TRUTH BOMB: Sometimes (okay, lots of times) I Want To Quit

 

quitterLately I’ve been asking myself this question:

What would happen if I were to quit writing?

I think every writer gets to this point eventually (at least that’s what I’m telling myself). The new shiny has worn off. The over-the-moon-I’m-so-in-love-with-what-I’m-doing feeling goes away. Inspiration dries up to nothing more than a brittle bag of bones that if you shake together real hard might amount to a paragraph or two. And we’re not talking Hemingwayesqe brilliance that makes up for the scant word-count. We’re talking shaky drivel that makes I CAN HAZ CHEEZBURGR look like soul-stealing genius.  

And so I ask myself, what would happen if I were to quit?

Life would immediately become simpler. I wouldn’t have to structure my days so intensely. Family time wouldn’t feel so urgent because writing wouldn’t be putting any demands on our schedule. I could cook and clean and play when I want to. I could spend more time with my friends. I could sew again – a luxury I haven’t enjoyed in years.

I wouldn’t have to brace myself for as many disappointments. Sure, life will still throw its curveballs, but anybody who writes – and puts their writing into the world – has stories about unrealized dreams and harsh criticisms and slaughtered expectations. Anybody who writes – and puts their writing into the world – can tell you what it’s like to try and muddle through a stressful dichotomy of feelings as we watch our colleagues experience success: genuine and real joy for their moment in the sun, and genuine heartache and jealousy while we wonder when – and if – our time will come.  

But would I be satisfied if I quit? Would I be able to look at my little office without regret, knowing the sacrifices we’ve already made so I could pursue this dream? Would there be a murky place in the back of my brain filled with the ghosts of books not yet written? And could I hold my head up high without shame when asked why I gave up my dream?

This job is hard. Not physically hard like ranching or farming, but hard in the head. The doubt I feel when I look at a blank screen that it’s my job to fill with meaningful words is damn near crippling. And when I get my priorities fucked up and think about the pay-out in terms of cash instead of the satisfaction of having created art, I honestly want to slam my hand in a car door. Pennies per hour people. That’s what I make, on a good day. Pennies per freaking hour.

But I am blessed. Because I have a husband who supports me in the most loving, sacrificial way. Blessed because I have children who don’t question what I do for work, and who sweetly joke about the fact that they make more for their allowance than I do for my job (true story, and most days I can laugh about that). I am blessed because I have readers who genuinely love the books I have written, and they are good to me. Thanks to social media, they give me encouragement on almost a daily basis. 

I am blessed.

If I were to quit, the world wouldn’t quit spinning. The stars wouldn’t fall from the sky. The earth wouldn’t split in two and nobody would drown a bag of kittens. Life would pretty much go on the same as it has for the past ever and ever.

But I would have quit. And I would carry that fact around with me, like a scar on my soul. Quitting would be easier, for sure. And for awhile, quitting would even feel good. But eventually I know I would always look back at that moment when I finally gave in and said, “I’m done,” and wonder What if? What if I’d pulled on my big girl panties and just fucking kept at it? 

And the answers to those what ifs give me the strength I need to plow ahead.

Myndi

 

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41 thoughts on “TRUTH BOMB: Sometimes (okay, lots of times) I Want To Quit

  1. Gry Ranfelt says:

    During December I had to take a break from writing. My family sells christmas trees and my father needed me to do book keeping at the office and at the same time there was so much family time.
    I simply had no time for anything else.
    By Christmas eve I was dying to write.
    In the package game (I don’t know if that’s just a Danish tradition? If so, adopt it, it’s awesome) I won a notebook and in another package a pen.
    I instantly started writing. Couldn’t stop myself.
    I’d scrippled 10 pages full of philosophical mumbo jumbo in a few minutes.

    I can’t live without writing.
    But sometimes the bag does become dry and brittle and yes, “I CAN HAS CHEEZBURGERZ” becomes poetic.
    Then you take a break. Go get inspired. Feel the kiss of the mother-freezing steel knife that is the polar wind. (I’m cold sensitive, yes … and it’s 5 degrees celcius)
    Like any good friend or partner sometimes we need time away from it. Just to be us and not “me as a writer”. Just me.

