To Quit or Not To Quit

Sometimes writer’s post on their blogs or on the writing forums or shout into the universe: Should I quit writing? How do I know when it’s time to quit? When should I give up?

I, myself, have asked this question too many times to count.

Every once and a while you run across a success story and the author in question will be asked something like this: Have you ever thought of quitting/giving up? And the writer responds, “I’ve gotten discouraged, but I’ve never actually wanted to give up. PERSEVERANCE!!!” insert battle cry here

Well…good for them. I’m not that person.

I give up all the time.

That’s right, I said it, and I’m not ashamed to say it again.

I QUIT all the time.

After every failed attempt at writing a story.
After every first draft that comes out super ugly.
After every difficult editing session.
After every attempt at writing a legible query letter.
After every failed tromp through the query trenches.
Every time I’ve had to shelve something, finished or not.
Every time I want to write and have no idea what to work on.
Every time I have a bad day and wonder if my life is going anywhere.

I give up ALL the time.

But here’s the thing. For whatever reason, I am a born storyteller. I HAVE to write. It doesn’t matter how many times I run away. It always comes and finds me again. I get burned out sometimes and I may not write anything at all for months. But five minutes won’t go by that I’m not thinking about it. That I’m not jotting down interesting names, interesting ideas, and playing around with interesting scenes on my phone or the computer.

I can’t even imagine a life in which I wouldn’t try to write. I could go on and become some mega successful fashion designer, covered in money and jewels and people bathing me in attention and compliments and roses. Even in that wild fantasy, I’m wondering where I fit in time to write.

In college, I wrote all these short stories for my creative writing classes, but I didn’t write a single novel after freshman year. I tried, but…I don’t know what happened. My life was just taking a very different path. I missed writing novels so much. I felt like my soul was dying.

When I think about never being published, I feel…like maybe my life is meaningless. And that sucks, but when I think about not writing anymore at all…there is nothing where my heart should be.

Sometimes, I try to picture what my life would be like if I gave it up. I try to picture filling the writing space with all these other wonderful-sounding things. You know, insert some fairy tale version of life here. And I don’t want it if I can’t write. It terrifies me. I picture growing old like that, surrounded by everything else that I have ever wanted. And I feel empty.

I’ve been writing and telling stories my entire life. If I don’t have that, I don’t have anything. What is all that stuff, if I don’t get to tell stories?

My sister made me watch this movie when I was in college: Mr. Holland’s Opus. Maybe it’s a good movie. I don’t know. It’s about a man who wanted to write this world famous symphony. Instead, he spent his life being a music teacher and hating it for several years. Towards the end of his teaching career, he saw the influence he had on people. He was appreciated. He was respected. And when he retired, his played his piece for the entire school, and then danced off into sunset fulfilled.

My sister was like, “See? It’s never too late.”

And all I saw was my worst nightmare coming to life before my eyes.

Everything about it. School. The hours. The kids. The teaching. The subject matter. I really wanted to die. I wasn’t built for that. And more importantly, that wasn’t what I wanted for my life. The only way to ever get what you want is to shoot for it. You’re not just going to stumble over it one day by accident. Sure, you might, but come on. Be real.

So yeah, I get burned out. I run away. I quit. I try to at least stop sending my stories out, but I can’t. And I know this because I’ve tried. Sure, I’m probably crazy. But when I’m writing something I love, all is right with the world. I believe in love again. I believe there is purpose to my life and that I have a reason to live. I believe God cares about me. It’s my old, worn blanket, and it’s the warmest and snuggliest thing in the house.

So, to anyone out there who thinks about quitting: Quit. There is no shame in quitting. If you’re truly meant to write, it will always come back for you. Sometimes, that’s the only way you’ll know, really, just how much writing, and certain stories, means to you. <3

