You have your reasons for quitting writing; it’s too hard, you’ve come to the conclusion your writing is unlikely to bring you fame and fortune, nobody wants to read your work or even your best tweed writer jacket no longer fits you. They all seem like great reasons to quit.
The only problem is that you are displaying some important signs and these signs indicate you’re not ready to quit. If only you knew you were wasting valuable time and energy telling everyone about your intention to leave the creative world.
If you have ever decided to walk away from writing you will know about the emotional turmoil that goes hand in hand with this decision.
The hardest part is knowing what to do with your writing dreams. So you set about trying to rid them from your new non-writing life.
It’s only after you return to writing, some weeks, months or years later that you realise your attempts of eradicating your writing dreams from your life were futile.
Here is a list of the things you cannot do to your writing dreams:
Lock away in a suitcase.
Run away from.
Hide in the attic in a box.
Bury in a hole in the garden.
Walk away from.
Flush down the loo.
Leave by the side of a road.
Give to someone else.
Hide behind the sofa.
Attach to a rocket and launch into space.
Feed to the dog.
Lock away in the shed.
Put through the paper shredder.
Evict from head.
Put out for the waste collection.
Chuck into the river / sea / ocean.
Stick in an envelope and post overseas.
Fling out of a window.
Put up for adoption.
Legally divorce from.
Forget ever existed.
Put to sleep.
Boil in a pan on the stove.
Persuade to go away.
Writing dreams don’t go away – no matter what you do to them. They really are quite remarkable.
No matter what you try and do to them they return, louder and stronger than ever. These pesky dreams wake you in the small hours, crop up in conversations, nag you at the gym and bug you on your way home from work.
There is no escape!
The best option is to stop fighting and do something with them.
Accept that you are a writer and turn them into something amazing!
Writer friends are special human beings. They understand your creative side, share your writing passion and know all about the emotional turmoil that goes hand in hand with writing a book. You share work, give each other feedback and talk writing. Bliss!
This shared understanding forges a deep bond between you both, especially if you have felt misunderstood by non-writers for years. Suddenly you have someone who gets the creative side of you! This is powerful friendship stuff.
So when your beloved writing friend decides that writing or blogging is not for them anymore it can be pretty painful for both of you.
Suddenly your creative sidekick is no longer there, as they are busy finding some other life path to follow. You are left clutching your notepad and pen feeling a little bit teary.
I experienced this last year when a friend of mine quit writing and it was a sad time.
If you are like me, here is what can happen next, after your writer friend announces that they are quitting:
It feels like dark clouds have covered up the sun in your writing world.
You find yourself doubting your own creative talents.
This is made hundred times worse when you come to the conclusion that your writer friend is the better writer out of the two of you. If they are giving up writing or blogging – shouldn’t you? If they can’t make it in the writing world – how can you do any better?
You find yourself viewing your writing journey through their eyes. They might be angry or hurt with the writing world, beaten down by rejections etc. So after hours of heart to heart conversations with them on this you soon find yourself adopting the same negative attitude.
You consider quitting too.
You worry that you won’t make new writer friends and if you do they won’t give you the same sort of feedback your writer friend gave you.
Here are some tips on how to stay positive and focused on your own writing journey, during this emotional time:
Accept that your writer friend is in a different place to you. Writers can tire of the creative struggle and look for other sources of happiness. It happens. Being a writer is, at times, torturous and sometimes the easiest thing to do is walk away. You have to accept that you are in a different place to your writing friend.
Remind yourself of your own writing journey and your own creative goals. Don’t lose sight of them. You are still a writer.
Remind yourself of the last time you felt good about your writing.
Watch out for those negative thoughts creeping in. Try to stop comparing yourself to your writer friend. No two writers are the same!
If your friend is a true writer they will be back. It may take weeks, months or years but as my good friend Candice Coates says ‘true writers cannot turn that light off!’
Strengthen your writer network by reaching out and making new writer and blogging friends. Social media is great for this. Start joining some writer conversations on Twitter or Facebook.
New writer friends bring a fresh perspective, which can be scary, but on the flip side think how useful this could be when getting feedback?
Accept that you will face writing struggles during your literary journey and you will deal with these in your own way – when they present themselves.
Be happy for your friend. They might have been troubled for a while about writing and this decision to quit could have lifted a huge weight from their shoulders.
Wish them well on their new journey and keep writing!
