Thursday, August 19, 2010

cockeyed Optimist


Are you an optimist or a pesimist?
I've never really thought of myself as an optimist, in fact I remember my youth as dark and brooding. But the other day I realized I had turned into a full blown cockeyed optimist. I realized this when I landed at London Heathrow, coming in from France and as we emerged from customs I looked around for someone waiting to meet me. I should point out that nobody in the world knew we were arriving at Heathrow, nor did we have any family and friends within reach of the airport. But I studied that line of expectant faces as I passed, waiting for the one that would break into a smile as it recognized me.
There's an optimist for you!
I also realized that I count the money I get from cash machines in the hope that they'll have given me one bill too many. (Okay I have to confess that I'm also honest in a Girl Scout sickening sort of way, so I'd probably return it) but I count and hope all the same.

You may think the above are absurd, but I know that such miracles have happened and can happen. Once we arrived at San Francisco after a long flight (from Australia, i believe) and I said to John, wouldn't it be lovely if we didn't have to take a shuttle bus and then a taxi to get home. Wouldn't it be lovely if Jane lived a little closer and her car was big enough for us and our luggage as well as two car seats for the little girls. We came out of customs and two excited voices screamed, "Nana!" and there were Meghan and Lizzie rushing toward me, arms open and faces alight with joy. It's still one of the highlights of my life. Jane had taken time off and borrowed a friend's car to meet us.

They have proved in experiments with pigeons that they will keep pecking at an empty feed dish for years if that dish has once dispensed grain to them, in the hope that what happened once will be repeated. If it never dispenses the grain, they will soon give up. So I've had my one feed of grain and I keep pecking.

This optimism, however, is not good for a mystery writer. I realize that noir books are perceived as more meaningful than light stories. The Edgar always goes to such a book. I've tried to write darker, believe me. I've tried to be tormented and literary, but I guess my optimism creeps in. I once complained to my editor that all my reviews called my work "charming and delightful." I told her my next book was going to contain satanism, canibalism and strewn body parts." She laughed and said, "And I bet they'll be delightful body parts too."

Now I've admitted defeat and started on a series that's been described as "a smashing romp." So I can be unashamedly optimistic. I can chuckle and grin to my heart's content as Lady Georgie stumbles her madcap way through life, breaking all the rules as she goes.The next one comes out on Septmember 7th. I once thought about writing a scary vampire plot--after all they do sell rather well, don't they? But my scary plot turned into Royal Blood, which is a vampire story with chuckles. Charming and delightful vampires, actually!

HANK: I hope I'm an optimist. I have a quotation on my bulletin board: "What would you attmept to do if you knew you could not fail?" And I try to live that way. Sometimes, it even works.
And one MUST to be an optimist, because you have no idea what's good or what's bad. Things change so quickly, and evolve, something that seems terrible at the outset will turn out to be wonderful. Right? You know it happens that way.
So to be a pessimist is a waste of time.
Just my thought.

(And complaining about good reviews is just silly, Rhys. Puh-leeze! :-) )

JAN: I'm going to be completely non-committal and say I'm neither. Or both. And advance the theory that its not as simple as all that. I think we're all a bit of both. I have been accused of being Pollyanna from time to time, but I've also regretted being too negative from time to time

But in defense of pessimists -- I have too high a regard for the perfect, sharp, edgy remark to not appreciate an honest, well spoken pessimist.

ROSEMARY: I wake up every morning thinking "Yippee!! Another day!" Sometimes I get shot down by 10am, but then I tell myself "hey, it isn't even 11:00, you have the whole day!" My husband says I bounce back faster than anyone he's ever met, so I would call myself an optimist. Doesn't mean I don't mind if something doesn't work out or someone pisses me off. I just always think there's a Plan B. Like Jan, I love coming up with the perfect, cutting remark. But I rarely deliver it.

Okay, do we have more optimists than pessimists out there?

12 comments:

Donna Coe-Velleman said...

I guess, like Jan, I'm a bit of both and believe most people are. It also depends who you are comparing yourself or that person to. Set against some I'm a regular ray of sunshine, against others I'm the harbinger of the black death. (Ok maybe not to those extremes but. . .)

LOL "Satanism, canibalism and strewn body parts." I'm glad you went with what's really inside you. I also like noir. I just finished Farewell my Lovely - Raymond Chandler. Great writing.

Melissa Robbins said...

Optimist? Guilty. If I was a pessimist, I would never write.

Rhys, I love the Georgie books. Looking forward to the new one.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Hey, Donna, Hey Melissa! Wonderful to see you here!

Melissa, you are too funny. ANd right on target. YOu;ve gotta believe.

I mean, I think you can fear the worst, and understand it might happen, but looking on the bright side can never hurt. I've spent thirty yers as a reporter, LOOKING for bad stuff, right? Rhys, I think this is such a powerful subject...

Sheila Connolly said...

Rhys, I love the image of "delightful" body parts. Tied up with ribbons, perhaps?

I'm definitely an optimist. If I tried to write noir, I'd probably end up telling my protagonist to find a good therapist and/or medication for clinical depression.

Roberta Isleib said...

I'm with Melissa--we have to be optimists to remain in this business because truly, truly the odds are so long at every step! On the other hand, I'm pretty practical and believe that a lot of success has to do with how hard you work at something.

Unlike Rhys, though, my characters have a gloomy side which comes from their complicated pasts and usually means they SHOULD find a shrink:). Can't help it, it's in my training...

Rhys Bowen said...

I've tried twisted, tormented characters and I just make myself depressed. I guess I identify with my characters too much. I don't want to carry around all that baggage.

Laura DiSilverio said...

Optimist! You can't control the events and crises that overtake you, but you can control how you react to them.

Rhys, I'm with you: why immerse yourself in a dark, twisted world filled with hateful and/or brooding characters doing sickening, depressing things?

Lynn said...

Great subject! I would say I am an optimist hidden inside a pessimist. Sometimes the glass looks pretty darn empty, but I am confident it will be filled to the brim tomorrow. I also have the phrase "What would you do if you knew you could not fail?" on a paperweight on my desk and refer to it daily.

Tammy said...

Optimist here, as well. Lynn and Hank, I have the same paperweight/quote. Honestly? It's what got me to finish my manuscript. I kept looking at it and answering, "write a book, darn it!" And I finally did.

Hallie Ephron said...

Interesting question, Rhys. Laughed out loud when I saw Donna's comment - Indeed to that!

I'm definitely a pessimist - because if you always expect the worse, you can never be disappointed...But my pessimism never keeps me from trying - just defends me well when I strike out.

Rhys Bowen said...

The strange thing is that you get what you expect. I used to be a horrible pessimist in high school. I used to be a good tennis player but was my own worst enemy. I used to think "I've lost this game. I've blown it." And I did lose.
Later in life I used to tell myself, "It's just one game. My chances on winning the next are fifty-fifty and I often came back."
The irony, of course, is that as my optimism rose, my physical skills diminished. Not fair! I coulda been a contenter!

Oh, and thank you, Melissa. I'm so glad you love the Georgie books!

Meredith Cole said...

I have a friend who always expects to find a parking space, and she does! I have tried to emulate her optimism whenever possible (with mixed results). But yes, it definitely helps to be an optimist in this business...