Looking On The Write Side

Rob Parnell
4 min readFeb 15, 2024

I was reading a newspaper the other day. Yes, an actual piece of print with words and black and white pictures. Inside, there was an interesting article about the idea that optimists don’t make very good financial decisions, mainly because they tend to believe the best will happen. In reality, the article said, optimists can easily lose money because of their sometimes irrational, rose-colored, faith-based decisions.

Though the idea makes sense, it sounded more likely the author had an agenda to me. Or maybe her editor thought the angle would make an interesting read.

But the more I thought about the idea, the less impressed I became.

Because the whole idea implies that only the sad and cynical make sound financial decisions. So that, even if you’re depressed and pessimistic, you’ll apparently have lots of money. And I guess they revel in the righteousness that often accompanies pessimism.

But if you think about it, you can’t destroy or even offend an optimist because by definition, optimists see the best in every situation, even poverty and disappointment.

You can’t destroy an optimist because when things go well they are validated and when situations go badly Pollyanna-tinged people tend to think their time hasn’t come yet, but of course, it will. Whereas, sad realists are always disappointed and feel justified that their dismal version of the world is the correct one.

My feeling is that the more optimistic you are about an impossible situation, the better you are able to cope with the realities of the time taken to reach fruition and the disappointments of not getting what you want immediately.

Pessimism is not going to get you very far. A pessimist thinks that everything will go badly, and perhaps it will, so why bother at all?

This is not the thinking of a winner.

Gaining success at writing is an act of faith. Long term belief in yourself is the main prerequisite for an aspiring author, for someone who is willing to invest the necessary time and effort in a near impossible dream.

But that’s the caveat: near.

Almost impossible is enough for a writer. Because almost means there is a chance. And optimists know there’s a chance because their heroes make it every day. An ambitious optimist knows there will always be room for one more. Eventually their time will come…

The Scottish crime writer, Ian Rankin, wrote for fifteen years, financially supported by his wife, until he finally got a royalty check he could bank. Now he’s knighted and received a thousand awards. Against the odds, he — and his wife — believed, as only optimists could.

Of course, some authors won’t be so lucky. Despite the best will in the world, and all the work, some may never get the attention or the support they need or would like.

Probably only about one in a thousand writers are as good as they think they are. But, because they remain positive, many will make it anyway. Just through pure grit, determined longevity, and self-belief.

Using writing as a means to become successful is kinda crazy, and yet the most prolific and successful authors really are those who won’t take no for an answer. Georges Simenon for instance wrote over 400 novels. Now that’s a commitment. Agatha Christie wrote 80, a fairly modest amount considering Enid Blyton wrote over 800. Barbara Cartland composed more than 700 romances. Isaac Asimov 500 SF books. The writer R L Stine has written over 450 children’s horror novels, and he’s not finished yet.

It’s probably a temperament issue. Some of us just think in words, we live our lives interacting with the written word. We see the world through writing, experiencing it, through language. Some people are just built to sit at home and write. It’s what they do, like Robert Jordan, who died saying he’d liked to have had a life but couldn’t find the time because he had so much more writing to do. I understand. Writing is addictive and does take over you life if you let it.

Being obsessed with writing will take you a long way. Authors like Ken Follett and Steve Berry make their mark with sheer quantity and focus. They know what people want and hit the mark every time. This makes them relevant and bankable — oh yes, and very rich. Dan Brown in contrast writes slowly and carefully, plotting beautifully and putting a book out every couple of years.

My favorite authors tend to write two or three books a year, like Val McDermid and Scott Mariani — they write relentlessly. I wish sometimes I could do the same but I keep coming back to teaching and motivating.

My sister thinks I’m unfriendly and selfish but I’m not, I’m just shy and reserved, preferring to live my life through art and words. People think I must be extroverted because I sing and play guitar in public but that’s just acting and getting an ego fix. In reality I’m quiet and prone to hiding away.

So, yes, some of us choose a writer’s life for personal reasons and to keep ourselves sane. It doesn’t mean we don’t like life. Far from it. We’ve just found the best way to remain optimistic is to hunker down and write.

Keep Writing!

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Rob Parnell

Bestselling Author and Owner of Rob Parnell’s Writing Academy