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