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Wednesday, February 06, 2019

 

Just Quit

                   “A quitter never wins and a winner never quits.”

I’m not sure who originated that quote but my mother wore it out. Whether it was sports, school, or even chores, Mom threw it down whenever I wanted to give up. And so I would keep on trying, and more often than not, I’d achieve my goal. That sentiment, those words, are in the core of my character; it’s probably infused into my DNA.

So quitting—unless it’s like gobbling up a party-size bag of chips—is not an option for me. And yet, I recently tried quitting and I feel pretty darn good.

But okay, I didn’t just up and quit. Didn’t you just read what I wrote about that quote? It was a process, y’all. And the process went something like this:

1. (September) This manuscript needs further revision but I shall defer any work until my trusted beta readers give feedback.

2. (October/November) Trusted beta readers are busy writers. Best not to bother them because mostly, a (nice, long) break would be a good thing.

3. (Mid-November) Eventually notes from beta readers arrive. But it was almost Thanksgiving. Who can work when there’s a holiday to plan?

4. (December) See above excuse. (Note: The holiday season is always a perfectly good excuse to defer revising—or any work.)

5. (January) No one works in January. One must get one’s priorities for the whole year in order. It’s a time for thinking not doing the work of revising.

January is such a quiet month, at least where I live. It’s cold but not so cold that it’s a crisis situation; just cold enough that I don’t go out much. So I had plenty of time for pondering but I also had plenty of quiet to listen. And between listening to my heart and thinking about the Signs of the past few months (and the above list is just the tip of the Signs Iceberg), my hands started to sweat. My heart pounded out a rhumba. By the third week of January, I heard the message and it was plenty scary:

IT WAS TIME TO QUIT.

I knew that my heart was not in the writing anymore; I couldn’t even muster enough spirit for a relatively simple revision. And so I made the decision to quit working on that manuscript. Or any manuscript. I would keep up with my other writing responsibilities and then I would do…well, something. I wasn’t sure what.

And within a week, the most amazing thing happened: An idea that had rumbled round my brain off and on for years came back to me. Combined with what I needed to write about now, I had a project for a novel. And I was itching to write!

It’s funny. I had to quit on my old dreams and goals to make room for the new dreams and goals that I didn’t even know were waiting patiently for me. Now my heart’s pounding out a rhumba again but in a good way. So I’m sorry, Mom, but sometimes a quitter does win.

What about you? Is there something in your writing that you keep putting off? Can you find a hundred excuses not to do the writing you think you want to do? Do you feel as if you’re banging your head against a closed writing door? It can be scary to quit, I know. But sometimes we have to quit to find the freedom to move forward. And guess what? I have a quote for that, too:

                        “When one door closes, another door opens…”
                                                            ~ Alexander Graham Bell

~Cathy C. Hall

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11 Comments:

Blogger Sioux Roslawski said...

Cathy--Sometimes quitting on something IS a good thing. My parents also drummed into me the importance of finishing something, of seeing something out all the way to the finish line. But writing is different, somehow. Why? That's a question I'm going to explore.

Yes, I have a manuscript that will never see the light of day. Unfortunately, a few beta readers had to deal with the horror (no, it wasn't a horror manuscript, it was a horror of a manuscript ;) before I figured that out.

Beating out a rhumba? I love that phrase...

4:04 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth McBride said...

Cathy, you are absolutely right! We sabotage ourselves when we hold to the premise that we must finish everything we start; even when we know we are going in the wrong direction! Experimenting with new ideas can be threatening when we have to promise to see them through, rather than happily a wander into a stroll through their possibilities. Thank you for addressing this.

6:41 AM  
Blogger Cathy C. Hall said...

Is writing different, Sioux? I wish I had figured that out before :-) but then, I wouldn't have been so excited now. Or ready to beat out that rhumba. Geez, I hope my heart can take it!

Elizabeth, yes! It was like walking around with a ten pound sack on my back and then whoosh! I was like Scrooge, as light as a feather--and free to wander and stroll through possibilities. Thank YOU for that lovely image. :-)

7:13 AM  
Blogger Lisa Ricard Claro said...

Yep, I was right. I needed this. Thanks. As usual. lol

9:14 AM  
Blogger Pat Wahler said...

You are so right. And putting aside a manuscript doesn't mean you won't be drawn back to it again down the road. :-)

11:17 AM  
Blogger Margo Dill said...

This same exact thing happened to me when I got divorced. I even announced to my friends and family--I was done being a writer. What was the point? Ahhh, I laugh at that silly woman now. :)

What I did was kept teaching my classes and kept blogging and kept reading. What I stopped was the constant pressure to market my children's books and write more.

And the exact same thing happened to me. I got an idea for a novel and now I've finished the first draft.

I know you had a very trying and emotional time when your husband passed away, and although my change was different, in a way they are similar. So I am not surprised that this happened to you, and I am so glad that you did not actually quit, but opened your mind to something new.

Much love!

12:49 PM  
Anonymous Debra mayhew said...

You know what gets me though? That other saying that goes something like, You don't really know what your story is about until you finish the first draft. So I always wonder if I just plod through until I finally hit "the end", will some magical and inspirational light bulb flash on and the fun rewrite can begin?
I'm glad quitting worked so well for you, though. It was fun to read about and I felt a little vicarious freedom through you. Also, I have every confidence your new project is nothing short of brilliant! Happy Writing!

1:35 PM  
Blogger Nicole Pyles said...

Oh this spoke to me! I had to let go of a story that had plagued me for so long and I had never felt so free! I felt weird about it because I worried that it was worth the slogging through to keep it up but you know? Afterwards, my writing has gotten so much better! Cheers to quitting! LOL

8:05 PM  
Blogger Mary Horner said...

Thanks for the great post, I can relate. Cleaning out the old to make way for the new can sometimes work wonders!

9:19 PM  
Blogger Linda O'Connell said...

I can relate to this post. I like to sleep on anything I write. I have also said, "I quit! What's the point? Who cares?" I believe it's the pressure on ourselves we should quit. That opens us up to new possibilities. Great post.

5:05 AM  
Blogger Cathy C. Hall said...

Oh, Margo, loss is loss, so yes, I'm sure we went through a lot of the same emotions!

I'm glad this resonated--we're all just a bunch of quitters! :-) But I think that maybe, we're better for having gone through that, whatever we found out about ourselves.

I mean, slogging through a manuscript--I'm looking at you, Deb :-)--happens all the time. It's not always unicorn dreams and fairy dust 'cause there's always good and bad with writing (or whatever calls us). But I think when the deep down joy is missing, it's time to give it a rest. What I found is that I still wanted to write but I could've just as easily found that I wanted to sing opera. (Which would have been problematic as I don't have an opera voice! :-) )

7:02 AM  

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