You are probably acquainted with an optimist or two – you know, the kind of person who not only sees the glass as half-full, but brimming over at the top. It’s true that optimists are usually fun to be around, but sometimes they’re so relentlessly cheerful you want them to just go away and give you a break from all that happiness. As a fairly optimistic person, I get that.
I’m here to tell you that the real trouble with being an optimist is that we always think we have skills we don’t actually possess. We are convinced that if we try something, it’ll all work out. This can be dangerous. A couple of years ago, one of the turbines on top of my house was knocked askew in a windstorm. Instead of calling the guy who does handyman work for me, I decided to climb a ladder and see if I could fix it – in spite of the fact that I don’t like heights, I don’t like climbing ladders, I have occasional bouts of vertigo, and no one else was home. No worries, it would be a breeze.
After placing the ladder against the side of the house, I went up to have a look. At the top of the ladder, I stepped onto the roof and walked over to the turbine, which I tried, and failed to set straight. I decided I’d better do what I should have done in the first place, which was to call my handyman. Still, feeling quite smug that I’d come that far with no problems and at least tried to correct the leaning turbine, I returned to the ladder – and made the mistake of looking down. It was a long way to the ground. In fact, the ground looked as if it had receded from the spot where it had been when I climbed up. It appeared to be in full retreat.
My usual optimism deserted me. I sat down on the roof, looked around my neighborhood, waved to the dog next door, and procrastinated about making my descent. After twenty minutes of imagining the injuries I could inflict on myself, followed by twenty minutes of self-administered pep talks and making a vow to not look down, and to never climb on the roof again, I made my way down to the nice, firm ground.
Now that was a dumb thing to do and if I wrote about a character doing such a thing, the reader would roll their eyes and say, “This girl is too stupid to live.” This is where the divide between fact and fiction comes into being. In real life, an author can do dumb things, but her characters had better not.
Patricia Forsythe is the author of many romances, both traditionally and electronically published. Her next book will be Her Lone Cowboy, a Harlequin Heartwarming novel available in June 2015. Visit her at patriciaforsythebooks.com.