Wednesday, June 7, 2017

#IWSG: I Quit (Or Do I?)

Recently a man I vaguely know on social media published his first book. It was not an instant bestseller. In fact, he got some critical reviews. With three days of releasing that book, he posted that he quit and would no longer be a writer.

Watching this unfold, I was gobsmacked. He gave up so fast! And so easily. Why? Was he just of the "instant gratification takes too long" mindset? Or that fragile? Or so lightly invested that he could just drop it without a second thought?

The IWSG optional writing prompt this month is about quitting: "Did you ever say “I quit”? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?"

It's a good question. There are times when it might be good to quit. When what you're trying to do really has no chance of success or if failure is eating you instead of inspiring you to try harder or differently. When there's no joy. But sometimes, quitting is doing yourself a disservice, not giving it long enough to find out what your limits are and what you can do.

So, did this guy do the "right" thing by quitting? Or was he just being a special snowflake and reacting childishly to criticism? I don't know! I've never walked in his shoes, but it did feel like a fast trajectory to me.

I've never actually quit writing altogether, though my level of commitment and follow-through has varied over the years, building to what I have now which is steady, if slower than I'd like, progress.

I have, however, quit a particular piece of writing.

The first novel I ever tried to write is now abandoned. Really abandoned. Like left in the dumpster
behind the supermarket in another town across the country, wiped of DNA evidence so it can't be traced to me. I won't be picking it up again, ever.

See, it was the first novel I ever tried to write. It suffered from a lot of incurable flaws. It didn't have any kind of clear plot; it just sort of meandered all over the place. It was WAY too autobiographical, with characters who were thinly veiled cyphers for people in my life. It was unbelievable wish fulfillment, with everything going the way of my main character even though nothing in the story made that logical or reasonable. In other words, it was crap.

But I learned SO MUCH from trying to write it, so even though the months I invested in that work didn't lead to a finished product, I don't regret the time. My writing group was so supportive and kind. I'll always be grateful to them for that.

I don't think continuing to work on it would have helped me. I would only have become more and more frustrated, trying to make a silk purse out of that sow's ear. So, quitting that book was smart.

The next book I wrote was much better. It's not published, but I think it could be, if I pick it back up again and revise it with what I've learned since.

The third book I wrote is now published, and pushed me into what could now be described as a fledgeling writing career with three novels and several short stories out there. She *can* be taught!

But I never gave any serious consideration to stopping writing altogether. It's too much at the heart of me to simply set down like a less-than-delicious sandwich.

I don't quit easily.

Good thing! Building a writing career is  a hard row to hoe. Which makes it all the more satisfying when something starts to bloom. It wasn't easy, and continues not to be easy. Not just anyone can do this. It takes dedication, hard work, and perseverance. So I'm special :-) (My mother says so).

I'm interested to hear how the rest of you know when to quit. Like Kenny Rogers once sang, "You gotta know when to hold 'em/ know when to fold 'em/ know when to walk away/ know when to run." What he didn't tell us was HOW you know. Please comment below!

If you're not already following #IWSG (Insecure Writer's Support Group), you should really check it out. The monthly blog hop is a panoply of insight into the writing life at all stages of hobby and career. Search the hashtag in your favorite social media venue and you'll find something interesting on the first Wednesday of every month.


  1. I have a first story like yours. It'll never see the light of day, but it was still fun to write and a learning experience.

    No idea if that guy was giving up easily or not, but when I need instant gratification, I pick up my crafts. I can whip up a necklace is no time and getting to hold it and show it off is always a creative boost. Then I have to wait until a craft show to see if I can sell it. LOL

  2. You've prove it. Writing is something we all do. When we improve enough we can submit and get published. It must be earned. Some think it's easy money. I can't help but laugh at that. :-)

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  3. Ouch. He didn't expect a bad response, didn't prepare for it. That's something a lot of writers aren't ready for, and it can hurt them. I just hope they can keep on going after licking their wounds.

