Lately 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.