      • Gry Ranfelt says:

        I’m glad my little story did something for you 😀
        I will definitely keep the notebook.
        I’ve learned, though, not to leave it on my nightstand.
        I had some friends over and one of them picked it up. It has a funny cover with Perry the Platypus. I grabbed it and was like “yeah, that’s my diary” and it got awkward.
        “Now I really wanna read it,” he said. “You know I just picked it up because of the cover.”

        I don’t know if he read something later that evening. I forgot to remove it.
        I dearly hope he didn’t XD

  2. Cynthia D. Griffin says:

    Yes, I know what this feels like. I’ve often wondered if maybe I should just stop writing, but in the end I always say no. Sure life would be easier, but I would never find as much joy as I do when I actually have those rare good writing days. And for me that’s worth the trouble.

  3. Marcy Kennedy says:

    Fantastic post. I’ve already shared it on Facebook and Twitter.

    I think it’s important that we’re honest about this. I’ve thought about quitting. I probably think about quitting at least once a week. I think about quitting every time I get an unflattering review. I think about quitting every time I don’t hit the sales numbers I’d like to see. I think about quitting when I reach the end of a day, look at the words I’ve written, and hate them. So many other times as well!

    I still keep going and I’m glad you are too!

  4. Larissa says:

    Please, please, don’t quit! I truly admire your work and want to read all your future books! That being said, take time for you. Make sure you don’t over do it to the point where you don’t enjoy what your are doing or just life. You put a lot of stress on yourself, breathe, do some yoga, take a day once a week to just decompress. Love you girlie, and I hate that your are so stressed!

  5. jansenschmidt says:

    I suppose you could quit. But that would make you a quitter. Are you a quitter?

    Writing is hard, that’s why only a few special folks can do it well. And the pay off is rewarding when you see your name on a book cover. Not everyone has that. Only the few special ones do.

    Hang in there. The muse may be dormant, but it’ll come out to play soon enough. Probably at the worst possible time. So be ready.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  6. Jess Witkins says:

    Myndi, you are a fantastic writer. This post, and your other recent one about getting overwhelmed really hit home and speak honestly. Thank you for your openness in sharing these moments. I hope you never quit writing, but I can so understand why you would. It is easier on the relationships in our lives when we’re not pulling away to write. But the reverse can be just as true – we can cheapen the relationships we have because we’re not utilizing our talents in a way that inspires us and allow us to create something.

    Shared your post tonight. Thanks, Lady, for always laying it out the table. I so wish we were neighbors so we could drink tea (out of fancy mugs of course) and talk more. 🙂

  7. ianmathiean Mathie says:

    An interesting post, Myndi, but why stress yourself about it? Just go with the flow. When it’s play time, play; when it’s family time, do family things and enjoy them; and when it’s time to do the laundry or make beds, do housework Don’t keep looking over your shoulder at your blank screen. And then, when it’s writing time, write.
    Oh, the muse won’t come? Well do something else and think about the last thing you wrote. Was it any good? Did it satisfy the urges that made you want to write it? If not, why not? Why did you write it? What do the answers to these questions tell you about what you might write next? By the time you’ve mulled over all these things comprehensively you’ll be raring to go, knowing just what is needed, and your ideas will be flowing again.
    So what’s wrong with taking time out from writing? You’ll probably write better stuff when you get back to it, and do so with much more enthusiasm than if you just slog on. And there’s no compulsion to be sat in front of your screen all the time, just so you can call yourself a writer. Time spent doing other things, be they mundane household tasks, playing with friends and kids, having exciting adventures on holiday, or sneaky trips to your favourite boutique or bistro all fuel what you will later write. See those activities as research for your writing. OK, so some activities may contribute more than others to your stories, but research results don’t come in great dollops. It’s about collecting trivia and doing the jigsaw puzzle which, when completed, becomes your story. The bit in front of a computer screen is actually the smallest part of a writer’s job.
    Take time out as a positive activity, a contribution to your work. And stop feeling guilty if you drop the typing bit for a while. Once a writer, always a writer and your brain will still go on concocting stories, even if you don’t commit them to typescript.

