Thursday, January 31, 2013

So You Want To Quit Writing?

Writers are an odd species.

We simultaneously loathe and love what we create. Regardless of our mastery of our craft, we know we will never achieve written perfection. Simply knowing of the existence of a more evocative line, a more graceful segue, a more compelling motivation, a stronger phrase keeps us humble. However, something about creating entire worlds from mere words feeds our creative soul, filling us with a parental pride no non-writer will ever experience.

Only delusional nitwits start writing because they expect to it to make them rich.

Oh, sure, one might harbor the secret desire to write something so amazing, so brilliant that the world beats a path to one's door, flinging fistfuls of money along the way. Love of money, however, makes a poor muse.

"Will this castle do, Mistress?" "GOOD DOG!"
A writer starts writing because he or she MUST. Any other reason ("I'm going to be rich!" "I'm going to be famous!" "I'm going to get a movie deal, and move to Hollywood, where I shall meet Matt Bomer and discover that he is secretly straight, and he shall fall desperately in love with me, and I shall live on the beach in a converted castle with an army of perfectly trained Welsh Corgi minions that do my bidding...") is destined for disappointment.

We writers tend to be a supportive bunch. I have never known a Real Writer to deliberately squash another writer's dreams. (I'm sure it happens -- being a writer doesn't make one a saint any more than having a child makes one responsible -- but I believe such aberrations are rare.) To the contrary, on numerous occasions, I have known writers to generously use their time, expertise, education, and connections to help a fellow writer on the road to publication.

Sadly, too often writers forget the flights of whimsy, inspiration, and creativity that caused them to start writing. They allow the callous remarks of non-writer naysayers (@DowagerAgent anyone?) to affect their optimism, their faith, and their productivity. They lose sight of the fact that one does not write to please the world; one writes to complete one's self.

If you want to marinate in a depressing sea, Google "Why I Quit Writing" or "Why I Stopped Writing" sometime, and follow the tendrils of misery that emanate from that Wood Between the Worlds. Just make sure you hide the razor blades and the Drambuie first. (Strangely, no one seems to notice the irony of writing about why you are no longer writing...)

Lately, I've had several conversations with talented writers who say things like:

"What if the book I've written isn't as good as I think it is?"

"What if I've used up all of my creativity and never get another good idea?"

"What if I've wasted a year and a half of my life?"

"What if it doesn't sell?"

"What if I don't really have what it takes?"

They're all allowing themselves to flirt with the idea of quitting. As if becoming a writer was a conscious, logical decision they made that they can walk away from at any time.

It's not.

Being a writer is more of a calling than a career.

If you're a writer, you know the thrill of creating characters more interesting, more rounded, and more real to you than most people you know.

If you're a writer, you know that a part of you remains behind in your story when you must leave it in order to live your "real life."

If you're a writer, you know that if one is to consider it a waste of time to write, one might as well consider it a waste of air to breathe.

Granted, you might take a break from writing for a while -- especially if you've allowed yourself to fall into the trap of equating success with financial gain or fame.

But, if you're a writer, the Muse will not stand to be ignored for long. The day will come when she will smack you upside the head with an Idea so exciting that it will cause your heart to beat more strongly as the creative juices surge through you again. And you will realize that where there is breath, there is life. Pick up your pen! Run to your keyboard! Quitting is not an option...


Dave said...

Well said!

Hap said...

It's true, and I hate it.

Ami Hendrickson said...

David: Thank you. You are too kind, sir. :)

Hap: Yeah, reality bites sometimes. But if given my druthers ("Quick! Choose: Writer -- yes or no?") I'd check the "yes" box. Bet you would too, hmmm?

Onward and upward...

Hap said...

I am pretty sure that if I had a choice to turn it off, I would at this point.

Alyson Peterson said...

Did you write this for me? I am so sure that you did. I think I pester you with my concerns at least 50 times a day. AT LEAST! Great post though. got to get back to what your passion is and stick with it!

Ami Hendrickson said...

Hap: Remember, with great power comes great responsibility. You have been chosen. It's a gift. Really. I know it doesn't always appear to be, but it is...

Alyson: I wrote it for me, my dear. And for all the writers out there like me. One of which, I see, is you. ;D Onward and upward!

Kassandra Lamb said...

Hap, I can relate. I have days when I think, 'If I'd known then what I know now, I wouldn't be here, doing this.' Writing takes over your life, if you let it. (I'm still struggling to find the balance.)

But Ami, you so eloquently captures what this is about. Writing is indeed a calling. Thank you!

Ami Hendrickson said...

Kassandra: Anyone who considers eloquent my ramblings that include the terms "Corgi minions," "Matt Bomer," and "delusional nitwits" is aces in my book. Keep on keeping on!

Julie Musil said...

OMG I totally loved this. My favorite line? "Love of money, however, makes a poor muse."

Unknown said...

I really needed to hear this right now. Thanks. I'm just to obsessed with the idea perfection, and, when I don't achieve it, I can get rather depressed. Thanks for this post.

Anonymous said...

Being a writer is more of a calling than a career. << I really like this line. Even though I never dreamed writing would be my calling, it does feel like it. Hence when I'm feeling down and low about my writing, quitting is never an option.

Ami Hendrickson said...

Julie & Patricia -- I get ridiculously giddy with delight when people quote my own words back to me (unless said quoter is my 10 year old daughter who is wielding my words against me. But I digress...). Thanks for commenting. Keep writing. Keep indulging the Muse. And never. Give. Up!

Ami Hendrickson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ami Hendrickson said...

Bowen HMIKELL - I completely understand the obsession with making sure that something is *perfect,* but one of the most freeing ideas for me and my writing was the concept of "progress, not perfection" as something to aspire to.

I find that trying to make a piece of my writing perfect can sap all power from the creative process. In my experience, focusing, instead, on making progress in mastery of the craft removes the fear of failure and allows the words to grow.

Thank you for commenting! Wishing you all the best!