The Making of a Novel: Pretending the Glass is Half Full

11/03/2010 12:37 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I have this tendency to think that whatever I'm writing at the moment is the best thing I've ever written -- and possibly the best thing that's ever been written in the history of the written word. People who know me well know this about me, and so when I say, "I have the most brilliant idea!" or "Listen to this brilliant thing I wrote!" they just smile and turn their face toward me as if they are listening, when, in fact, they are probably just thinking, Here she goes again.... while they wait for me to get over myself.

I actually have a life-size photo of a glass that is about 3/4 full of water taped on the wall near my computer. I cut it out from a magazine years ago. In the water, with a pink Sharpie, I wrote the words: "The glass is very full indeed." It's part mantra, part affirmation, part wishful thinking -- and it's the way I get through the day as a writer.

I have a friend who recently confessed that she was feeling the opposite. She was feeling that things always go wrong, that things never work out, that dreams never come true for her when it comes to her writing. She was almost counting on this fact, taking a perverse kind of comfort in the familiarity of things going up in smoke. In other words, she had a glass half-empty view of her writing career.

Here's the way I see it: you can believe that whatever you write is brilliant and that it's going to win a fat advance and become a giant bestseller, and be shocked and surprised if that doesn't come to pass. Or you can believe that whatever you write stinks and will never do well in the marketplace and will die an unheralded death, and be smug in the fact that you were right if that comes to pass.

I go for the glass half full every time.

And my friend? She decided to try it this week. Decided to just adopt a different way of looking at the situation. And lo and behold, something really fantastically good just happened to her.

Maybe it was just coincidence...but what a happy coincidence it was!