Oddly Optimistic

By Darlene Cah
I think most people would agree 2016 was a crazy year. Heartbreaking. Frustrating. Infuriating, mind-numbing with emotions ranging from flaring tempers to blissful denial. And yet, in spite of it all, and an uncertain start to 2017, I’m optimistic. Call me delusional, but yes, I’m optimistic. And I’m determined to remain so. Surely, I’ll have down days, but if I can’t find some hope, a morsel of carrot at the end of the proverbial string, there’s little point to even making an effort—in writing, career, relationships or anything worth fighting for in life. Yes. It is pouring rain as I write this, so that may be influencing my dismal mindset. But here’s the thing: sometimes we have to look for the hope. It’s there, but we have to seek it out.

What gives me hope:
I ended the year writing. I had neglected my own writing projects for a very long time due to work deadlines, life’s expected and unexpected obligations, exhaustion, laziness, walking the dog, feeding the cats, escapist Hallmark movies, you name it. But INSP, the company I work for, closes down between Christmas and New Year’s, and besides experiencing a period of rejuvenation (Ah, the luxury of sleeping kind of late! Heck! Just sleeping!), I dedicated a few hours almost every day to write. I’m nowhere close to finishing the stories I started, but I’m closer to a first draft than I was last year.

Take Action: How is your writing coming along? Give yourself the luxury of time at the keyboard, and let your words and characters propel you forward.
Connections. While I don’t have an “in-person” writing community to work or socialize with, I feel connected to writers whose work I admire, online—on Facebook and with my 5 Writers colleagues. They inspire me with their successes, publications and experiences.

Take Action: Look to your writer friends for inspiration. Let them give you ideas for your own progress. And if you’re lucky enough to be in a writing critique group, be open to everything, though discerning as to what you incorporate in your work.
Abundant Markets. I’d been ignoring or deleting various sources of calls for submissions. Lately, I’ve been sorting through them, keeping them for when my stories are ready for the world—which means, I believe they will be this year. I’m even a little excited about the prospect. We’ll see how I feel when the first rejection comes in! In any case, there are hundreds and hundreds of opportunities for publication, from very small niche journals to the you-can-only-get-in-with-an-agent magazines.

Take Action: Go through the market listings and see where your work might fit in, and either write to a theme or finish a work in progress that suits a particular journal. You might even enjoy a good laugh at some of the genres or pubs where you’d never be considered. I find humor almost everywhere. The variety of markets is great fun to peruse. There’s something for everyone, every style, every theme.
The Arts. Books. Art. Music. Photography. Film. Theater. People everywhere are creating. I draw energy from the books and stories that change me, the paintings and sculpture that make me hold my breath, the films and plays that shock me speechless or cause me to laugh out loud, the photos that hold me in awe, the music that makes me feel as if I’m flying outside of myself. I feed off it all. I will do more to immerse myself in the arts this year.

Take Action: Go to an art gallery. Dig out that ancient, scratchy album, perhaps, The Beatles’ Abbey Road (side two is genius!). Go to an improv show—or better yet, take a class! Let the arts spark something in you then start pounding the keys.
The Year Ahead
The clock is ticking whether or not I write. So this year I want to be especially mindful. When I find myself scrolling through Facebook zombie-like, I’ll ask myself: Is this a waste of time? What am I giving to the world by viewing this meme? When I turn the channel to a formulaic TV show, I’ll think: How am I encouraging someone by watching this? How am I touching someone’s life, perhaps changing it for the better, by doing this frivolous thing?

All of us writers have the power to do that. That’s not to say my stories have revolutionized the way people think. Hardly! They’re a tiny raindrop in the Atlantic Ocean, if that. But, I know that some people have read my stories and have been moved. I’ve also been met with blank stares, and others probably consider them boring drivel, though they haven’t actually said that. Avoiding eye contact is a good indication the story wasn’t their cup of tea. That’s fine! That’s the way it should be. I’ve read books people rave about and struggled to get through the first chapter, and others I can’t stop talking about, and friends read them and question my intelligence, and sanity, but I suspect they’d do that, anyway.

So my goal for this crazy New Year is similar to my usual New Year “resolution”: Finish my stories and send them out to the world, and hope that someone somewhere will enjoy them. But this year, I’m approaching it with hope. I’m going to make a conscious effort to accept rejection with optimism, make revisions with optimism, and send those puppies out again—with hope, joy and…optimism!

Have you set your writing goals? Feel free to share and inspire the rest of us.

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