Wednesday, June 15, 2011

When it's ok to quit

Prompted by this post at Chuck Wendig's blog, I'm going to rescind my statement that the only way to fail is to quit.

Instead, let me say this: stopping is not failure.  It's entirely possible writing isn't your art form. If you've tried, really REALLY tried, and writing no longer brings you joy, then think about doing something else.

I don't agree with Chuck that one of the ways to measure this is by the number of rejections.  Rejections from agents or general trade editors is hardly ever a measure of the quality of your work.

If you've gotten a lot of those, look at other ways of getting your work in front of readers. 

But the true measure of whether you want to keep writing is whether you feel joy.  If you love to write, keep writing. If you don't, stop.

I consider myself very fortunate to have a job I love, working with people I admire and respect.  If writing doesn't make you feel that way most of the time, think about doing something that does.

You can change what you do to express yourself.  It's not failure.  Failure is not doing what you love.


Unknown said...

Amen. Thank you.

Susan Adrian said...

Or sometimes...

it's okay to STOP for a while, and give yourself permission to quit if you want.

And then sometimes the best inspirations happen that way, and suddenly you have joy again.

Miss Footloose said...

So true. Many successful people have "failed" many times. They went on to try something different, or changed their tactics.

SJ Drum said...

Agreed. Writing isn't something you should continue to do even though you hate it, like washing dishes.

As long as you believe in what you're doing, it gives you pleasure and doesn't hurt anyone,keep doing it!

SJ Drum said...

I forgot to mention that there is a book entitled Famous Failures by Joey Green that is perfect for this conversation.

Famous Failures: Hundreds of Hot Shots Who Got Rejected, Flunked Out, Worked Lousy Jobs, Goofed Up, or Did Time in Jail Before Achieving Phenomenal Success
by Joey Green

Phil Hall said...

Amen to that.

MAGolla said...

I agree. It's okay to stop and re-evaluate.

It might be something as simple as writing in a new genre and discovering a new passion.

Or you might not be a daily writer. I'm not. I'm a feast or famine writer. When I write, I'm cranking out thousands of words a day, but I can't keep up that pace constantly--that's what weekends are for.

You might be trying to plot the snot out of story, but discover you lose your love for the story. Try running with a loose logline and let your characters take you on a ride.

Not everything you write is publishable--so what? Just have fun writing again and don't worry about publishing.

or quit.

Loralie Hall said...

<3 Thank you

Laura Lyle said...

I love this! Thank you for putting it so well. I have a friend who published a travel book and then told me he was thinking about writing a novel. He didn't want to, he said. He didn't actually LIKE writing (and was far too shy to enjoy promoting his work), but his wife had pushed him through his travel book and thought he should try a novel--they made more money. ?!?!?!

Marsha Sigman said...

I agree with you...but I really do love Chuck. He expresses his thoughts so eloquently.

B. E. Hopkins said...

There is never any reason for someone to stop writing if she truly enjoys it and gets a lot out of it.

That being said, anyone aspiring to be a professional writer needs to be realistic about how far her talent (or lack thereof) can take her.

A couple of months ago, I drew up a list of signs that a writer may not have the necessary chops: Tough Love for Would-Be Writers.

Yes, we're all special and unique. But that doesn't mean we're all good writers.

Unknown said...

You definitely said it best. I love to write and though I hope to one day find a relationship who loves my stories as much as I do, if that doesn't happen I don't plan on giving up. The only thing that will change are my tactics.

Thanks for the awesome pep talk!

Stephanie McGee said...

Great post. I think we get so attached to this process that we sometimes might not see what the deeper issues might be. And, honestly, great advice for life in general. Thank you for this.

Rena said...

"I don't agree with Chuck that one of the ways to measure this is by the number of rejections. Rejections from agents or general trade editors is hardly ever a measure of the quality of your work."
I disagree (at least a little bit). I think what Chuck was actually talking about is when you get the rejection letter that isn't the form letter, the one that actually talks about your work and not some generalized "This doesn't fit our need/given the subjective nature of publishing, I'm sure that____" stamp rejection. He's saying that if you get even one rejection that isn't a form that you *might* have *some* talent. It's a clue that you're on the right path but not quite there.
And those personalized rejections ain't easy to come by.

As for the number of rejections, I agree. That's just a measure of tenacity, not talent.

Sasha Barin said...

Oh please, "Don't enjoy it anymore" is just an EXCUSE. No quitting, EVER.

Just look at me:

-2,000,000+ words written -> mostly crap
-1 novel submitted -> 26 rejections
-Married scientist -> divorced "writer"
-21 years, 175 pounds of muscle -> 26 years, 160 pounds of sag
-2 kids -> 2 cats
-big house -> parents' basement
-mother-in-law -> mother
-sex life ->
-friends -> 2 cats
-money -> dreams


[b]No quitting.[/b]

P.S. OK, I made this up, I swear.

J.P. Kurzitza said...

The Eagles, on their reunion tour, quipped: we never broke up, we just took a fifteen year vacation.

Time away doesn't mean failure or quitting, it's sometimes necessary to recharge the old batteries.

