Monday, September 14, 2009

When to Give Up

I love blog stats. I look them up all the time, and love seeing who visited that day and where they came from. I also like to see how they got to my blog, whether by another website or through a search.

Lately, I’ve been seeing variations on searches about How To Know if You’re A Good Writer, and even a few on when you should give up writing. This last one really struck a chord with me, because I just went through a bit of a roller coaster ride with my YA novel (and I’m sure the ride is nowhere near over).

Last Thursday, I said you should never give up. And I truly believe least, for me. Do I believe everyone should never give up? And it’s not because of quality of writing, how much you write each week, or how many accolades you’ve received.

It all comes down to this: How badly do you want it?

Quality of writing can always be learned. All you have to do is try. The harder you try, the more you learn. It may take years, but if you keep at it then you’ll get there.

How much you write each week is sometimes a direct reflection of how badly a writer wants to be published, and sometimes not. What if a writer works full time and has children to care for? That may leave only a few spare hours each week. But, you know what? Those are hours she could be spending sleeping, watching TV, even scrubbing the kitchen floor. The fact that she writes means it’s important to her. And, if she keeps at it, she will get there eventually.

As for accolades, or a lack thereof, they mean nothing if the work isn’t important to the writer. A lack of praise could mean the writer needs to learn more – see Quality of Writing above. An abundance could mean the writer is eliciting feedback from the wrong people (i.e. family and friends). But if a writer keeps working, praise or no praise, she will eventually get there.

In other words, if you want it badly enough to keep going, even if you know it’s not going to be easy, then the answer is simple. NEVER GIVE UP. If you’re not sure, then taking some time off might help to clear your mind. If you miss it, then I think you owe it to yourself to keep trying. If not, well, there’s your answer.

Me? I want a career in writing so badly I can taste it. I can’t imagine pursuing any other career, because I have so much within me that I want to share. Therefore, I am willing to work my fingers to the bone, learn everything I need to learn (and then some), and stretch myself way beyond my limits.

But that’s me. My choice.

What’s yours?


Anonymous said...

Your post resonates with me, but aren't there always times of doubt when you say, maybe I'm not meant to do this? When rejection after rejection might make you think I just don't got "it." Whatever it is.

Angela Ackerman said...

How badly do you want it?

I couldn't agree more on this. There are many people I've been crit partners with that have faded away from writing because the road grew hard. It kills me in some cases, because I've read their work and know how good it is.

If you want it, don't give it up for anything. Period.

Kelly Polark said...

Persistence and passion pay off!
It is a hard road, and I am willing to take it.

Angela Ackerman said...

Hi Karen, I hope you don't mind me giving you a response, but I know where you're coming from.

As writers, we all have doubts. Trust me, I've wondered if I should give up many, many times. Rejections can be hard too, especially when you're told 'This was great...but." That one word...let me tell you--it kills.

The difference I think is whether you have the drive to continue or not. When I felt I didn't get it, I went out and read everything I could about writing. I took a year to study 'how to' books with a fellow writer where we would read a topic, then discuss the techniques. I read everything I could get my hands on in my genre. I critiqued like crazy, following the work of people who were strong in areas I struggled with to get an idea of how to do it right.

Doubt is absolutely normal. The question is if we are able to shake it off and keep going because we still want it as bad as ever. :-) Hugs!!

Tabitha said...

Karen - ditto what Angela said. Wanting something doesn't mean you won't feel doubt. You will. It's your desire to succeed that helps you to rise above that doubt. Perhaps your first novel isn't good enough to get you what you want. Perhaps not even your second. But practice makes perfect, so your third, fourth, or even fifth novel might be the one to get you there, because you will have learned much along the way. How deep your desire is to see your work in print will get you through all those novels. If your desire isn't that deep, well, you probably won't get that far. :)

Angela - EXACTLY. :)

Kelly - then you will definitely get there! :)

PJ Hoover said...

