The Accuracy Of Pessimism

Today’s Author Minute has James Dashner talking about making money as a writer. As he accurately points out, there is a prevailing attitude among many publishing professionals that it is approaching pure fantasy to believe you will be one of the lucky few who manages to scrape out a decent living writing, let alone make a good living—especially if that living is going to be made writing fiction. I have never seen the point in this, though it does not surprise me in the least. I was speaking with a psychologist the other day who shared the theory that today’s humans are descended from the most paranoid and pessimistic of our ancestors—it is only our incessant and desperate need to survive at any cost that has allowed us to flourish to the degree that we have today. Lovely. It seems to me more likely we have flourished despite the most pessimistic and paranoid amongst us.

Writers make money, and those who make more of it tend to fall into two camps: those who never think about the money, and those who are determined to make a lot of it. Not counted here are those who firmly believe they will never make any money at it. I cannot stress enough that if you tell yourself you cannot make money doing something then you will not. It is as close to a guarantee as you will get in life.

Pessimism runs deep in humanity. This same psychologist friend noted that pessimistic predictions often come true more often than optimistic predictions. But this is easy. If you predict you will fail, the failure will occur immediately—the flower will simply decline to grow. If, on the other hand, you predict success, this success may take time, and all the while the success is growing, whispering in the back of your mind will be the quiet pessimistic voice reminding you of the folly of believing in something not directly before you.

The comedian Jon Stewart said he was a success the moment he decided that he was committed to a career as a comedian not matter what. Bravo. Success is the realization that you are allowed to do anything you want until you decide not to, whereas the lie of failure is the belief that most things come through the miserly channels of luck, and you have no choice but to stand powerless and see how your die lands.

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