The Day I Decided to Quit Writing

Earlier this week, I decided to quit writing. Things in my personal life had come to a breaking point and trying to find time to write only seemed to be making it worse. A couple of my writing friends blogged about how negative people can be to one another, bringing up those old fears of publishing. And, worst of all, my story was falling apart.

Have you ever gotten to that point when everything you thought you knew about your novel seemed completely wrong? I’m sure everyone who has stared rewrites in the face has felt this and everyone of them had thought about quitting too. It’s hard to give up that freedom of the first draft–the draft that’s just for you, that is nothing but your vision–to face the cold, hard reality that one day someone will read this and it should probably be somewhat interesting. I had fallen in love with my original vision and I wasn’t ready to let go.

But I knew changes must be made. I even knew what changes needed to be made but they went against the mood of the story I had set out to create. They made my characters look so much worse than I wanted them to. And I was still being pretty nice. I sought out help, from my beta reader and my critique partner and my writing group friends. I told them what my manuscript looked like now and the changes I wasn’t sure I wanted to make. I wanted them to tell me that I should leave it the way it is. That it’s perfect already and they would love to read it. That’s not what they told me. They said they loved the new ideas I had. They said the changes were necessary.

(Which leads me to a side note: if you think something needs to be changed, you’re probably right. Asking other people for advice will only confirm what you knew all along.)

But my writing friends, the ones who know what they’re talking about, wanted me to push it even further. They told me even with the changes, I was still being too nice to my characters. Me? Nice? After everything I’d already done to her? They gave me suggestions on how I could put my characters in even more danger, more pain. I shuddered. I cringed. I couldn’t do it!

I decided to stop writing.

The decision came in the middle of the night after yet another hard day of bad news. It seemed I was still struggling to find enough balance in my life. And reading about the things my friends were going through, the way people had treated them so harshly, made me want to cry. And the story I had molded and shaped and loved had disappeared in a puff of smoke. Why I am doing this, I asked myself. Writing takes up so much time in my life and at the end of the road, I’ll be faced with the toughest critics with no way to go back. If I can’t face that, how do I expect to be published? And if my goal isn’t to get published, who will read my stories? And if no one reads my stories, what’s the point of giving up the time I could be spending with my family? Is it worth it?

I thought long and hard about pulling my storyboards down but I forced myself not to make that decision when I was upset. The next morning, I still felt like I couldn’t pick up a pen so I busied myself with other things. Around the time I normally would have started working on my novel, I looked over at my laptop and left it sitting there. That night, I told my husband I didn’t think I could do it anymore. I told him about all the things I was thinking and my husband–straight-forward guy that he is–said, you’ll never know if you don’t try.

So many times I had heard people talk about being afraid of success and I had no idea what they meant. Turns out, I am.

With my husbands words, he had taken away one of my problems. He wasn’t asking me to give up my writing…he didn’t even want me to. Some balance was restored.

The next day, I picked up my laptop again. I was still weary. I still didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know if there was a solution but I wanted to at least try. I pulled out all the notes people had given me. I pulled out all of my own notes. I waited until everyone went to bed, made myself a latte and holed up in my office, my novel playlist on repeat. I stared at my empty storyboards, then closed my eyes and listened to the lyrics, the thoughts running through my head, my character’s feelings tugging at my heart. And then I started making notes. I filled up my white board and I filled up my cork board. When I ran out of room I grabbed my notebook and started sketching there. I organized my thoughts on my laptop. The songs in the background reminded me why I started writing this story in the first place.

Being so immersed in that moment, I began to see that everything my friends had told me was right. They encouraged me to make the changes I knew my story needed so I started there. They told me to push my characters further so I did. I pushed them further than I thought they could go. I noticed where conflict and motivation was missing and filled those things in. Everything was coming together but it still wasn’t quite clicking in my heart. It still was nothing more than ideas crammed together. It wasn’t my story.

I realized my subplots were multiplying so I decided to write them down so I could see exactly what they were. I stared at them (all 6 of them!) and wondered how I could maximize a few of them instead of spreading my story thin trying to fit in everything. And that’s when it all clicked. I combined a couple of subplots to accomplish the same story goals but with only one context. And, miracle of miracles, it lined up with exactly the mood and tone I’d wanted from the beginning.

