Optimism, or the Triumph of Hope over Experience?

It’s been a busy month, what with the launch of Elder Darrow’s fourth adventure Last Call at the Esposito, or as it’s known in-house: Elder goes to the Olympics. Been a good deal of assorted hoop-te-doodle and exercise of my extroverted side, working to encourage people to buy and read the book. As always, many thanks for the encouraging emails, tweets and retweets, shares, and so on that spread the word. It is greatly appreciated, even if I haven’t been able to tell you directly.

I wanted to say something about what I heard Linda Greenlaw say at the keynote speech at Murder by the Book at the Jesup Library in Bar Harbor last month. Linda, as you probably know, is the Isle au Haut swordfish captain who was central to the story behind the book (and movie) The Perfect Storm, and an accomplished mystery writer in her own right.

I can’t remember the actual question that engendered the comment, but when I heard her say that fishing is all about optimism, it made me sit up straight. She’s right, of course, though I hadn’t thought about it in those terms before.

I’m a fisherman myself, recreational, not commercial, and quite familiar with the belief that one more cast, the next pool in the river, the perfect fly, will yield the fish of dreams. It’s a general kind of optimism required by a pastime that has you standing to your waist in freezing water and swinging a stick in hopes of overriding the survival instincts that a wild creature has developed over eons.

Greenlaw was talking in terms of size of swordfish, poundage of a groundfish haul, and the like, but a fundamental optimism is also the urge that drives us through the hard work and the internal and external challenges of writing, too.
We have to be optimists to believe that this time, no matter how poorly we think our last effort was, this next poem, this next story, this next novel will match our mental ideal more completely, touch our readers more deeply, find that quirk of working that opens our work to deeper and more meaningful words and ideas. Because if we were not optimists at the bottom of it, if we didn’t believe we were going to get better, why would we try so hard to tell our stories? Why would we continue to believe we have something to say? We may temporarily succumb to pessimism, true, but at heart, we are all optimists.

About Richard Cass

Dick is the author of the Elder Darrow Jazz Mystery series, the story of an alcoholic who walks into a dive bar in Boston . . . and buys it. Solo Act was a Finalist for the Maine Literary Award in Crime Fiction in 2017 and In Solo Time won the award in 2018. The third book in the series, Burton's Solo, came out in 2018 and Last Call at the Esposito in 2019. Sweetie Bogan's Sorrow was published in 2020, to thunderous pandemic acclaim. The sixth book in the series, Mickey's Mayhem, will come out in 2021. Dick lives and writes in Cape Elizabeth.
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5 Responses to Optimism, or the Triumph of Hope over Experience?

  1. Matt Cost says:

    Greenlaw was talking in terms of size of swordfish, poundage of a groundfish haul, and the like pretty much is the same idea as amount of sales and quality of finished work it seems to me. Great analogy!

  2. How good of you to tie Linda’s point about fishing to our daily struggle in front of the keyboard, Dick. Optimism is essential in this biz. Without it, we got nuttin’.

  3. Excellent post, Dick! You absolutely nailed “why the heck am I doing this?” Charlene

  4. Sandra Neily says:

    This is GREAT, Dick. Thanks. Yes, also am fishing (rivers, writing) so it was timely. re: Optimism. I have a good guide friend who tells his clients, “If it was about Catching, they’d call it Catching.” haha

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