On giving up
A friend of mine who was part of my “incoming class,” who started seriously writing about the same time I did, just announced she is quitting writing. She called it “giving up the fraud.” A fellow writer in one of my groups recently posted she wasn’t sure how she could keep going since “sometimes it’s just one kick in the pants too many.” Yet another writing friend noted what seemed to her a thread of depression among her loops.
On this evening’s dog walk with my musician XY, we talked about why we’re pursuing our particular, peculiar dreams.
He said, “I don’t know if I want to ask. Maybe I’m just too stupid to give up.”
I kissed him. Yeah, I guess I’m just too stupid too.
My XY once had a drummer who quit, saying: “Too much work for not enough fun.” Similarly, at one of my very first meetings with my local RWA chapter [number redacted] years ago, a woman honored with the volunteer of the year award announced she was quitting writing. By the end of her impromptu speech, we were all in tears. She said, “Writing is too hard, so I don’t want to do it anymore.”
I remember thinking, damn, that’s an option?!?
In some weird way, the thought kept me going through a DECADE of rejections. I didn’t have to keep doing it if it got too hard. I could quit. Heck, I could quit and start again if I wanted. I could just quit for a day. Or ten minutes. I’m not freakin’ saving the world here.
I don’t think I’m very emotionally or mentally healthy about my writing. I’m not balanced. I’m not confident or hopeful. I do a lot of hair pulling and teeth gnashing. I wrap up huge chunks of my self-worth in circumstances beyond my control. I fear a lot. And sometimes I quit.
But I love words. I love stories. And I kind of feel that I am saving the world, a little bit, sort of. Maybe it’s just my world I’m saving, but whatever. So I keep coming back to my writing. After ten minutes. Or a day. Or a year.
To those who are being destroyed by the dream
We tell our fellows, “Hang in there, kitten!” We cheer them on, as if they just need an affirmation poster stapled to their forehead in order to continue the marathon. (As if “being supportive” can make up for their shattered spine or broken heart.) I wonder how much of our cheering is unutterably selfish, us telling ourselves not to give up. Do we fear letting them go because it means we too should let go? At the very least, does their somber assessment of their situation challenge us to face our own? When we’d rather just be too stupid to quit?
There’s no shame in quitting, if that’s what you really want and need. I think Americans with our love of the underdog, our bone-deep belief in bootstrapping and the self-made man, our come-from-behind, never-say-die, shoot-for-the-moon attitude, put a lot of stock in our own mythos. And we’ve seen what happens to the stock market. Just because you sacrificed time/effort/money/pride for your work doesn’t mean you must continue to pursue it. It certainly has no such consideration for you. And those of us you leave behind will wish you much joy in your freedom. Perhaps, secretly, we may even envy you a little.
But if the thought of giving up sends a shiver of panic down your spine… Well, then don’t quit. Take a breath, be kind to yourself, find a little piece/peace of your dream that still nurtures your soul and keep at it.
Either way, we know what you’re going through, and you are most definitely not alone.