I admire those for whom optimism comes naturally. I lean on the optimistic side myself but certainly have my moments of pessimism.

Still, it is optimism that gives me the will to write — among other things — because hope fuels the creative mind with enthusiasm. With energy.

That means creatives must be a bunch of optimists. Which is crazy, considering how self-doubting we are. But … if we didn’t embrace a sense of hope, if we didn’t believe the unimaginable was possible (email from editors, wonderful reviews), we would never put our work out there.

We’d never get out of bed. 

A good friend of mine recently described her life philosophy. She “always stays serene and knows everything will be alright.” She probably didn’t mean it to be a big revelation, but I thought: how great to have such “glass is half full” attitude all the time.

Yet part of me thinks optimism, like anything, is good in moderation. Sometimes, it can work against us, causing problems with its sunny sense of possibility. Hope, as I read somewhere, is not a very good plan. And perhaps too much of it makes a person seem naive, I don’t know.

Set me straight here, please.

I admit to times when the glass didn’t just look half empty, but downright void. Nothing there. Times when I wallowed in my misery and would have loved some company, thank you very much. 

I think my friend has worked hard at acquiring this attitude. I don’t think this is something she was born with (having known her long enough), but something she learned.

Yes, I believe optimism is learned more than genetic. Probably a matter of how we channel our positive energy (how’s that for a buzz term?). Especially when it’s easy to learn that life sucks when filled with pessimism.

What do you think? And how do you keep your optimism high?


Image credit: aughing-listening-learning.com


31 responses to “Optimism

  1. That one is hard! I guess you just have to continue to work at it. To remember that optimism is a choice. And no matter how bad things get, there is something that can be gained from the experience.

  2. I have always believed (and have taught my daughters to believe) that when things go wrong one day, that only means something really good is around the corner. Bad luck can’t continue. Life’s natural order has ups and downs, and if you believe that, then you know that a bad day only means a good one has to be on its way. :-) It’s always worked that way for me, maybe because I believe it.

  3. I have spent a lot of time as a pessimist… and have to remind myself (a lot) that a little optimism can be a good things. Honestly, some of it is “fake it till you make it” for me. For instance, I keep saying “I’m awesome, I can do this” about things… and little by little (over the past few months I’ve been saying this) I’ve been starting to actually believe it. And when I believe that I’m awesome, and that I can do this (whatever this may be) then I start to be able to look at everything with a more optimistic attitude — thinking of the good things that may be rolling through as opposed to the bad.

  4. Loni Townsend

    I agree that optimism can be learned. But maybe that’s just me being optimistic about it. :)

  5. I think it’s a combination of genetics and life experience (if you’re predisposed to depression or some other mental illness, optimism is tough on the best of days.)

    I experienced the lowest lows and the highest highs after becoming a parent (most of the highs coming more recently, thankfully.) Parenthood was the life experience that rendered me powerless, and therefore allowed all of my doubts and demons to rule. It also is the most rewarding endeavor. You look at these little people you and your partner created/are raising, and your mind somersaults with wonder, and pride.

    I’m taking a break from writing for the moment. I’m not sure whether to continue editing my memoir or move on to something else. It is that inertia that produces much unhappiness and stifling of creativity.

    Thanks for this thoughtful post. Always a pleasure reading your posts.


    • Thanks so much for this thoughtful answer, Elizabeth. Parenthood can sure come with moments of depression and exhilarating joy. I know exactly what you means by wonder and pride. There’s nothing that makes me happier than watching my son grow up, witnessing his accomplishments. Mine don’t even bring a sliver of that same joy. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

  6. My family was judgmental, critical, and pessimistic so I have had to do things that make me happy in order to climb out of the “sad” boat and climb into the “happy” boat. I walk the waterfront of Poulsbo. I LOVE the marina, the wildlife, the tourists walking their dogs, and talking to people. Then when I climb into my car, I open the sunroof and all of the windows to blow my cares away. When I arrive back home, I’ve a new outlook on life again, with a smile on my face.

    Like with my volunteering… when I send “good” out to the Universe… “good” is returned to me. OR, I think about that Roman statue in my bathroom! ;-)

    • Gwynn, the fact that you thrived under such circumstances is testament to you own internal strength. I love your story, how you find ways to climb out of the sad and into the happy boat. You are a strong person. And the Roman statue … haha. Thanks, Gwynn.

  7. A great question! I personally think that my creativity is best when I am on the upswing from something negative. That way, I still can remember the lingering raw taste of negative emotion, but I have the energy to write a lot on the page. When things are too bad, I don’t have that energy. And when things have been too good, I don’t have as many interesting feelings to write about! As for keeping optimism up, I’ve found it’s all about finding the best environment/community that works for you.