There are 5 stages to admitting to yourself that you cannot quit writing:
Frequent urges to quit. You are experiencing yet another urge to quit writing. These urges are becoming more frequent and loved ones are sick of hearing you scream ‘I QUIT!’ from the writing corner. Things have not been going well with your writing for some time. You first shouted ‘I QUIT! a couple of weeks ago after a tearful creative breakdown over a plot hole. However you went back to writing and reluctantly climbed back into the plot hole of doom. Ever since then your writing has sounded naff, your ideas have dried up, you still haven’t climbed out of that plot hole and the words ‘I QUIT!’ have been kept on the tip of your tongue.
Showdown. This is where you hit the ‘explode’ button. You have had enough of writing and its time to quit it for good. There are so many new and fun hobbies on the horizon for you. You chuck your pencil down, close your laptop, shake your head and say ‘enough is enough – I quit!’. Cue the tears, emotion, depression, low mood, heartfelt emails to writing friends and period of prolonged suffering for your loved ones.
Freedom. You jacked it in sometime ago (can be hours, days, weeks, months or years) and you have been busy celebrating your new found freedom in life. This non-writing life is great! Yay! No guilt, no hassle of actually writing something, no feedback, no rejections, no social media pangs, no magical feeling and no more silly book ideas. Rejoice!
Awareness. Whilst in freedom mode you become aware of that little voice inside you. The voice which says ‘I am still here’ and ‘let me know when your creative tantrum has passed and we can get back to writing!’ You sigh loudly and ignore it.
Acceptance. The voice inside you got louder and the urge to write built up inside you like an erupting volcano. One day you found yourself actually wanting to be stuck in a plot hole. It was quite a moment for you. So you are now writing again. Your loved ones have been thanking their lucky stars ever since you announced your return to writing. It feels good to be back! You have even decorated your plot hole so it looks all nice whilst you spend hours trying to think of a way out of it. Sigh! This is when you accept that you can never give writing up. You are a writer and no matter what life throws at you writing will always be a part of you.
Enjoy those unsuccessful quitting attempts writers.
As my good friend and writer blogger said to me the other day:
This is such a magical moment in the life of a writer and it warrants a blog post.
Being a writer means that you will probably experience quite a few of these special moments during your career.
Some of us writers are lucky enough to endure what I call the ‘I quit / I’m not quitting’ revolving door which basically means on a regular basis (monthly / weekly / every couple of days) we go through the ‘I’m giving up / no I am not giving up’ motions. This is BAU (business as usual) to some of us.
Events leading up to the magical moment where you decide NOT to quit may include:
Some writer suffering – general insecurities, nagging doubts about whether your writing is any good, asking yourself whether it’s worth it, a lack of confidence and painful bouts of writer’s block.
An emotional outpouring – tears, snotty nose, sobbing etc.
An email outpouring to writing friend – long drawn out email listing out all of your writing frustrations for the past 12 months. Some of us just send through a detailed spreadsheet of all our issues. A good writer friend will never tell you to give up and will just offer sensible advice.
The ‘I am going to quit and do something else’ pipe dream – after happily ignoring all advice from the writing friend you move onto ‘quitting’. The thought of quitting feels so good, like a huge weight is being lifted off your shoulders. Cue the smiles, winks and “I am so over this writing lark” comments to uninterested loved ones. Now you can crack on with a less stressful and more rewarding hobby such as growing watercress out of hand painted egg shells. You make a ‘knee jerk reaction’ shopping expedition and happily buy (waste a lot of money) on new hobby equipment (cress seeds, brushes, coloured paints, eggs), reassuring yourself that your writing hobby has been binned.
The ‘I can’t live without my writing’ realisation – it soon dawns on you that you can’t give up writing, you are a slave to it! Your attempts at another hobby failed miserably (a loved one laughed at your hand painted egg shells perhaps or asked you whether your children had painted them). You can’t stop thinking about writing, its like a form of self torture, stories start to fly round and round in your head and your old characters shout your name like long lost friends.
Cue the magical moment!
Its a magical moment because:
In heroic fashion you wipe away your tears, wipe your snotty nose, stand tall and with gritted teeth say to yourself “I am not quitting!” and “you won’t beat me!” – maybe even with a clenched fist!
You attack your writing with a new energy and vigour. You feel like an eager newbie writer again.
You feel elated because you are back and you are not a quitter!
All your past writing problems no longer seem as big and some even seem solvable