5 Wrong Reasons to Quit Writing

One of my writer friends recently crashed and burned. She’d just started growing her audience, making her platform all nice and shiny, when WHAM, she was taken down by some unseen force.

So she called it quits.

I was astonished and saddened – but the familiarity was all too haunting for me.

I still remember the span of time I’d taken off from writing. I know I talk about it a lot on the blog, but I keep bringing it up because I think too many good writers quit when the job gets too ugly, too messy.

And I don’t mean to belittle anyone’s experience – but writing is a lifelong endeavor, if you want to get anywhere with it. For the average person, success will not happen overnight. And it’s hard work.

I believe that anyone can be a writer. Anyone can learn to write strong, compelling content. Anyone can turn ideas into stories. But they have to practice, and that means they have to write on a regular basis.”

from: Writer … Uninterrupted – A Handbook for the Emerging Writer

For most of us, writing is a natural force. You’re a writer because you can’t help it. Writing has likely chosen you, not the other way around. As such, it’s a calling.

There’s a damn good reason you are one of the chosen ones. If you’re going to quit writing, just make sure you aren’t doing it for the wrong reasons.

WRONG REASON #1  — “Because I’m not a good writer.”

Excuse me? When you first started belly-dancing, were you any good? How about cooking? Ice-skating? And once you did get the hang of those activities, how did you maintain your knowledge?

Writing is a skill; there is a learning curve. People become good at activities as long as they practice, work hard, and are willing to learn.

TURN IT AROUND: Take some classes, join a writers group, hire a writing coach, read articles and books on the craft.

WRONG REASON #2  — “Because I can’t manage all the facets of this gig.”

Yup, writing is no longer simply about a notebook and a pen and an editor waiting with bated breath for someone, anyone to send in a manuscript.

Times they are a-changing and writers have to wear fourteen-gazillion hats. At one time. While whistling Yankee Doodle Dandy with a mouthful of crackers.

TURN IT AROUND: Cut back on social media, set yourself short-term goals guaranteed to earn you some wins, do something stress-free on a regular basis.

WRONG REASON #3  — “Because I have no time to write.”

Bull-patty! I got myself in a bit of trouble a couple of years ago spouting off at writers who say they have no time to write.

Apparently I didn’t learn from my outburst then, ‘cuz I’m going to go off again – there is absolutely time to write, every day, if you want it badly enough.

I’m not saying it’s easy to scrounge up, but trust me, it’s there. You’re just not seeing it, for whatever reason. The key piece here is that you have to want it badly enough. It’s kind of like eating. If you’re hungry enough, you’ll eat. The same is true of writing.

TURN IT AROUND: schedule your writing time on your calendar, swap out TV time for writing, wake up one hour earlier or go to bed one hour later.

WRONG REASON #4  — “Someone told me my story sucks.”

If the offending party is a non-writer, aka “normal person” they don’t know how to tune into the creative world. Kind of like a gene deficiency. If it’s another writer, then they are simply jealous and are obviously struggling with their own writing.

Don’t give these people the satisfaction of crawling into your head. It’s a challenge, granted, but clearly you have positioned yourself in a way that has threatened them. Take it as a compliment.

TURN IT AROUND: dedicate your next piece to that Gloomy Gus, talk to a teammate, hire a professional writing coach to look at your work.

WRONG REASON #5  — “I keep getting rejected.”

What if Agatha Christie had quit after 5 years of continual rejections?

Or Margaret Mitchell after 38 rejections of Gone with the Wind?

Or Louis L’Amour after his 200th rejection?

When 16 literary agencies and 12 publishers rejected A Time To Kill, John Grisham obviously didn’t quit.

And can you imagine if Kathryn Stockett had quit after her 60th rejection of The Help?

TURN IT AROUND: Submit one more time.

The 5 reasons above are wrong reasons to quit because they are elements that you can control. Don’t quit writing all because blogging has worn you down or because you don’t see eye-to-eye with your writing group. Don’t quit writing because of rejections. You have the control over these things because you still have a choice.

There are certainly elements we don’t have control over, such as whether or not we make it on the NY Times Bestseller’s List – to fret over such reasons is a waste of energy.

