Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Optimism vs Delusion

You're five foot nothin, a hundre and nothin,
and you've got berley a
speck of athletic ability!
These are two things I think a lot about: optimism and delusion.

For any creative person, trying to make a career out of their creativity, there's a lot of optimism and delusion.

The optimism, I think, is pretty obvious: you have to believe in yourself enough to know that you'll overcome overwhelming odds to be successful. Delusion is a bit trickier. It gets a bad rap sometimes, which I think is undeserved. Because the reality is that there are so many creative people competing against each other, and not everyone has what it takes, and the idea is that some of these people have crossed the line from optimistic to delusional.

But I sort of love delusional people, because they tend to be the kind of people who are eternally optimistic, the ones who take bad reviews in stride or learn to ignore unsupportive friends or keep keep trying, even when they see clearly just how overwhelming those odds can be. Delusional people have grit and tenacity and if they also have the ability to grow and adapt their talents, they can be pretty unstoppable.

I always think of Mike Birbiglia's monologue about getting his start in comedy and how, as a young comedian, delusion saved him:

You have to be delusional. You have to tell yourself it's going well when it's really not going well. Because otherwise, you wouldn't get on stage again. You'd be like,
"Well, I guess human beings don't like me."

For me, it's that trust in your abilities or even just your sheer willpower to succeed that keeps you going. It's David knocking out Goliath. It's J.K. Rowling going from public housing to Harry Potter. It's freakin' Rudy playing for The Irish!* Sometimes you need a little blind delusion to keep going.

What do you think? Can delusion be a good thing? Or is a wake-up call what most people need?

*Reference inserted in a shameless attempt to get the husband to read this blog. Ruuuu-dy!


  1. Well, I think if people are getting rejection letters left and right, bad reviews, and even their friends aren't supportive...they probably should find out why and fix it. If this is truly their dream, then they will adapt and grow and become better, because, as you said, delusional people have tenacity. If however, they are purely delusional, then they probably need a wake-up call.

  2. Good point. I do think people at least need to be able to recognize how to grow, otherwise they fall into what I like to call the America's Next Top Model pit of delusion. Exhibit A: