Tuesday, September 27

Quitting




Yesterday, on one of the loops I'm on, a woman wrote a long, emotion-filled post about how she had gotten a hurtful rejection and she was quitting.

I've been there many times.

Not even over painful rejections. But burn-out, tired of the drill, all of it have caused me to quit.

I've rarely told the story of the first manuscript I ever subbed, but thought I would share today. I used to belong to a tiny chapter, CWRW, and one of the authors was in the Intrigue stable. Somehow, she managed to get her editor all the way from NYC to our tiny chapter. I got to pitch a manuscript called Wild Horse Moon, not to be confused with Wild Horses. (I do like wild horses, don't I?)

Anyway, the editor requested the ms. I was on my way! I made plans of what to spend the check on, who I would thank in my acknowledgement page...yada, yada, yada.

I didn't sell that manuscript, or the next fifteen. Yeah, fifteen.

The editor said, and I'll never forget it, "I'm not going to sugarcoat this, you need to learn to write."

I quit that day.

I called my published friend, sobbing so hard I was choking, and she very mildly reminded me that if I quit I would never see my name on a book. It snapped me out of it, and I began the next manuscript that day.

There have been other times I have quit. When I left my first agent, I stopped writing. I was tired, discouraged beyond repair. But eventually, almost a year later, I came back.

This business isn't easy. It's full of artists in a business world. Filled with people who have their eye on the bottom line, and not necessarily our tender feelings.

I get tired of it all sometimes. Want to quit. But the truth is, writing is so much a part of me now, that to make me stop, I think you'll have to bury me.

38 comments:

  1. You can't quit. You can get mad. You can whine but then you have to put your big girl panties on and show them you can't knock me down. Writing is subjective. I have days where it's so hard to crawl out of the hole but I do get up and do again and again and again. Because the stories don't leave me. They want to be heard, to be told. If nothing else, my children can put the manuscripts under my coffin and send me out in a blaze of glory like a viking. KEEP WRITING. Your friend was right, quitters are never published.

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  2. You scared me with the title, lol! Great post. Been trying for ten years now myself, but I can't not write so I'll never quit either. I love it too much :)

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  3. No quitting allowed, my friend. Whining, as Nancy said, *is* allowed, but quitting, never.

    I've given myself permission to quit, but have never been brave enough to actually try turning off the fountain of voices in my head or staying away from my computer...although when we were going through the gruesome months of our adoption I didn't write a whole lot.

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  4. Ever feel like quitting? I don't know, how about EVERY SECOND OF EVERY DAY. I imagine the raised eyebrows and dropped jaw looks on everyone's faces, the 'oh, honey, don't quit your day job' thoughts running through their heads every time I finish a chapter.

    But I figure if this is the worst thing I have to worry about today, I'm doing pretty damn good. It's not life or death and it keeps me entertained, even if everyone else is whispering behind my back.

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  5. Hi D'Ann ~ I quit once. I poured my heart and free time into the first 12 chapters of a time-travel I wrote. I knew nothing about writing. ZERO But I learned that I should join a writers group, and posted my first chapter proudly.

    OMG. The first crit I received was harsh and tore my chapter apart. She KNEW I was a wet eared newbie, and did it anyway.

    I quit writing for a few months and became a lurker on that and a few other sites. During that time, I followed up on links, read blogs, and slowly learned what I'd done wrong.

    Quitting was actually a good thing for me. I took that time and spent it well. When I came back, it was with a totally different mindset.

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  6. D'Ann, I've been there so many times I've lost count. Tired, burnt-out, rejected, busy - yep, I've quit over all of them. But I keep coming back. I still haven't figured out why. Hmm...isn't that the mark of insanity - doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?

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  7. I'm really a newbie when it comes to writing--three years this coming January. I've had a couple of hurtful rejections but nothing yet that's made me want to quit.

    I'm not a quitter generally--nasty comments tend to knock me back a minute, then spur me on with the attitude "I'll show you!" As a fellow writer once said, "Publication is the sweetest revenge."

    And I remember the satisfaction of writing to two agents who had my ms and telling them I had to withdraw it from their consideration because it was being published elsewhere. One of the sweetest moments of my short career.

    Excellent post, D'Ann (though the title scared me too at first. LOL).

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  8. I've only quit once. My daughter snapped me out of it. Kinda glad she did now;-)
    Teri

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  9. Yep, I'm there now. Not that I want to quit altogher but that time gets sucked away from me and if I can't do it the way I want then maybe I should just stop until I can. I know that's not the way I want to be but at the same time the thought creeps into my head whenever I plan time to write. Life's a struggle but writing has a life of its own. How do we find time to live a whole other life in our words?

