Monday, June 20, 2011

Epic Fail

I've quit working on my latest MS. For the last few weeks I've been struggling with it, and I feel like it was draining the life out of me faster than I care to think.

In writing (and in life) we feel like we're not allowed to quit. Generally that's a good way to feel and it keeps us pressing on when the going gets tough. But sometimes, the best thing for all parties involved is to quit. Here are few considerations to help you decide when it's best to just drop the ball.

Most things in life don't come easy. And it's expected that there will be some emotional hardship. But if you're not prone to depression and you wake up every morning calculating the speed the freight train passes through town and one which part of the tracks it's the fastest, then maybe you need to re-evaluate.

Some people can do anything with an external motivator. For example, lots of people work in jobs the hate for the stability or the money or a way to support the dream. I'm not motivated to do any thing or be anywhere I don't want to be.

If you're like me, you may need to take a step back when it stops being enjoyable or if it no longer fits like a glove.

We have to make sacrifices for the things that are worth it. Sometimes you would rather be hanging out than going to work, sleeping than going to early morning college classes, out at a movie than practising whatever it is you do that needs practising. But the end result is worth the sacrifice. And if that's no longer true for an extended period, maybe it's time to move on.

In thinking about whether or not to continue on a path, you might convince yourself that giving up means you have gained nothing. I think of this as the "certification mentality". With educational programs, you receive your certificate only after you have completed all the requirements. But if you complete 61 of 64 credits of a degree, you receive nothing. Does that mean you are no better off than before you started?

If you feel like you can no longer continue on a certain path, you still get to keep all the lessons you've learned up to that point. In addition, you learn things THROUGH quitting. You might learn your limits, what you really can't stand, how much you can put up with, what you're bad at, who you become under pressure, etc. All of these may be seen as negative things, but knowing them can help you avoid them in the future, and save you from putting yourself back into situations you may need to withdraw from.

Every man is an island. (Yes, I know that's not the way it's supposed to go.) Other people can support or advise you, but YOU are the one who has to live your life. Your family and friends may mean well, and sometimes their support is enough (think Steven King's wife and Carrie), but sometimes it isn't.

It's easy to watch other people deal with similar problems and think, they're getting through it, I should be able to. I believe everyone has their kryptonite. They've got things that would through them off their game too. Don't judge yourself by your parent's, siblings', spouse's, bff's standards. Think about you.

It's Monday. That's what's on my mind.

How about you? When do you know it's time to quit?

PS. I'm also failing Socnoc, by extension. I don't think I've even written 10,000 words this month.

PPS. I think at some point I'll do a detailed analysis of all that I've learned from this project in the near future.


E.J. Wesley said...

I so feel you on this, Claire. I've had a couple of projects die on the vine, so to speak. It is depressing. More so when people know you've been working on it for weeks and or months. Personally, it made me feel like a failure, and that I was only dabbling at this writing game instead of seriously pursuing it.

However the more I write, and the more I read the thoughts of other authors, I think it's part of the process. There is certainly a level of needing to push through even if you're not enjoying it. (See - edits) Still, when you're working on something everyday and you suddenly realize that your 3 hours of writing time is only yielding 200 hundred words, it might be time to put it aside.

Search your mood and mind, try to find something that jazzes you and start writing again. Maybe try a new POV or start writing the story you didn't think you'd ever have the chops to write. You might come back to this story someday, and remember that shifting gears doesn't = stopping.


Sophia Richardson said...

I can't think of anything beyond the fact that that is an awesome picture of forbidden zebra-lion lovin'. Too funny.

Marsha Sigman said...

Yeah, I'm seriously liking that

I think it's ok to shelve a project if you are completely stalled on it. Start something new and you may find yourself coming back to this one later. You never know.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

You are right. Sometimes, it just doesn't click and instead of investing time and energy into something that makes you feel bad instead of good, you should cut your losses and move on.

Of course, if the project is really meant to be, it won't leave YOU alone. That happened to me with my current WIP.

It wasn't working, so I quit.

A few weeks later, I started over again with a new beginning, but it still wasn't working and I quit again.

A few weeks later, it suddenly struck me what was lacking in the project. I started a third time, with another new beginning ... and now I am closing in on the end of the first complete draft.

Set your project aside, and see what happens. :)

jbchicoine said...

I tend to look at activities and issues as a Pain vs. Pleasure equation. It’s a scale that teeters a lot—that’s life. With something worthwhile, short-term pain is worth the long-term pleasure, as you have to well stated in this post. When that scale consistently dips below what is tolerable, I think it’s good to know when to quit—or at least back off, especially if one is given to bouts of depression that if not kept in check can send us plummeting.

For me, it has to be about internal motivation. If I can’t sustain something because it’s valuable to me, I eventually tire and give out. As you’ve mentioned, the trick is not giving in to judging ourselves through the eyes of others…

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I know when to say no, and that helps!

Natalie Aguirre said...

I look at it as a learning experience, not failure. And maybe if you take a break and start something else, you'll figure out the problem with what you're working on and be inspired to continue.

Holly Thompson said...

Every piece of writing that we do is a stepping stone to another work. It is all part of the learning curve. Take a break from that work. Get some distance. Ask for feedback. Work on another story. Try a different voice. Try other forms and genres. Keep at it in one way or another! All writers go through this.