Deb, this is a great post. I read MJF’s first book and enjoyed it and want to read the next one, too. I agree that writers have to have lots of optimism to keep going, published or not. It’s the only thing that can pull you through. I also find that I enjoy writing more when I take a positive attitude toward it, especially when it’s not going well.


  3. Great post, Deb!

    If I didn’t have optimism and hope, I’d have quit a long time ago. Thanks for the upbeat post.