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When asked if you are an optimist or a pessimist, what do you say?

Very few people will admit they are pessimists. Thanks to simplified explanations like the glass half full/half empty comparison, pessimists have been given a bad rap.

But the truth is, most of us are pessimistic from time to time, whether we call it being realistic, worrying, showing humility, or playing devil’s advocate.

Most writers have to struggle to remain optimistic. As the Great Stephen King says, “a writer is someone who has taught his mind to misbehave”.

If you spend half your time thinking up worst case scenarios for your characters, what makes you think you can turn that tendency off when it comes to real life? A lot of the time, you can’t.

Like many writers, I excel at the Worrying Olympics. (Is there a prize for that? Someone please tell me there’s a prize!)

Studies have shown that optimists live longer than pessimists. And no wonder: pessimism = worrying = stress = early death. As if we didn’t have enough to worry about already!

I like to think of myself as an optimist with a sun-shiny outlook on life, but the truth is–sometimes that’s true, and sometimes it’s not. When I find my brain is cluttered with various worries, I like to write them all down or talk them out with a friend. Sometimes that’s the only way to see how ridiculous my worst case scenarios are.

When I’m pessimistic, it’s usually out of some misguided attempt to protect myself. If I enter a contest, for instance, I assume I won’t win, because this assumption will somehow “protect” me from disappointment.

Mmm-hmm. You may well ask how that one is working for me.

In the rare moments that you feel pessimistic, what causes it? How do you get the glass half full again?

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  1. Frank Powers

    I’m an optismist most of the time. When I’m not, it is always because I’ve fallen back into self doubt, I’ve been dealing with it my whole life.

    To break out, I watch or read something funny. It not only makes me laugh but distracts me from my insecurity, allowing me to remember how wonderful I am.

    • Holli Moncrieff

      Self-doubt is a big culprit, for sure. It sounds like pessimism is a protective shell for you at times, and I think that’s pretty common.

      Using humour to combat these dark feelings is a great idea. I’ll have to try it next time!

    • Frank Powers

      You’ll find I use humor for just about everything.

  2. Chrys Fey

    I do struggle with knowing whether I’m an optimist or a pessimist. I’m always optimistic for others, but for my own life, while I try to have hope, I’m more often pessimistic. Especially now because I’m going through a very difficult time and I don’t know how it’s going to get better.

    • Holli Moncrieff

      I can relate, Chrys, but that makes me so sad. You’re obviously a caring, lovely person from what I can see online. If there is anything I can do to help, or you need a shoulder to cry on, please let me know. This too shall pass, I promise.

  3. Rhonda Parrish

    “If you spend half your time thinking up worst case scenarios for your characters, what makes you think you can turn that tendency off when it comes to real life?”

    I was just thinking about this the other day actually. I was wondering if the tendency to think about the worst case scenarios is what drove me to being a writer, or if being a writer is what drove me to always imagining ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’

    Funny you should mention it 😉

    • Holli Moncrieff

      It’s the old chicken-or-the-egg scenario. Which came first? 🙂

      I do think we train our minds to work in a certain way. That’s why writing everyday can be such a powerful tool.

      Thanks for commenting!

  4. Tui Snider

    I’m generally optimistic. I’d say it’s my default setting. There are times, though, when my inner critic detects a crack in my upbeat outlook. It can be very good at sneaking in and wrecking things!

    Like Frank, who commented earlier, I find humor to be a wonderful defense at times like that!

    ~Tui Snider~ I’m dropping by from today’s #AZchat on Twitter!
    @TuiSnider on Twitter
    My blog: Tui Snider’s Offbeat & Overlooked Travel
    I am also part of the #StoryDam team, a friendly writing community!

    • Holli Moncrieff

      I’m definitely going to have to try this humour thing…

  5. Mars

    I’m generally optimistic whilst my other half is the opposite, when I’m pessimistic he becomes optimistic, probably why we are still married 😉

    Generally it’s when I’m anxious about a bigger thing that what I’m focussing on, so I try to remember that whatever I’m being pessimistic about is actually a smaller thing than the whole that I’m anxious about to try and turn it around – it sometimes works!

    Mars, also visiting from the twitter #azchat tonight!
    Curling Stones for Lego People

    • Holli Moncrieff

      That’s a great suggestion, Mars. And it’s awesome that the whole “opposites attract” thing works for you and your husband. When I’m being optimistic and my partner is pessimistic, I generally want to kill him. But not for real, of course. I only kill people in my books.

      Welcome to my blog!


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