Writing is like a living, breathing dragon to be tamed, that could burn you or bear you aloft to dizzying heights.”

from: Writer … Uninterrupted – A Handbook for the Emerging Writer

Seize the elements that you can control: Skills, management of the craft, feelings about the quality of your work.

Seize that dragon.

 

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60 thoughts on “5 Wrong Reasons to Quit Writing

  1. Hooray, hooray, HOORAY! You are a great cheerleader for us writers. I’m going to share this post with the writers in the creative writing classes I teach. This will show ’em. Just keep on keeping on with the writing. Believe in yourself and your writing. Take chances, take a breathing break, but DON’T GIVE UP.
    Thanks – well written with passion.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So easy to get discouraged. I think taking breaks and pacing ourselves is important on this long road. This culture sometimes is far too gung-ho in terms of accomplishing goals, so it’s important to keep our perspectives.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Kate,

    I was curious what your thoughts were on this. I was less public about taking my break. I’ve been on one more or less since the holidays. For me it was the emotional cost of putting something out there every week. Even when I wasn’t posting I was sharing with the first writing community I joined. I couldn’t really get a sense of if I was improving or not.

    Since there are so many of us writers at different skill levels. I’ve always had difficulty with what expectations I should have. Or perhaps this is the wrong kind of question to ask altogether. I wish I had a point to make but I’m just sharing. I’ve had difficulty establishing new habits so that’s a part of it. I keep feeling a strong resistance to writing new things.

    Hope you are well.

    Tristan

    On Thu, Mar 10, 2016, 10:14 AM 4am Writer wrote:

    > Kate Johnston posted: “One of my writer friends recently crashed and > burned. She’d just started growing her audience, making her platform all > nice and shiny, when WHAM, she was taken down by some unseen force. So she > called it quits. I was astonished and saddened – but the fa” >

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Tristan, I think it’s okay to have certain expectations but it’s crucial to give yourself easy wins along the way. I made a mistake a long time ago by focusing on getting my novel published, and not concentrating on the things I should do along the way. To that end, I missed out on a lot of opportunities. I also put too much importance on that one big goal, thereby failing to set other, smaller goals that could have actually helped me achieve my big goal!

      Yeah, writing does have to be a habit if you want to get better at it. I think that’s key, but I hear your troubles with forming habits. Would it help you to set up a reward system? For example, tell yourself that you’re going to write 15 minutes a day, 4 times a week, for 3 months — and if you do this, at the end of the 3 months you reward yourself with something like a night out with friends, an afternoon of golf, or dinner and a movie — something that feels indulgent.

      If 3 months feels like way too long, then cut it to one month or just change around the terms entirely. Make it challenging enough so that you feel like you’re working toward something, but be sure to keep it reachable, realistic. Don’t set yourself up for failure!

      Let me know what you think! You can email me too if you want to hash it out some more. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Good points here Kate, many of which can apply to other pursuits beside writing. Particularly the “Don’t have time” one – I know it’s a tired thing to say but we all have exactly the same amount of time (8760 each year to be precise). Sure we all have varying commitments and so we don’t have full freedom with our time, but we all have SOME time that we can make choices about how to use.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I get really mad at Hubs who complains he doesn’t have enough time to fix such-and-such on the house, and yet he loafs in front of the television every night! When I read other writers complaining about lack of time I lose my patience. It’s probably the number-one topic that gets me into the most trouble with the most people!

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s funny how certain things can just nark us, and this is definitely one for me too. I think because when people say it, it’s like they’re implying that they’re busier than us. When my kids were a few years younger, I used to work with a woman in her 50s, who was single, and never had kids. I was a single parent, working the same hours as her, and she would often say about things that I had mentioned I did, comments like “Oh I don’t have enough time to go on facebook myself”, or “I don’t have time to bake like you do” or other things that I’d mentioned I did, and I used to think how she must have so much more spare time than I did! She’s actually a friend as well, I really like her, but it used to always irritate me so much when she’d make those no time comments, I used to find it a bit insulting somehow. Anyway, I’ll stop going on about it now!

