Breaking Up with Pessimistic Me: how writing helped me see clearly

#writing #tips #novels #creativity
By Whitney Jones

Thank GOD 2018 is here!

Or, that’s the general vibe on the interwebs. It seems everyone wants to forget that nightmare of a 2017, and I  repeated this idea in the first week of January. The words from Thomas Hardy’s “Darkling Thrush,” about the death of the previous year and the seemingly hopeless journey into the new year, rang easily in my memory:

The land’s sharp features seemed to be
The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.

The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I.

But this Hardy-esque despair left me feeling queasy. It felt wrong, somehow, a lie. So I took my mind back over the previous year, looking for those nightmare events that had made the year so unpalatable. I found political and cultural upheavals, anxiety from my friends, fighting within my family. All this felt more disastrous than it had before, made me feel more adult than ever before, and made me miss my childhood more than ever before.

Despite all this, I still felt uneasy casting aspersions on 2017. So I abandoned my exploration of the political and cultural landscape in order to explore the personal. What had been going on in my life in the last year that was causing this unease?

Y’all. Nothing but good things. In 2017 I…

  • Celebrated my son’s first birthday
  • Celebrated my tenth year (seventh married) with my husband
  • Finished the final draft (for now) of my first novel
  • Successfully pitched my novel to agents at my first writing conference
  • Wrote the rough draft of a second novel in ONE MONTH
  • Met some amazing new writer friends through this blog
  • Got to spend an entire year creating something that I believe in (FromNothingToNovel!) with one if my best friends
  • Collaborated with great authors at The Writer’s Dialogue and our amazing contributors at FN2N
  • Read some beautiful books
  • Taught circus camp to a bunch of crazy awesome kiddos
  • Flew high on the silks and became stronger than ever before

No WONDER my soul balked at the easy refrain, “2017 sucked.” It really didn’t. Crappy things happened, of course. Because life. But when I reflected back on 2017 month by month, I realized

I had sunk so far into a general pessimism that I was unable to see my own life clearly. 

I was pretty blind. But writing helped me see. Opening my journal and writing down what I remembered most from each month of the year allowed me to view the victories of everyday life that make it so funny and exciting and tingly. It helped me remember that stories are composed of these funny, tingly moments, these small pieces of each hour, day, and week likely to go unremembered when we only view our lives through the broad lens of the year as a whole.

And I can’t say this pessimism has been healthy for me. In fact, it’s stifled my creativity, my energy, my ambition, and my love–for what I do and, more unfortunately, for those who love me.

So I’m breaking up with pessimism. Hardy’s poem offers a note of optimism:

At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited…

But Hardy, being Hardy, doesn’t let his poem or its speaker share that joy. The speaker remains “unaware” of the bird’s “blessed hope” and the poem plummets back into pessimism. But I refuse to drown in pessimism’s darkly comfortable depths. I think I’d rather live in the clear, bright world of optimism for a while, searching for “joy illimited” and warbling a “full-hearted” song.

I think I’ll stand at the gate to 2018 with a Whitney from the past, Whitney of January 2017. She was optimistic, too. We’ll shake hands and look hungrily at the landscape of 2018 spreading out before us, agreeing that it’s a field of potential, just like 2017 was.

If I have a resolution it’s this: find joy, record and remember the joy, and sing joyous stories.

 

Have you made a list of 2017 Triumphs to go along with your 2018 Resolutions? We think you should. And we’d love to know what some of your triumphs were so we can celebrate them with you! 

 

3 comments

  1. Finding joy is an excellent resolution. I suffered the same bout of pessimism all last year (and the year before, and maybe even the year before that), and it’s tiring! It sucks the joy out of everything. I used to pride myself on being an optimist, and I’m working hard to become one again.

    Here’s to a great 2018!

    Liked by 1 person

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