I had a truly awful week last week. The kind they make Dilbert cartoons and snarky memes about. The kind that makes you want to crawl back into bed, pull the covers over your head, and rethink your entire life. The kids were in horrible moods, everything went wrong at home, and even the good things happening in my career came along with a load of really crummy problems.
Oh, and did I mention that I have a book due in three weeks? The third book in a series which is trying my patience? A book that I’ve rewritten completely once, and in part at least three times?
By the time I got to Thursday night, I’d had it. I messaged a friend and said, “I quit. I’m not doing this anymore.”
I was done. Life was too hard, but since I couldn’t give up on life, I could give up on writing instead. After all, I began writing because I loved creating. But creating had become as much fun as a root canal, and it came along with a bunch of other stuff that I didn’t have the mental or emotional energy to deal with at the moment.
When I woke up on Friday morning, I had this strange feeling of aimlessness. I habitually plan out my following day before I go to bed, often outlining the scenes that I plan to write next, plus all of my other errands, emails, follow-up tasks, and kid-related duties. Then I remembered, I’d quit. I didn’t have any of those things planned for my Friday.
I logged on to Facebook on my phone, still lying in bed and enjoying/hating/accepting the weird feeling of not having anything planned, when I saw a repost of a 2009 Michael Hyatt blog: What Keeps You Going When You Want to Quit? In my head, I snarkily answered, “Nothing. I quit, remember?”
And then I started reading the blog post. When I got to a paragraph in the middle, I sighed and pulled the covers over my head. I couldn’t quit.
“What these same voices fail to tell you is that there is a distinction between the dream and the work required to obtain it. Everything important requires work. Hard work. And sometimes there is a long arc between the dream and it’s realization. That is where the work and the transformation occur.”
And that’s the whole thing. There’s a distinction between the dream of being a published author and the hard work that it takes to get there. Once you do get there, there’s even more work required to stay there. And if there’s ever a business that epitomizes the definition of “long arc,” it’s publishing.
He goes on to say that the mind will attempt to answer whatever question you ask it. If you look for reasons to quit, you’ll certainly find them. The trick is to look for reasons to stay the course.
So here are my reasons for not quitting writing/publishing/life, in no particular order.
1) I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was seven years old. I’m finally living my dream. Would I tell a seven-year-old, even my seven-year-old self, to give up because it’s too hard?
2) I love writing when it’s going well. I don’t completely hate it when it’s not.
3) I interpret and process my world through story. My first response to any challenge (even this) is to apply it to a character I’m writing and see what lessons she can learn from it. I could stop writing, but I could sooner quit breathing than stop creating stories in my head.
4) I’ve got commitments to my publishers, and I don’t want to be a person who doesn’t meet her commitments.
5) Those commitments come with money, and I kind of like money. It supports my Starbucks and shoe and nail polish habits. It also justifies the time I spend on what has up until this point been seen as a hobby.
6) Because I like money and I spend too much on Starbucks, shoes, and nail polish, if I quit writing, I’d have to get a real job. A real job wouldn’t give me the flexibility to drop off/pick up my kids, stay home when they’re sick, or go on field trips. I couldn’t order my work schedule around my personal obligations.
7) To most people, my books are an escape from their own problems. That’s enough. But for a few, they may also inspire, encourage, and teach. I’ve got a folder of reader messages from people who have said my first novel made a real difference in their lives.
I couldn’t quit. And let’s get real for a minute— deep down, I didn’t think I could actually quit. Saying it made me feel better for a little bit, gave me the permission to relax when I needed to let go of the soap opera in my brain. But it’s time to get back to work now, and do what God made me to do. He certainly knows that I’ve tried to reject the call, and considering I’m successful at most things I attempt, the fact I’ve been wholly unsuccessful at quitting writing means something. So I guess it’s time to cowboy up and get back to work.
I have seven reasons to prove it.