Updated: May 4
It’s 1st May and although spring is most definitely not in the air here on the Mornington Peninsula, I’m delighted to put April to bed and start pushing up some new shoots.
I’ve always thought of May as the most optimistic month of the year, even now whilst I’m freezing my t**s (toes) off and the world has gone to the dogs. Yes, we’re in a shitstorm and I appreciate we are in very different boats, if in a boat at all, but I am still daring to feel optimistic. Perhaps it has something to do with the word MAY itself.
MAY. As a verb, ‘may’ in Old English maeg,means ‘am able’. It may come from an earlier root magh meaning ‘to be able, have power’: as such, it is also related to other words such as ‘magi’ and ‘mage’ and ‘magic’. I kid you not. Check out its etymology: https://www.etymonline.com/word/may
For me, May is a month I like to remind myself to be optimistic about the future. As a writer, I also believe optimism may be the most essential quality for any writer.
Here are 5 reasons why:
1. Optimism allows me to write in the first place: with an optimistic outlook you can harness whatever creative urges you have putting fingers to the keyboard, or pen to paper, with the faith that someone at some point will want to read your written words. If I didn’t have that optimism in the first place, I’m not sure I’d bother.
2. Optimism allows me to be resilient: when you’ve been knocked back by a rejection, in all its glorious forms, optimism enables you to bounce back to your feet. Optimism allows you to embrace failure. Rather than dwelling in the doldrums, I try to analyse why I’ve been knocked back, I seek feedback and then I use that as both impetus and apparatus to improve my writing form. As a skill writing is never mastered and even the best are on the same journey of improvement with the aspiring.
3. Optimism enables me to promote my work with enthusiasm and excitement, whether that is to agents, publishers or the public: I’ve done a fair bit of letter writing and pitching to date, often with other aspiring and even published writers, and it is interesting to see how some writers seem to infect publishers or agents with their enthusiasm. I know how enthused I’ve been recently watching and listening to authors speaking about their books online or reading about how someone has loved a book. Optimism and enthusiasm can be nurtured and practised. Enthusiasm and excitement are infectious.
4. Optimism helps to keep my bum glued to the chair and me in writing mode (or if nothing else - researching): in the writers’ game it is important to believe in yourself and have a ‘can do’ attitude. Admittedly, I sometimes get side-tracked and I can be indecisive when it comes to writing projects, but I get so much pleasure from the act of writing. Creative writing feels worthwhile and rewarding even without being published. Another bedfellow of optimism is persistence. Optimism makes persistence easy. This is probably even more important for the unpublished than the published author.
5. Optimism is thought to make a happier and healthier you: there are numerous health studies that suggest optimistic people suffer less from stress, sleep better, have better physical health and live longer! If you can see the bright side of life, you may feel brighter too. Positive thoughts are powerful tools. If you want to read some of the science behind this try this article: https://healthypsych.com/the-science-of-optimism/
Okay, Oscar Wilde may or may not have said,
Between the optimist and the pessimist, the difference is droll. The optimist sees the doughnut; the pessimist the hole…
I haven’t found the source of this quote, but I’m going to use it anyway because it sums up what I’m how I’m feeling and what I want to say in a nutshell (or donutshell). The point here is that if all we see is the hole, we’re not going to take a bite.
Of course, no one wants to be labelled as blindly optimistic, but for me, optimism is the fuel that inspires and motivates me in the first place, it keeps me enthusiastic about my own writing, I believe it makes me both resilient and persistent when it comes to my goals, I know an optimistic me is a happier me, and it could even be keeping me healthy.
For all these reasons, don't be too hard on yourself during these challenging times. If your stumped with your creative writing project think about reading or doing some research, both equally valid parts of the process. Think about taking a walk to clear your head, or even procrastinating for inspiration. As far as I'm concerned, if these are useful or can be harnessed towards your creative writing then that is a win. Give yourself some slack and turn off the stop watch. Try to think positively even on the darkest of days.
It's May. It's winter in Australia. And I’m going to go and eat a donut!