Now that I write, I can't imagine not doing it. I think I would feel so incomplete and like I was really letting myself down.
I'm of the never give up philosophy. I hope I never do.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Tabitha -
You have wonderfully articulated exactly what I been feeling lately. The road for The Naughty Boy Factory has not been an easy one. I believe in the story's quality, and as an educator, I know it is marketable. The hard part is convincing an agent/publisher. I'm with Angela on "Rejections can be hard too, especially when you're told 'This was great...but." That one word...let me tell you--it kills." Thanks for the hopeful reminder to keep going!

Unknown said...


My husband doesn't understand why I let so much of myself weigh in on writing and seeking publication. He's even *gasp* used the words self-publication with me, as in: "If you want it so bad, why don't you just self-publish?" Albeit, he doesn't understand how shoot-yourself-in-the-foot self pubbing is, but he also doesn't get just how MUCH I want publication!

Which is why I have a drawer full of rejections. Why I write and rewrite my query. Why I write new and better books after shelving my first attempts.

Why I never give up.

Casey Something said...

What a beautiful post, Tabitha!

Karen, I'm plagued by doubt and constantly wonder if I'd be better off putting the time I use for my writing and my blog into other things, family particularly. But even thinking about giving it all up makes me sick to my stomach, which helps keep the decision to persevere in perspective.

In some ways, I don't think I want it badly enough yet, but I'm certainly on my way.

J.Tuttle said...

I agree with everything everybody has said. It's nice to hear such encouraging words. It's easy to get discouraged as a writer, but tenacity seems to be one of the most important skills that a writer aspiring to publication can possess. Perhaps I'm going to write Tenacity on a post-it and stick it on my bathroom mirror.

Elizabeth Bradley said...

With any endeavor I have found, sticktoitiveness rules! I just keep on keeping on. When the doubt creeps in I punch it in the face.

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Since I've been at this writing thing for over half my life, I know it's something I won't give up on. Glad to know I'm not alone. :)

Tabitha said...

PJ - same here. If I didn't write, I would slowly drive my family crazy. :)

Shannon - yep, perserverance pays off, that's for sure! And learning from your mistakes along with perserverance is a sure way to get what you want!

Beth - yeah, non-writers don't understand the writing world at all. It's a shame, really. My husband thought he was being helpful when he researched self-pub houses for me. I politely told him I didn't need that kind of help, then handed him the kids for two hours. :)

Casey - thanks! And if the thought of giving up makes you feel ill, then DON'T GIVE UP!! Take a break if you need to, but always come back to it. You'll make it! :)

Janet - encouraging words are necessary in this industry that's so full of rejection. I'm very grateful to be a writer in this day and age, when it's possible to have virtual friends halfway across the world. Makes being a writer so much less lonely. And I can get support from more than just my kids. :)

Elizabeth - sticktoitiveness! I love it!! And yes, it does rule! Glad you don't let doubt keep you down. :)

Glam - you're definitely not alone! We've all got sticktoitiveness together! :)

Tia Nevitt said...

If you want it, you won't give up. And that's it. But, what if you don't want it? It's not really giving up. It's deciding you want something else more.

I know a writer who got taken for a ride by an unscrupulous publisher. She definitely had good ideas and could write. But her publisher was terrible. She decided she would rather do other things. For now.

Do I think she gave up? No. I think she's happier. And maybe she'll write again one day.

So far, I want to write. I also play the violin. About fifteen years ago, I stopped playing. I don't think of it as giving up, because I decided that I wanted to write more than I wanted to play violin. So that's what I did.

I play the violin once more, and I don't play with nearly the skill I once did. But I'm a much better writer.

Congratulations on landing an agent! I'll look forward to a post about your sale!

Eric said...