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      • Haha — I know exactly what you mean. I remember a writer friend saying the same kinds of comparative things to me too, all because I was able to produce pages weekly and she couldn’t. She talked about how I must have so much more time on my hands because I was a stay-at-home mom and she worked a full-time job. Never mind that being a mom is a full-time (and then some) job, and I was taking care of my own mother, and running a freelance business. Some people!

        Like

  4. This post really spoke to me, Kate, because I’ve often felt selfish for spending my time writing when I could or should be doing something else. But my writing is a passion, a joy, and a great release of pent-up energies and ideas. Some writers decide not to publish and not even to post, and that’s okay, because publishing and posting are decisions unique to each of us. But, it’s so important to keep writing. Just like with any other skill, the more writing we do, the more we learn: about the process and about ourselves. Yes, life is full of unexpected conflicts and disruptions. But if we can make time to watch a TV show, grab a drink with friends, go for a run, or play with the kids, we can also make time to write. It is all about balance, and what balance is right for you…and for the writer inside of you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Absolutely, Mayumi. Writing is a seed within any person that expresses interest in the gig, whether we’re purposeful about it, or exploratory. And that seed will grow and blossom the more it is cultivated.

      I fully agree with you that not all writers have to have a platform or publish and yet, they are still writers. As long as you care about the process, you’re an official writer, regardless of your goals.

      Quitting writing is a serious decision, one not to be taken lightly. I respect people who come to that decision when they realize they can’t give writing the time or attention or care that it needs to thrive. But I do caution those who are considering quitting — make sure you’re quitting for the right reason. Most times when we re-evaluate our life circumstances we can find a way to balance writing with everything else. Writers are generally happier when they’re writing, so it’s a good idea to do our darnedest to figure this stuff out!

      Like

  5. Great advice and pep talk Kate. We all have those times when we get wearied by the sheer hard work of writing and rejections and wonder why we continue, but as you say, it’s that need to write that keeps me going.

    Like

    • Hi Andrea,

      I think for those writers where writing is a passion, they do have a slight edge over writers who do it just for the money or the hope to be published. That internal fire is like an eternal fire, really. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I hope your friend will find her way back to writing, Kate. I love all the points you make, and what strikes me is that we all can use someone in our corner who encourages us to believe in ourselves and our abilities. I think a lot of us in this corner of the blogosphere are good about that—we’re super supportive of others.

    But sometimes, when it comes to ourselves, we’re not so good at admitting our discouragement or self-doubts. We have to remember that when we’re feeling overwhelmed by the slog to finish a first draft, an intense round of beta reviews, or a bout of “writer’s block,” we shouldn’t be afraid to say, “I could use a friendly ear or a little encouragement today.” Even when our “real world” friends and families don’t get it, our fellow writers do!

    Like

    • Great point, JM. We do need to ask for help and support. Writers are usually great at answering the call, but if we don’t hear that plea it’s easy to assume all is well. Sometimes I can tell if a fellow writer is down and out because I don’t see them blogging as regularly as they used to and they don’t offer up a reason why. I worry then. But as long as a writer is forsaking social media first, before forsaking the personal writing, then they’re making a wise choice.

      Like

  7. I laughed at the list of things you mentioned–ice skating and belly dancing were both things I tried “for fun” over the course of my writing career. Haven’t used either in a book yet, but I may! But with ice skating, I was able to pick it up fairly quickly once I had a professional coach who taught me the difference between roller skating (which I grew up doing) and ice skating. There’s a writing lesson in that, as well–we think that rejected or abandoned manuscript was a waste of time, but actually everything we do as writers builds on itself and we use it in the future masterpieces we create.

    Stephanie
    http://stephie5741.blogspot.com

    Like

    • Hi Stephanie,

      Oh wow, how great! I know how to ice skate but I’ve never tried to belly dance. It looks very cool though!

      I wholeheartedly agree. We mustn’t think that we’ve wasted any time with projects that haven’t necessarily gone the way we’d hoped. Writing is a skill, and just like musicians and athletes, it takes years of practice to be really good at it. I like how you say that everything we do as writers builds on itself — so true!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Like

  8. You’re absolutely right. On all of it. It’s like a muscle, a drug, an addiction, a habit – the more we write, the more we have to write…we’ve come too far to quit now!