  8. write4yu2 says:

    This is the best “what if” I’ve ever read. Yes, it can be frustrating, time-consuming, and profitless, but it’s part of you and all of us. We HAVE to write. It’s an extension of our beings.

  9. Kassandra Lamb says:

    I’ve been in a bit of a slump lately too, Myndi. Too much happening in life to spend much time writing, and feeling stuck on a plot point that would not resolve itself in my head. Got me thinking about all the time I spend on the business end of things. Yuck!

    But as you say, the ‘what ifs’ kick in and I know I would be bored to tears and dissatisfied with life if I gave it all up.

  10. Luanne says:

    You kind of had me at how nice it would be if I quit. I thought you were like one of the Bad Idea Bears in Avenue Q. But then you went on and got me going again. Thanks. I think.

  11. K.B. Owen says:

    Oh, Myndi – to me, you’ve always been the popular, fun, energetic, wildly imaginative writer with heart and talent to do whatever you want to do. I was so happy for your well-deserved recognition in USA Today for HH1&2, and had no idea that you struggled so. It just goes to show that folks can’t assume they know what someone’s journey is all about. Thanks for opening your heart, hon. I’m so glad you’re not giving up.

    Like several other writers who’ve already responded, I can certainly identify with many of your struggles. There are times when it feels as if I’m slogging through a mud creek-bed of a dried-up imagination. I struggle to shrug off the discouragement of toiling in obscurity, wondering if what I produce makes a difference. Like you, I genuinely celebrate the successes of fellow authors, while part of me wonders if that will ever happen for me.

    But if it were easy, everyone would be doing it, right? If anyone can succeed at this, I know it will be you! Keep the faith, Myndi, and be kind to yourself.

    Hugs,
    Kathy

  12. Kat says:

    Thank you so much for posting this, Myndi. I’ve been feeling like this a lot lately since it feels like the universe is conspiring to eat up my time…and then when I DO have time, I feel like I’m not spending it wisely. It would be so much easier to quit…but like you said, that leaves a scar, and that’s something I don’t think I could live with. I’m sorry that you’ve had to go through that kind of doubt, but I hope you’ll be able to pull through. Thank you.

  13. Catie Rhodes says:

    Coming in late, so maybe I shouldn’t comment. Oh, what the hell. I’ll do it anyway.

    For what it’s worth, I’m going through one of these periods right now. Self-doubt mixed with busy, busy, busy in my non-writing life. We are in the process of putting our house on the market (just don’t like it here) and buying something new. My life is totally hectic, and I absolutely cannot concentrate enough to make my editor’s changes on Peri Book 2 (which still has no title, thankyouverymuch). Because I can’t concentrate enough to get my work done, I wonder if I’m really a writer and if I should just quit. I mean, this will never be my job if I can’t treat it like a job. Right? Maybe I need to hang it up. But…I know I’m not quite ready to give up. Not yet. Maybe not ever.

    So I do understand where you’re coming from. Here’s my sort-of-advice. If there’s still a doubt in your mind about whether you should quit, it’s not time. May you and I both never reach the point where we know it’s time to use our proverbial typewriters as doorstops. Keep on rocking, Myndi.

  14. charliebritten says:

    I find that my writing goes in cycles. For several years I might not write at all then suddenly I get an IDEA and I’m whooshed forward by the ‘The over-the-moon-I’m-so-in-love-with-what-I’m-doing feeling’ . Then I write it and have another lull.

  15. lynneinpborough says:

    persist and persevere.. That’s what I keep repeating to myself each time I take a break from my writing. As you say, walking away would seem the easy option but, as others have said, where would all the words and ideas go?

  16. Tammy J Rizzo says:

    This was lovely, Myndi. Thank you for sharing this with us. I’ve felt much the same thing, so often, but the need to create keeps me from letting go completely, and then I find myself pulled back in again. I’m getting so close to finishing my first novel, and I’ve never finished anyth

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