  4. That does seem like a fast trajectory to me, too, but like you said, who knows where he was coming from. Perhaps that was his plan all along.

    And I have a few projects that I'll never go back to, but I don't think of myself as quitting them. It's more that their purpose was to help me figure out what I wanted to do differently for the next project. I didn't leave them in the dumpster behind the grocery store, but that sure does sound tempting. :)

  5. Hello, Samantha. Wow, your description of your first novel sounds very much like my experience. I took mine through several revisions and sent out queries--nada, but I learned a lot from the experience. It helped, I think, that I looked at that process as a lesson in how to run a novel through the necessary steps. I haven't published yet, but my current work is so much better than that first attempt. Quit? Never!

  6. Over and over I hear how publishing is a long game. It's not get rich quick, it may never get us 'rich' but so many writers I know who are making a living have been at it 5 years minimum. Thanks for sharing!

    Here's my IWSG post for June: How to Survive the 'Little Quits.'

  7. Three days, huh? Well, it is hard to take those critical reviews--especially if you haven't gone through the query/rejection process and built that thick skin. Even if you have...

  8. Those critical reviews can be tough. I called it quits on reading reviews after I got a few. They sting, but I've slowly (really slowly) managed to keep going. Yay for sticking to it and getting published. Slow and steady wins the race right?

  9. Hm. You have given me a great idea of what to do with my first novel (still in manuscript). I shall ditch it in New Jersey. (just kidding)

    I suspect the disappointed writer picked up his laptop again and started writing again...possibly under a different name. At lease he didn't write rebuttals...or did he?

  10. Three days?! Well, maybe he had doubts about publishing it in the first place and finally decided to throw in the towel, so to speak. My first published thing--a novella--has been out for two years. Like you, I've quit projects or changed them, but so far, not writing itself. Extended vacations, yes.

  11. Yeah, that is a super fast trajectory, a writing death spiral. I think you're spot on thinking that his investment level was wanting.

    Quitting a bad project takes courage. It is super easy to pretend the flaws aren't that deep, and that it can be salvaged, anything to not walk away from all that work. I admire that courage.

  12. Wow, it certainly does seem like he quit easily. Maybe there was something else going on, too, or maybe it had all come easily and he wasn't prepared for it to get hard.

  13. I left my first draft novel when I abandoned my flat in Toronto and left Canada. I suspect it wasn't much good but I learnt from writing it - and remnants exist in other ideas...perhaps. Good luck and good writing.

  14. I think we all have stories we have to quit. But you still learn something from them and hopefully become a better writer in the process.

  15. We all have those apprentice manuscripts that get us a little closer to journeyman status and that's purpose enough for them. Hemingway said "we are all apprentices in a craft in which no one is ever a master." I think the three-day author you mentioned could have used this reminder and perhaps wouldn't have taken his setback quite so hard.

    BTW, I've nominated you for an award at my blog. No pressure; it's just for fun.

  16. Like one of the commenters above, I wouldn't be surprised if the man you mention in your post eventually went back to writing in some form or another.

    I'm too stubborn to quit even a writing project, let alone writing in general. If something's not working for me, I re-work it until it's better. My motto is "nothing gets put back in the drawer forever."

    Great post.

  17. Each story we write is practice. With practice, we get better. My 1st manuscript is keeping yours company in that dumpster. My early works will not see the light of day. But I learned from each one. And I keep learning. When I read for enjoyment, I'm still learning about writing. (So much easier to see flaws in someone else's works than in my own. LOL)

  18. I agree, there must be more behind that guy's story than a kneejerk reaction. Maybe publishing this book was his way of confirming something. If it was the first book he wrote, it's usually not a good idea to publish that. Like you, I will never go back to my first book, although I spent nearly three years on it. But it was a great learning curve!

  19. My first "serious" novel ended up in a landfill too, but I rewrote it from scratch and it's a million times better.

    I haven't quit a novel in a long time, but I do take breaks. As for writing, I can't imagine my life without it. I'll never give up.