I swear to you that I will never, ever do this again. I mean it. Look how serious I’m being right now as I make this pledge to you. Have you ever seen me looking so solemn?
OK, so I swear I won’t do this again, but you should know that I’ll be quoting a dead economist named Albert O. Hirschman in this blog post.
I’m sorry. I know none of us has gotten into writing fiction so we can hear quotes from dead economists, but I have a good reason: I will be using this quote to justify my own insanity.
One of the guiding principles of my life is, “If I didn’t routinely underestimate things, I’d never undertake anything at all.”
I should have this cross-stitched onto a dozen throw pillows because this motto has allowed me to naively and enthusiastically begin all manner of heinous projects, literary and otherwise, including the removal of three layers of wall paper from my living room walls which took SIX GODFORSAKEN WEEKS OF SCRAPING.
Imagine my thrill upon discovering scientific back-up for what is basically the psychological underpinnings of self-deception.
See, apparently, it’s not just me who does this. Oh, no. Apparently it’s a THING. Like a common, wide-spread phenomenon inherent to vast undertakings of all sorts. And Malcolm Gladwell points it out in this article about economist Albert O. Hirschman, who once wrote:
“Creativity always comes as a surprise to us; therefore we can never count on it and we dare not believe in it until it has happened. In other words, we would not consciously engage upon tasks whose success clearly requires that creativity be forthcoming. Hence, the only way in which can bring our creative resources fully into play is by misjudging the nature of the task, by presenting it to ourselves as more routine, simple, undemanding of genuine creativity than it will turn out of be.”
Yes, it’s true. People will often take on projects precisely because of the “erroneously presumed absence of challenge.”
And while writing novels isn’t quite the same level of difficulty as boring a railroad tunnel through a five-mile block of granite (which is the example used in the article), it’s certainly vast enough that it requires oodles of underestimation prior to setting forth. At least for me.
You know that famous definition of crazy, right? The whole, “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”?
Well, that’s me, I guess. Every time I start a first draft, I think the very same thing: this time it’s going to be different.
Call me crazy.
Maybe you are as well. Yes?