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  10. I've been writing since high school days. One day my mother found a large stash of my writings and promptly confronted me. (Maybe with her eighth grade education she was not educated enough to find value in them or maybe she was shocked by what I was writing) She threw it all in the trash and burned it! That made me quit for several years. But writing is like potato chips. You can't stop with one. So, several years later I started again. I took a creative writing class at the community college. I wrote for a few years saving everything. Then,my interests took a bypass and the writings laid around and laid around until one day I said "out you go". It wasn't three weeks later a friend of mine was in a writing class and by telling me of her assignments, etc. I was excited again, only to mourn that I had dumped all my scribblings. That taught me:NEVER AGAIN. Now I have stuff that goes back ten-twelve years. Yeah, re-reading it, I think, how simple, I can do better than that. And that, my friend, is GROWTH. Quit? I've had my husband tell me more than once--why do you bother? It's born in me. It's my method of communicating to others. It's my job--to please, entertain, frighten, etc. I have to keep working.

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  11. Thanks for the nod, D'Ann.:) I ended up not quitting, I just sulked for an hour and whined to my cp then I signed up for some writing classes and like Nancy said, "Put my big girl panties on" and said to myself, "I won't let the bastards get me down. I'm a good writer and soon I will be an even better writer." I also re-read Shirley Jump's article on her web site called "How to Quit Writing and End up on The New York Times List." If Shirley can do it, so can I. :)

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  12. We've all been there. You just have to keep going and keep hope in your soul. And be careful if you quote that.

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  13. I think the only writers who have never quit, or at least thought about it long and hard, are the ones who've never started.

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  14. Most of my rejections just made me think, "Well, that agent (editor, publisher) has crappy taste." LOL Contests hurt my feelings a bit more--don't ask why. And I did quit entering contests.

    But... I guess at the crux of it, I love to write, create worlds, characters, problems, bring them together for their HEA... so no. I wouldn't quit writing, even if I hadn't gotten published. I'd just have more USB drives full of more unpublished stories. LOL

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  15. I just crawled out of this, I-want-to-quit hole and am excited again. We'll see how long this exhilaration last this time.

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  16. I learned from my own ineptness in math that quitting wasn't an option. The naysayers who said it would always be the subject I'd suck at are now kissing my ass 'cause I majored in it, graduated at the top of my class.

    The drive I used to push through the muddle of self-doubt and proclaimed doubt is what I apply to every aspect of my life. I'll complain and moan, but quit? Psh, never.

    If it means that much to you, you find a way to keep pressing forward - your love for it, the encouragement of a friend or family member, a discovery that puts "it" into new light for you. No matter what your passion, quitting should never be an option.

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  17. I didn't write for several years when my late husband was ill, but even then I don't think I actually quit. I knew I'd go back to it--I've been writing something since I was a kid.

    Now I have days when I miss finaling in a string of contests, or have someone tell me that what I'm writing is a genre that doesn't sell, and I think about quitting, but I know I won't. Writing is too much a part of my self-image.

    I've heard it said that being a writer is like having homework every day for the rest of your life. True. I guess we just have to put up with it.

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  18. We write because we can't not write. It's okay to do other things and we should. Actually, I believe it improves our writing if we walk away from it for short intervals. But if you're destined to be a writer, you'll always come back to it. And you'll edit past work and make it that much better with new insights.

    Jacqueline Seewald
    THE TRUTH SLEUTH (who could easily paper a whole house with past rejection slips)

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  19. True writers have something embedded deep within their souls that keeps pulling them back to the story, no matter how many times they have been rejected, tired, discouraged, embarassed, etc. There is something about writing that is always there no matter where one is in life. It is as if that God given skill, hovers in the background during the hard times, waiting to surface again, each time with renewed strength and vigor. Although, I have never "quit" there have been countless times in my life where I have simply walked away from writing, for whatever reasons, rejection, embarassment, discouragement. But no matter what, I always come back. A new story begins to thread its way through my mind, I see inspiration in something I have seen or read, or perhaps I simply want to sit a spell and give in the pleasure of putting my thoughts on paper. Yes, keep writing, always and through it all. It's just what us writers do.
    Kelley

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  20. Great post, D’Ann,

    I believe this thinking is a part of the process. Quitting, mourning, and restarting.
    Take successful people, which we will all be one day. Do they get where they are off one single try. No, I don’t believe so. It’s the amount of failures they have under their belts. The lessons they have learned along the way. The real battle is not letting it get you down.

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  21. I’ll never quite writing because I love it too much. That said, I’ve decided that writers have to be the most resilient and companionate people I’ve ever met. When ever someone has bad news either professionally or personally, there is a community of other writers to pick them up and help them carry on.

    Marion

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  22. Enjoyed your post D'Ann, and loved reading everyone's comments. Seems like we have all been there at one point or another, but our love of writing drags us back to teh keyboard. When I get in that dark mood, I try and give myself 24 hours to snap out of it and generally that works for me. Sometimes quitting is just taking a break :)

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  23. I can't quit writing. Not even if I wanted to. I quit piano lessons, violin lessons, soccer. I quit singing and acting. I quit selling Mary Kay and crochet. I quit couponing and trying to be nice to my In-Laws. But I cannot quit writing. I just can't.