21 Responses to To Quit or Not To Quit

  1. To be honest, the stories I’ve committed myself to end up being buried under thousands and thousands of other things.
    Then I’ll be doing the most mundane of things when my brain says ‘Well, maybe he did’ and yet again I’ll leave whatever I’m doing half finished, fish out ‘le old story (I keep calling them stories because they never end up being long enough) and write and write until it’s midnight and I’m being screamed at to go to bed (many a time, many a time) or my fingers hurt so much I can’t bear to look at another keyboard for a week, or honestly, sometimes both.
    There’s this one thing I’m working on at the moment:
    The main character, Andie Summer, is in Mr Trasarrow’s (Villain) office because he’s manipulated her mother and father and they’re now most wanted. Andie finds a file about her, her secretly written biography, and she gets spooked. She leaves, pick-pockets a wallet out of some guy and buys dinner. She’s walking home when a guy jumps out at her and attempts to mug her, he ends up stabbing her and runs away. She’s bleeding out and her old flame (an agent in a secret taskforce set up to take down Mr Trasarrow) Jonathan Keegan comes to her aid and takes her to hospital. It’s revealed that on Jonathan’s first mission they met after he’d been beat up. She unknowingly helps him get into a party so he could steal the hosts father’s hardrive. After the events of that mission they end up getting together (sort of) then he leaves suddenly.
    They meet when she wakes up when he’s just leaving. She get’s annoyed at him and, and… that’s all I have at the moment.
    Oh god, *shakes head slowly* what am I doing?
    So yeah, I have given up. So what?
    They keep roping me back in. It’s hard, but I like it.

    *Here endth thy rant*

  2. I’ve never tried to consciously quit writing. I’ve had times though when I didn’t write–after college, when I was a little burned-out on writing, and through grad school, when I was simply busy. I didn’t really think of quitting, though. Then I wrote Book the First and I’ve basically been in Writing Cave through most of my twenties, which has been awesome and frustrating because I love writing and I am improving, but it’s not where I want it to be yet—and I’m not a very patient person 😉

    • I didn’t seriously consider quitting until after I wrote something new after a five year hiatus from drafting due to general busyness and editing older projects. After that, it was 3 years before I even considered it again. So, I really have quit for an extended period of time. It’s really only been since 2011 that I’m picking myself back up in a reasonable frame of time.

      What is this patience you speak of? 😛

  3. I go on very long hiatuses, but I never quit. It might actually be more freeing to quit, at least for a time. To lose the constant nagging in your head of “Hey, you should write. You know that novel you were writing or thinking of writing? You should go write it.”

    My hiatuses are all like that. They’re largely filled with loathing because of all of the outside things bogging me down: school, especially. But hey, it’s summer. I have no more excuses.

    • That’s exactly what my hiatuses used to be like! I did finally get to a point where I could take a break and give myself “permission” to do nothing or at least keep my hands off of a certain project. It helps a lot. It’s more like a mini vacation from writing. It frees up my brain to work out any writing issues that I’ve been having. Keeps me from wanting to throw in the towel so often. 🙂

  4. I go through burn out phases all the time, but like you, I feel a need to write. If I don’t I feel off and unbalanced. This business is tough, which is why I truly enjoy just the act of writing. I suck at querying because I still don’t have thick enough skin to send them out. I send a few and then I run scared when it gets bad. My boyfriend always tells me you have to believe in something enough for it to happen, because if you don’t see it, no one else will. I hold onto that like a life vest, because even if I don’t think I’m good enough at times, I believe I will be and I’ll get there. Like all those authors say, it takes perseverance.

    • So true. We really have to believe in our stories. Querying will get easier though. The first time I queried I quit after 3. Lol! It felt so awful at the time! Every time I’m on a writing break, I still end up playing around with something. I really go crazy if I don’t.

  5. I think this says it all – “If you’re truly meant to write, it will always come back for you. Sometimes, that’s the only way you’ll know, really, just how much writing, and certain stories, means to you.”
    If “quitting” is what it takes to find your way back home, then that’s a-ok!

    • It’s totally okay! I really feel lost without it. 🙂 Even the time I had given up the longest (about two years), I was constantly thinking about picking it back up again.

  6. I’m a full supporter of the line ‘if you’re a writer, you’ll write’. Because no, you couldn’t stop if you wanted to. Not really. I think all of us wonder if we’re throwing away our time (Lol! I know I do!), but quit? Maybe for a few days, weeks, months. . .but we always wander back to writing, if not for someone else than for ourselves. It’s in the blood, and we can’t help it.

  7. Ms. Jane,

    This post hit really close to home! I have quit, over and over. Sometimes I’ve quit in a quite dramatic fashion. (You can read about one of my “unquttings” that will give you come clues about my dramatic quittings here:
    https://erickeyswriter.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/the-creep-is-back/
    )

    So, I lost some time and momentum. But I got back each time. Each time, I was a little wiser and stronger and more determined for having tried not writing. Not writing is too hard for me.

    Thanks for this piece. I think people will find it helpful.

    E

  8. I don’t know if I’ve ever truly quit. There might be days (or weeks, or months) I forget to write, but I’ve never made the conscious decision to quit.

Hi! ^_^