    • Life comes with many ups and downs, and it is when remembering the ‘downs’ that I can write raw emotion. I totally understand your point, Matt. Thank you for stopping by.

  8. I was taught optimism by example by my mother and maternal grandmother. Grammy had a hard life early on, being widowed with four young children and a fifth on the way, but she always looked for the beauty in life. She taught us to embrace the goodness of people and life, while putting aside or downright ignoring the ugliness. And Mom was the same. Battling breast cancer, if someone would be sad about her, she would say, “I’m not sick, I just have cancer” and then go on about her daily life. They were both amazing role models, and I do my best to continue their legacies.

    Thank you for following me at Triggershorse, Silvia, I really enjoy your visits. – Fawn

    • Than you, Fawn, for such a sage reply. My mom was a widow with three young children as well. Some days were better than others, but she sure tried to teach us optimism by showing. And I really enjoy your visits, too.

  9. Since life is somewhat dynamic I like to think of the “optimism~pessimism continuum.” Sometimes it’s healthy to modulate a bit between the two. Maybe “realism” falls somewhere in the middle?

  10. Most of my family is a “figure out how to deal with the glass half empty” before we reach the “glass half full”. We get there to the optimism and hope, but typically by first figuring out how we’d deal with the “worst” if it came to pass. I hate being categorized as pessimistic, so I try to accept this method has worked for me for decades!

    • It’s a good method, if it gets you through the dark parts, Sammy. Thank you for reading and the comment.

      • Hey I nominated you for an award today, Silvia, because I value your thoughtful comments. No pressure to accept or do anything – i ignore some and bend rules on others. Free speech :-)

      • Thanks you, Sammy. That’s one I don’t have, so it’s mine. I appreciate you thinking of me. I know what you mean about rules and such though. :)

  11. Many many years I wondered to myself what ONE word would I use to describe myself? After much thinking, I decided ‘optimist’ was the best word. But when I got to thinking about its opposite, ‘pessimist’, I realised this was also true of me. So, I took licence using two words and regard myself as an ‘optimistic – pessimist’. It’s how it is – when things are good they’re good and I’m not sure that there is a ‘way’ of keeping it that way? Light and dark play among the shadows.
    I am concerned that there is too much emphasis on insisting that all is good and rosy … great post Silvia thank you and I enjoyed all the comments so far.

  12. I like to think positively instead of negatively. It does keep me going, makes my life happier, and nicer for those around me. When something went wrong, my mother would say, “It could always be worse.” I keep this same attitude when I have obstacles to overcome. Thanks for your post, Silvia!

  13. Wonderful post! A friend of mine once said you should do something dangerous every day – take a risk – but I think you need optimism to do that, or be an adrenalin junkie. Writers take risks all the time, and since you are a great writer, I conclude you are basically an optimistic person. How’s that for logic!

  14. I don’t know why and how some people hang onto optimism always, but I count my optimism as a trust that even if the world is falling apart, and everything is going wrong, there’s a God who has it all under control, loves me and will see me through everything. It also helps to have friends how care. Life is tough. Never go at it alone.

  15. Optimism is a gift to be cultivated and especially one needed as a writer it is easy to fall down the pessimistic well. There is a saying (I don’t recall who said it) but those who succeed are those who persist. It takes a good dose of optimism to persist amidst so much rejection. It’s not just hope that’s needed but also belief in ourselves and to admit that our journey may not be taking us exactly where we think we’d like to go and to accept wherever we are. :) Thanks, Silvia for this thought provoking post.

  16. Hey, I was just stopping by to let you know that I nominated you for the Versatile Blogger award and I see you have already been by my blog!

  17. Your post really gets one thinking, Silvia. I am definitely more optimistic than pessimistic. I really have not analyzed why, but will spend some time thinking about it. Thanks, Denise

  18. Optimism is easy when things are going well. There were times when I’d had a lot of rejections in a row that I said I was just going to give up. I’d be temporarily negative…but then I’d get over it. “I get knocked down, but I get up again, they’re never going to keep me down!:

  19. I’m an optimist, I’ve learnt to have faith in my inner self and trust what it tells me. It’s from that realisation I have learnt to believe, for when I believe in something 100% it does indeed become so…doubts are a product of the ego and need to be dismissed, easier said than done, but can be learnt. Cultivating a more optimistic approach can never be a bad thing, surely. Interesting post. :)

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