Unknown said...

what fantastic advice! Thank you.

De's Stories said...

Great post. Very encouraging. Thank you for this.

Li said...

Just because you stop/quit doesn't mean it has to be forever. Sometimes a break is necessary so that you can go back and look at your work with a fresh eye/perspective. As far as rejections go, in the beginning mine resulted from using the shotgun approach; write a bunch of stories and ship them out everywhere. Since then, I've learned to sit down and study the finished story and try to match it with the very best venue. A few tiny successes, but better than an email box jammed with rejections. I may be starting small, but then again I'm learning a lot as I go. Most importantly, writing makes me happy.

Laila Knight said...

Thank you for this wonderful post. If the business of publishing is indeed subjective then the number of rejections shouldn't be an indication that a writer should quit what they love to do. And if for some reason we can't get our work published by any means, there is nothing in the universe that can stop us from writing just because we love it.

KeithTax said...

Well said. Straight and to the point.

MNye said...

What if you don't recognize what love is anymore. Some people in the course if their life become numb. It happens. Writing is sometimes a release. I pray for day when joy is in my vocabulary again. I'm working hard at it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for linking!

I agree that rejections are a tough metric, and I regret making people think that they should use that is a sole metric for determining whether the writing path is for them.

It's really about the quality of rejections in addition to quantity, and above even that, your response to those rejections. Getting 100 form or duly negative rejections and doing nothing about it -- not learning anything new, not revising the story, not gazing inward at craft and art -- then that's a good sign this might not be your road.

Ultimately, though, the post was meant to kick people in the keister and realize that, if you don't want to quit, more power to you -- but then you need to go forth and do the work, not continue forth with the same problems.

-- c.

jesse said...

I'm conflicted by this post. On the one hand, most of us will never have a book deal. If that is your only goal, and you've seen nothing but stagnation for 20 years, maybe it is time to try something new. You could always come back, and the new experience will have probably made your writing richer, better.
On the other hand, becoming a good writer is difficult. I've never heard a single writer I respect say that it came easy, nothing worth having ever does.
Personally, writing has been hell lately, but I'm starting to see growth. It is slow growth, granted, but I am getting better. Mastering the craft should be every writer's goal. Everything else comes after that.

Anne R. Allen said...

" Rejections from agents or general trade editors is hardly ever a measure of the quality of your work. If you've gotten a lot of those, look at other ways of getting your work in front of readers."

So many discouraged writers in less popular genres need to hear that!

I have a "blocked" writer friend who took a painting class to get out of the house. In one year, she's a better painter than she ever was a writer.

She didn't fail as a writer. She succeeded in finding her medium.

Stephsco said...

It helps for me to be reminded that writing is a craft, and anything you want to excell at you have to put the time in. My husband has a hobby of music producing - he is excellent at it and has recorded people in our home studio. He bascially spent his entire teenage years in the cave of his parent's basement playing around with sound editing software, and when he left the house, he played shows with several bands. I just started writing seriously less than a year ago; I know I have a long path ahead of me to feel proficient in this craft.

Thank you for the encouragement.

Kristin Laughtin said...

Amen! If I ever make it as an author, but don't enjoy writing, it won't be worth it to me; it'd be like being stuck in any other career I didn't love.

On the other hand, if I don't "make it" but I enjoy what I'm doing, then the time spent is worth it.

Anonymous said...

This made me want to hug you. I won't (too many teeth, of course), but I will say thank you. You're absolutely right. If writing isn't fun, that's the equivalent of doing a job you loathe. Life's too short for that.

Thank you, as well, for the disagreement about rejections.

Unknown said...

What if you hate writing, absolutely loath it, but if you stop writing 55 WPM the bus you are traveling on is going to explode?

If that's the case then you have to...


Coming to theaters this fall - Starring Bandra Sullock and Reanu Keeves...

This film has not been rated.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Chuck inspired me to expose my writing to the world rather than hide it in my closet. His courage to state his opinions is admirable.

The more I read about writing and the publishing industry the more correlations I see with the art world and as a professional painter with years of rejections I still love painting. Many colleagues have quit along the way or do it only part time. I think quitting for a period can be of great inspiration.

The time away from creative work is sometimes more productive that plugging away at it. If it is not fun why do it? The bored writer will produce boring writing and the bored painter will not produce inspiring paintings just mediocre flat images. Take a break, go on vacation. Quit completely. Divorce yourself. If it is really what you want to do you will come back with a fresh voice, I agree with Janet!

Maureen Wanket said...

That was awesome. Thanks!!!

Lisa said...

I haven't put my book in front of a lot of agents yet. (Just tapped on a freelance editor to read and point out weak spots so I can strengthen.) But will be doing more querying once she's given me her input. This aspect you've written about is something I've struggled with though. How do you know you've got the right idea but are reaching the wrong people? Or how do you know you've got the right idea but need a different story telling approach... Or how do you know if the idea is weak so you should pour your efforts into a different project instead?

But I guess the bottom line (and most important factor) is that if the writing still brings one joy then keep going. I'll have to print that message out and tack it up to my wall on those tough days...

Thanks for giving me some direction. :-)