While I do agree that drive can get you far, I still believe in the idea of talent. Anyone can learn the "rules" of writing if they study hard enough, but that does not mean everyone can be a good storyteller. And really, (at least as far as fiction is concerned) storytelling is what we're dealing with here. Having said that, I think everyone needs to recognize their strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps no matter how badly someone wants to be a writer, they just don't have the knack. It's not different than me realizing that I will never be a world-class basketball player. It's just not something I could ever accomplish, no matter how much drive I might have. I believe writing to be the same thing, and I think the idea that "everyone can do it" is the reason we have so many people trying to be writers who really should recognize things for what they are. I would never try to dampen anyone's enthusiasm for something they wish to accomplish, but I do believe everyone needs to recognize things for themselves and make decisions accordingly.

Tabitha said...

Tia - if you really really want something, yes, you won't give up. You'll keep working and learning until you get what you want. But if you don't want it, then you probably won't have tried for it in the first place. Or, at least, not that hard. So it is still giving up, but I don't mean that in a negative way. You're giving it up because you choose to, and that's fine. Choosing to pursue other things is perfectly fine, and doesn't mean you're a quitter. Which I never intended 'giving up' to mean. In essence, we are saying the same thing, just using different words. :)

Eric - if you love doing something, truly love it, then, most likely, you already have some level of talent for it. For example, I love to decorate cakes, and I do have a bit of untrained talent. But I won't pursue it further than a hobby. I don't have the drive to hone that talent, therefore, I will never be an 'Ace of Cakes.' :) Same with a professional baseball player. If you have the drive to become one, then you already have some inherent talent. If you don't have that talent, then you're probably just seeing the fame and salary. But that will only get you so far. :)

Same with writers. Some people write because they see the fame and popularity of those few, big-name authors. Others write because they love it, and already have some untrained talent.

When I say "if you want something badly enough, then never give up," I'm referring to the second kind of writer. The one who doesn't just see the popular authors, but loves to write. If you put yourself to it, REALLY put yourself to it, you can do anything, including learn how to write well. It won't be easy, and not all people have the drive to follow through.

I didn't mean to imply that anyone can become a writer. Not everyone can. Only those who are willing to put in the necessary, insane amount of work will succeed. But if you want it badly enough, you will find a way. Even if it seems impossible.

I've run up against what felt like impossible brick walls over the years, but I've never let them stop me. Slow me down, yes, but they will never stop me. :)

Merc said...

Very good post, Tabitha. :)

How much do I want it? I get withdrawal symptoms if I don't write every day, on something. ;) I guess that says something. O:)

Anonymous said...

Enjoying these comments, it does make sense that if you love something you probably already have some inherent talent in that area that could be nurtured. So hard to move past self-doubt, but so important!

Keri Mikulski said...

Like this post.. :)

I agree.. Writers have to write. If I don't write I feel weird and 'not quite right'... It's like breathing to my spirit. :)

Christina Farley said...

What a great post Tabitha! I was thinking through these very same thought just yesterday. I'm about to start an agent search but I've already decided if it doesn't work out, I'll keep on writing. Because writing makes me happy and I LOVE it!

Sherrie Petersen said...

I can't imagine giving up. Ever.

Tabitha said...

Merc - then I guess you better write every day, or the rest of us suffer. :) I'm the same way, and it's not pretty. :)

Karen - yes, it's REALLY hard to get past self-doubt. I get past it by focusing on how much I love my stories. Then, once they're done, I can worry about dealing with self-doubt. The trick is that it's easier when you've got a finished product, because it's much better quality than a first draft. Or even an idea. :)

Keri - well said!! I think most writers can relate to that. :)

Christina - that is an amazing attitude to have! And, ideally, the one that's going to get you through to what you want. :)

Sherrie - good for you!!! :)

Mary Witzl said...

Most of the time I want it so badly I can just about taste it too. Then there are times when I've put in what I think is stellar work for weeks on end, only to get yet another rejection. Then I feel like giving up, but the wanting soon takes over again. I'll plug on too -- I doubt I could ever really give up. The dream gives me so much, and the writing itself is utterly addictive.