    Like

    • Perfect saying: The more we write, the more we write. I believe that on every level. The longer I spend away from writing, the harder it is for me to get back to it. We need to treat our creative selves with care. It’s important to know when we need a break, but even more important to know how good it is for our souls.

      Like

  9. The thought of quitting writing is so completely foreign to me. How can a writer even think about never writing again? Sure, I don’t write to get published or to make money. For me, writing has always been my outlet and my way of processing life. When my head is too full, I have to dump it out on paper (or screen). Thanks for the great tips!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey mariner2mother,

      I think for a lot of people, writing carries such high stakes, they are easily overwhelmed and vulnerable. You seem to have a healthy relationship with it — that’s so great! Keep that up and writing will always be your trusty companion, the best outlet that will never let you down. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. “Quitting is permanent. Taking a break, dealing with a family crisis, moving across the country, being sick, etc. are all temporary. Get back in the chair and resume writing.” – Dennis Langley’s advice to himself.

    Thank you, Kate. Great post.

    Like

  11. Great ways to change perspective on those excuses. I remember being at a writing conference and hearing the tale of a famous writer who was working on a play and everyone kept ripping his work apart. All he did was say, I can fix it. So even if something isn’t good yet or isn’t working, it can all be fixed with revision. I always remind myself of that when I’m struggling with a scene or a novel.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Great post, Kate. It’s all true, as you say… if you want it badly enough.

    Several years ago, after an especially painful rejection, I told a friend of mine I was going to quit. She just smirked and said in her fabulously smoky voice, “Yeah? What else you gonna do?” She knew me well.

    One of my favourite sayings by the late Fred Jamison (aka Beaver Chief): Don’t quit before the miracle happens.

    Tenacity (even over talent) wins every time. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Great post, Kate. The words from your post that resonate with me at the moment are “if you want it badly enough”. I’m trying to poke and prod myself back to the edits. I know that I don’t want to give up on either blogging or writing. I just need a pep talk!

    This thing about writing is the longevity of a project. If it took 2 years and countless hours to make a cake, no-one would bother. Writing is a calling and once bit I don’t see how you can give up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good comparison to baking, Pete. Writing is a true art form and there is more than one way to go about it. Plus it is so subjective that it is easy to be swayed down the wrong path. Very important to keep the process in its proper perspective and to have a clear end-goal. Hope this pep talk stays in your head throughout your edits!!

      Like

  14. Pingback: Wait, it’s nearly April? | Pete Denton

  15. All great wrong reasons, hon! The time thing never fails to get under my skin. People have absolutely no clue how I have written books over the years. It becomes more apparent when I don’t know what the most popular TV show is and I turn down Bloody Mary’s at brunch on the weekends. I make what they would call “sacrifices.”

    There is always time to do what we love. We just have to make room in our lives!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I just finished up an Adult Ed course that I taught to beginning writers, and the number one complaint is “no time.” I took apart their daily schedules and in a blink of an eye showed them the time they had available. Of course, daily writing is a probably an advanced skill, but writing three times a week is a reasonable task for any writer. Sacrifices galore — that’s the hard part for most people to understand. They are going to have to give up something to fit in the writing. For me it is an extra hour of sleep. For someone else, it could be television, socializing, surfing the net. The time is there, for everyone, I truly believe it.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Love this article, really hit home because I just made the decision to take a break and open up my blog to contributors. I love blogging, but finding that managing a successful blog with a full time job and writing a job is taking a toll on me and my content. I think breaks are really necessary because a blog takes over your entire life.

    Like

    • I agree! When I started blogging, I didn’t expect to love it so much. I have found it to be most helpful with my freelance story coaching business, but I have made some wonderful relationships along the way–which I didn’t expect. There is a happy medium to blogging, and it is different for everyone depending on circumstances, goals, and opportunities. It has taken me 4 years to find my rhythm–but that’s probably because I’m a slow learner! 🙂

      Opening your blog to contributors is a brilliant idea. Not only are you maintaining your online presence but you’re getting that time for yourself too. So important if we want to combat Blog Burnout. Good luck with your strategy and thank you so much for swinging by and commenting! Have a writerly day!

      Like

  17. That was such an inspiring post..thank you so much!! Getting back to finish that piece I started! Months ago:)

    Like

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