So, most writers probably want to write blogs on how to keep going. How to overcome writers block or make it through a tough segment. But what I need today, is a segment on how, or at least when, to give up.
We’ve heard it all our lives. Quotes about how quitting accomplishes nothing. If at first you don’t succeed, or if life gives you lemons, or you miss every shot you don’t take etc. But surely there is a time when one must just give up, move on, try something else entirely? Maybe you tried a hundred times over and you’re just wasting time now. Maybe your lemonade is on its fifth batch and it still tastes disgusting (after all why keep trying to use rotten lemons when clearly they’ll never be any better). Maybe your legs are too worn out to even take one more shot at a goal and it’s time to just pass it to another player instead, or better yet, go sit on the bench and rest before getting back in the game.
I write this because I’m giving up. Don’t you worry. Not this blog. Not being a writer. But I’m giving up on a writing project I’d been attempting. And for once I think that’s the best approach.
In high school all I ever did was write. I spent ages working on my novels, tapping away and dreaming of the day I would be published. By the time I graduated from college I had finished writing four novels and a novella. Five finished works. And the only thing I felt stood between me and publication, was my inability to edit. And I knew, if I’d just sit down and actually make an effort I might finally have a book out.
Fiction writing class was what caused me to start thinking I might need to really crack down and start working on second drafts. And while it was hard, I did begin to think it was a possibility. But life doesn’t always go the way we want it to.
That same year, the person who had inspired me to write the four novels dropped out of my life. Our friendship had been fading for some time, and I made some horrible mistakes in the last moments that just finally killed it once and for all. I can’t really even find the words to describe how much this devastated me. But beyond just losing my closest and dearest friend, a person who had changed my life countless times over, who had been there for me in my darkest hours, I also lost years of work. Four novels, suddenly worthless.
For a while I clung to some sense of hope. Maybe I could revise all of them. Take out things she’d contributed and rework them to be my own. For a while I hopelessly did my best to destroy what we’d built together and build my own world. But every time I did I ended up hurting myself.
I would send myself reeling back into reminiscence. Remembering the good old times, finding myself wondering why it had to end. The truth was, I could never do any work because everything was too fragile. Everything felt connected in a personal way that I couldn’t possibly destroy.
So this is my decision for the moment. I’m giving up. I’m turning over a new leaf and starting over. Four novels are as good as in the trash now, and while it’s hard, it had to happen.
And that’s what made me decide to write this post. For others who might be in a place where they simply need to give up and move on. Perhaps you’ve been working on a novel for a year and you still just can’t finish it, but there’s another project you can feel calling you. Maybe you’ve sent out your book to a hundred publications but no one is biting, and maybe that means you need to do some serious re-editing. Maybe three friends have read your work and said it is terrible, perhaps you try again, maybe you just scrap it and start fresh.
Do what works for you. Know that sometimes you have to just throw in the towel. I’m not talking about giving up on writing itself or anything so dramatic. But there are times we have to let projects go. Or else they’ll simply drag us down.
Here’s my fresh start. I hope some of you who need it can find yours.