The Triumph of Irrational Perseverance

The Triumph of Irrational Perseverance

An aspiring novelist must be a stubborn, irrational, plodding fool.

A successful novelist is a lucky, stubborn, irrational, plodding fool.

Daniel Kahneman’s book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, explains why most novels are never completed or, if completed, never published.

A complex, long-term, open-ended project is a risky venture. Odds against it are so grim the creator engages in self-deception just to keep hope alive during the creative process. Probability insists that 1) the project will never be finished, 2) if finished, it will take years longer than predicted, and 3) if finished, it will never be used for its intended purpose. Yet writers keep starting novels.

Kahneman: "I eventually learned three lessons.... The first was immediately apparent: I had stumbled onto a distinction between two profoundly different approaches to forecasting, ... the inside view and the outside view. The second lesson was that our initial forecasts ... exhibited a planning fallacy. Our estimates were closer to a best-case scenario than to a realistic assessment. I was slower to accept the third lesson, which I call irrational perseverance: the folly we displayed ... in failing to abandon the project. Facing a choice, we gave up rationality rather than give up the enterprise."

 

Image: Ane Hedvig Broendum Sitting at the Table by Danish artist Anna Ancher

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