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  24. One reviewer skewered me to the wall on my first YA book -- not about the writing, really, but that my characters (18-year-olds) were having too much sex, and since I'd written them that way, I was contributing to the moral decay of teens all over the globe. She rallied other like-minded folk into a frenzy that left me feeling like pond scum. I quit writing at that point. I needed distance from the very thing that had brought me pain. That thing, I thought at the time, was writing; I later figured out that it was my own mind. I took their opinions way too seriously, practically draping them around my body like a hair coat. After about a month, I heard the characters of my story-in-progress whispering in my ear to come back to them, to give them some adventure. Come back I did, and I quickly realized how much I'd missed writing, and better yet, how much I loved it. So, I didn't quit...I took a breath. Thanks for another thought-provoking topic. Sophia

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  25. oh man do I hear you. It's such a roller coaster ride and I truly believe it will always be. For evey writer. Pubbed or unpubbed.

    There is just something about writing that doesn't let you give up. Ever.


    What a story. I'm glad you hung on. You deserve to be pubbed.

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  26. Real writers don't quit. Not one of the people who posted here and said they quit, actually quit. If you'd quit, you wouldn't be writing today. A real writer is incapable of quitting. They can't NOT WRITE. God knows, they would probably be better off if they did.

    But a true writer is draw to the story. The need to create is embedded so deeply inside their souls they can't push it aside. They may take a break, or a breather or a hiatus. They may go dormant for a few months even years. But they always start writing again.

    Every single person I know (me included) has decided to "quit" at some point in their life. But they always start writing again. Usually, within a year.

    We simply don't have a choice.

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  27. THANK YOU, Everyone, for coming by! Write on, my friends!

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  28. I didn't quit...just stopped for awhile a couple of times. Very hard to write when your mate makes fun of everything...even to the point of bringing it out at parties. Stuff that was not ready for human consumption. Then, as someone else said, life got in the way. And now, I haven't stopped completely, but job searching (need money to pay for the writing stuff, ya know) takes up so much time and can use up your writing brain on other kinds of writing. Definitely NOT the fun stuff. :) I know a writer who has a contract. Has been published and is now talking about quitting after this book. Why? I ask. Never got a real answer, yet.

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  29. I lose my motivation to write quite often, but I also gain it back within a few day or weeks. Yes, there are times I want to throw in the towel for whatever reason or maybe for no reason that I can figure out. But I never stay away for long. I like to think of these times as vacations--everyone needs vacations now and then.

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  30. I like the new look! I've had moments over the years when I wondered why I was beating my head against a wall, then I'd not write for a week or two and miss it. So I'd jump back on and write to make me happy and no one else. That's my secret to not wanting to quit now. I write for me and the other people who like to read what I like to read.

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  31. D'Ann -

    You're going to be one of those writers who has an incredibly inspirational story to share when you published. You define persistence!

    Hugs,
    Kels

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  32. I only ever really considered quitting writing once after a really bad review. I said if I can piss someone off so much, maybe I'm not cut out for this. So I pissed and moaned and vented, then I read all my good reviews and said, "suck it" to the bad reviewer (in my head, not in real life, though it was tempting). And I moved on, taking as much as I could from the review to make my next book better.

    My husband thinks I'll quit writing. I've pretty much quit everything I've ever done. But writing...I don't know. It just feels different. Like I wouldn't be me without it. Also I have to prove my husband wrong :)

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  33. I've wanted to quit more times than I can count, but the stubborn side of me refuses to let that happen.

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  34. Hi D'Ann, Amanda here, from Shirley's group. I always love your posts and this one is no exception. So glad you wrote it, it just goes to show how hard this writing business is. And, how most of us, at one time or another, stop and say "tell me again why I'm doing this?"
    Glad Cher is giving it another shot too. :)

    Quote for the day...

    I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.
    Thomas A. Edison

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  35. Good for you! Hanging in there is what counts the most.

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  36. I don't know that I've actually ever quit, but I have gone on hiatis a few times. But even then, I always knew I'd come back to writing.

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  37. Thanks for all the great comments, everyone. Sorry for not responding to everyone individually, but no time--work. Bleh.

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  38. I just wanted to jump in here and say that it took me 13 years to get my first historical published. I can't tell you how many times I quit, only to start back and quit again. And every time I quit, I MEANT it. In desperation, I took a college class in creative writing. The professor wrote this sentence on the board: I AM TAKING THIS CLASS BECAUSE.... We had to fill in the blank and turn it in. Later, he told me that most would say either "because I want to be a writer" or "because I want to write." The latter answer, to him, was indicative of who truly had the "writer's gene." The former, who was simply enamored of the "writer image." The bottom line is I think it's fine to quit sometimes--but if you're in the group that wants to write, you won't stay "quit." Here's a book I find really helpful in understanding the tribulations of being creative: Steven Pressfield's THE WAR OF ART.

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