Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net

Some Thoughts On Quitting

June 14th, 2015

It was Virgil’s private theory that in a world of six and a half billion people, only the hopelessly driven obsessive could out-hustle the masses of the sane—those who insisted on rounded lives, filled out with steady lovers, concerts, vacations, hobbies, pets, and even children. Sane people could not begin to compete with the crazies who lived and breathed their work, who fell asleep long after midnight with their farsights still on, only to waken at dawn and check results before coffee.

Limit of Vision (Tor, 2001)

I’m not a “hopelessly driven obsessive” as described above. I think that’s a good thing. But there is a tendency among writers to admire the “do or die” philosophy. On Twitter I’ll often see writers admonishing one another to “never quit!” — on the theory that your next project could be the successful one.

And it’s true that you never know when things will start to turn around, when rejections will start to become acceptances, and success will become noticed and… Well, who knows how far it could go?

A friend of mine used to describe each new novel as a lottery ticket, and I think that’s accurate.

The thing is, very very few people ever win the lottery. You could bankrupt yourself trying. Same thing with writing: You could bankrupt your health, your life, and your relationships with a single-minded devotion to “making it” as a writer. That’s why I feel very uncomfortable when I hear writers insisting that we should never quit!

Quit if you need to. That’s my advice. And I can say that without hypocrisy, because I did it. I quit. Not utterly, and certainly not irrevocably, but I basically walked away from the game for ten years.

The reasons were the usual: money, time, and family. I had never made any reasonable amount of money from writing, so I was working full time, my kids were teens (not an easy time of life), my parents were elderly with issues of their own, my husband was working more than full time, and all those long years spent trying to create some sort of a writing career had begun to seem like a joke. Writing was making me miserable. So I quit. Given that I had only a few spare hours in any day, it was more important to me to spend those hours on my family than on writing. It was as simple as that. We all make choices. That was mine and I don’t regret it.

Quit if you need to.

It is not a sign of weakness or lack of fortitude to step away from writing — and if you do step away, it doesn’t mean you can’t come back. Times change, circumstances change.

I returned to writing with the rise of self-publishing, because self-publishing gave me control over my work — something I’d never had before. And control led to confidence and — maybe it’s just me — I am a much better writer when I’m feeling confident.

Now I’ve returned to traditional publishing, and I like it. I like where I am now. I like it that I’m still married to the same man, that my kids still talk to me, that I was able to spend time with my father in his last years, and that I didn’t ruin my health trying to force a career that wasn’t ready to happen.

Because life is more than fiction. Right?

Posted on: Sunday, June 14th, 2015 at 7:30 am
Categories: General.

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