I’ve read all the inspirational quotes.
I know the will to persevere is the difference between success and failure.
I know that the difference between a writer and a published writer is that the published writer carried on.
I know that aspiring writers expect writing advisors and experts to say “Never give up” – and, topically, I’ve seen the #nevergiveup hashtag concerning the recent story of J K Rowling and her rejection letters.
I know that, supposedly, nobody likes a quitter.
Well, I like at least one quitter. Her name is Hazel Davis. She’s a great friend of mine, and she wrote this honest and funny article — Why I Heart Quitting — for The Standard Issue, a sparky and intelligent online magazine for women. Read it and return.
Now, regular readers will know that I tutor students on the Writers Bureau, that I’ve written an ebook for writers, and that I’ve kept up this blog for five or six years. Telling somebody to give up writing is not something I have ever done. What I aim to do is help writers to improve their writing, get published in non-fiction, and achieve what they wish to achieve.
I’m pretty confident that most of what you’ll find on this blog is geared towards helping you pursue and persist with your writing.
But I think there are circumstances where you should consider giving up, and I can’t pretend otherwise.
Stop thinking you can’t stop …
Are you very easily distracted? Do you spend far more time on the margins of the writing business — exchanging tweets with writers, reading writing books, telling people you’re a writer — than on actually researching and writing? Is that because you strongly dislike the actual work of writing? Are you simply bored by it?
Are you miserable? Gut-sinkingly, heart-breakingly miserable? Are you fed up of such misery … but have been promising yourself that it will lift as soon as a still elusive writing goal is met? Has this been going on for years? Have you lost yourself? Have friends and family noticed — and told you?
Desperation is another worrying sign. I touched upon this in a recent post, and if you feel like this, then perhaps it’s time to consider a sabbatical, at least.
The first step is to let go of the unfair lie that you’d be a loser to give in. There is no martyrdom in soldiering on, and perhaps harming yourself and those around you.
Once you acknowledge this, it may leave you more open to other possibilities to what you can do with your time — whether life-changing or tiny mundane things that will bring you a little joy because, you know, life is short. Give yourself the permission to just think about it. Only you can do the thinking — and be generous with the time you take. But have something to go to. I don’t think you should give up if you don’t know what you’re going to do instead.
In Mistake #48 from my ebook, I advise to never give up in anger — and I stick by that. It should be a mostly happy decision — a liberating one, as Hazel argues. It shouldn’t be traumatic or emotional or conducted in the eye of social media. Just stop, and move on to what you want to move on to. If what you’re thinking of doing is announcing a grand farewell on Facebook in the secret hope that everyone will beg you to stick with it, then you’re not making the decision with the right mindset. You have to feel it’s positive and secure — and you have to own the choice you’re making.
Remember: it’s a reversible decision. But it’s not a defeatist one. You may or may not be a winner at writing, but you’ll be a winner at life.