Thursday, January 24, 2013

How Do You Know When to Quit?

It's the question that terrifies all writers: what if I'm just not good enough?

How do you know? How many rejections does it take before you have to admit, "maybe I am the problem"? 20? 100? 1000?

How long can you listen to your friends tell you how awesome you are and then turn around and hear "it's not right for me" over and over again?

How many friends can you watch announce their book deal, while you graciously congratulate and RT and then cry into your extra-large coffee cup?

I've been thinking a lot about this lately because I've taken a purposeful hiatus from my own writing. (I'm trying to transition into a career in the publishing industry, but I'm still having to work my other day job to make ends meet - so I literally work at minimum 90 hours a week. Every week.) Except for a few scenes here and there, I haven't been writing for a few months.

Today, as I was walking my dog after a ten-hour dayjob day, I wondered: How easy would it be to just throw in the towel? Just delete the manuscripts from my computer and never open Scrivener again? Never research another agent, never feel my heart stop when I hit "send." It would take no effort at all. I imagined all the free time I would have, how clean my house would be, maybe I could even exercise enough to fit in all my jeans again.

And then it hit me: this crushing, agonizing terror. A life without writing? I couldn't... I can't... I refuse to even imagine it. The need to run inside and write something seized me - just to prove to myself I still could.

That's how you know. When you can imagine a life without writing - and it doesn't terrify or sadden you - that's when you quit.

But not a minute before.


  1. Beautiful. Totally beautiful, Sarah. Spot on.

  2. I've been there too, Sarah. Today, even. I was walking home from work and thought, why the hell do I keep doing this to myself? I work my ass off, pour blood and sweat and chunks of soul onto the page, only to send it out and get 'no thanks, not for me' time and time again.

    But it's 3 hours later and I'm parked in front of my laptop and words are pouring from my fingertips and it feels amazing and freeing and I can't imagine what I would do with them all if I couldn't spray them across a page.

    So I'm not quitting any time soon. Guess I'm a writer....

  3. imagine a life without writing...
    the idea makes me feel ill. I'm only 18 but i've spent 11 years calling myself a writer and developing my skills. Life without writing is like asking me to not's not possible.

    This post was spot on. Thanks for writing it.
    I write, read and review books. I like publicizing authors and their stories.

  4. Well said, and so true. Hang in there.

  5. P.S. My three year old just pointed to the picture at the top of your site and said, "Oh--that's the fairy-world!! Indeed.
    ~Just Jill

  6. What a great post! It's an inspiration to those of us who often feel those very things.

  7. Thanks everyone for all your kind words and shares on this post! I knew I wasn't the only one, but it's always nice to hear!

  8. So completely true. Thank you for sharing this, Sarah, and know that you're certainly not alone!

  9. Great post! I've been there too and it's good to know I'm not alone!:-)I used to panic when I had a break from writing. But now I've come to accept that there is an ebb and flow sometimes and that's ok. I always come back to it with renewed energy!

  10. I've definitely had that moment of panic where I just broke down and wondered why I've even attempted to write anything at all and spent the last seven years slaving away, lol. This was stunningly put and definitely conveyed my feelings about it, especially after my little breakdown. Thanks for this post! :)

  11. I would be so bored with life if I wasn't thinking of a way to turn experiences into drawings and stories. Sometimes I wonder if that means I'm not "present" in my "real" life (whatever THAT means) but oh well, I can't imagine being the other way. Not yet anyway. Great post, Sarah.