Eureka!

So I was going to quit writing (*snort* You didn’t believe me, did you?) but it turns out I was just at that inevitable point between the first and second drafts when I realized my story had to grow. I had to grow. It was easy to let my fears get the best of me when it got hard, but it’s pushing past that point that makes me a writer. It’s that feeling of elation when the pieces of the puzzle fit together that keeps me going and reminds me why I never really give up.

What are your worst writing fears? When do they tend to come out to haunt you? How do you get past them?

I am an author and a writing business teacher. I am also a mother of two, a wife, a businesswoman, a nature-lover, and a wannabe yogi. My debut women's fiction novel, PERFECTLY UNDONE, will be released on October 3, 2017. Here, I blog about my journey in publication in the hopes of inspiring others to follow their own dreams.

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Comments (23)

  1. I’m glad you didn’t quit writing! (Not that you really would. :)) Congratulations on getting past that hurdle and getting to a spot that pushes your story while leaving you satisfied.

    One of my writing fears is that my finished product won’t click with others, or make sense, in the way it does with me. I have a hard time getting past that feeling, so I put it in the back of mind, and continue anyway.

    1. Oh, you will definitely find people who will click with your novel.  In fact, the more specific your audience, the more dedicated your fans will be.

  2. Girl.  You will never quit writing, because if you do, I will find you. *in an evil girly voice* 

    Glad to see you were able to grow in this way.   You actually probably will grow closer to your characters because of it! Know them from the inside out.

    1. Flashbacks of Wedding Crashers!  Ahhh!!!  Lol!

      You’re right, though.  I was crazy to even think for a second I would quit writing.  If I remember right, there was a tiny little voice in the back of my mind going, “Yeah, right.”

      I feel closer to my characters every day as I think about how they would handle situations.  It’s such a cool feeling.  No wonder I miss them so much when I’m done with a project! 

  3.  I’m so glad it ended this way 🙂  You are so talented, just believe in yourself and keep going!

          1. No. Lol. I have to fight the urge not to but I’ve tried a few times and the reality is I don’t know the whole story arc yet.  The story also requires a decent amount of research.  I’m creating a pretty detailed outline so that when I go to write I won’t be creating any more plot…well not tons.  I’m also reading Story Engineering as I do this, and I’m not going to start writing until I finish that.  I’m shooting to have the outline done in one month.

  4. I just came to your blog va another blog and got confused. I started reading the Slush Pile and was under the impression that you are a literary agent, only to find out that it was just a fiction. Then I read that you quit writing, only to find out that you did not. I guess your blog is full of surprises. On a positive note, my fiction book has a segment about breasfeeding and the bond between the mother and her baby during that time, so I liked your writng about it. Best wishes from Canada. Giora

    1. Sorry about that, Giora! I can see where that would be confusing.  I’ll do my best to make that more clear.

      Thank you for stopping by!

      1. No harm done. As a nice man I forgive ..:) On a positive note, the Slush Pile was so real when I read it, so you made me believed that it is you. I wonder if anyone published a fiction book about the life of literary agents and their interns. If not, you might wish to expand it quicky to a novel .. because the interns at the literary agencies will like to read about themselves and will help you to get a literary agent to represent you.
        I’m reading your entries at “The Stretch Mark Club” with interest. Best wishes to you and your famly.

  5. I’m so glad that I stumbled across this post!  It has enlightened me in a very big way.  I’ve been having a lot of work-related problems lately that have been spilling into both my personal and writing life.  While I didn’t hit the “I’m quitting writing” stage, I came pretty close to at least putting it on hiatus.  There is nothing worse than that sinking feeling that your notebook or Word document might stay shut due to other obligations sucking your time away, and having it there, staring you in the face can be such a tease, and makes your mind feel even more cluttered and weighed down.  But then I realized that, in the grand scheme of things, working on my ultimate writing goals were what were keeping my head above water, and keeping me “alive” so to speak.  I’m so glad you have moved past your roadblock!  🙂

    1. I agree.  The thought to quit writing, even for a little while, is one of the worst feelings ever.  It’s like looking into the future and only seeing darkness.  Luckily, writers love it so much, they almost always find a way to get past it.  I’m glad you’ve found a way to move forward to!

  6. I can so feel your pain – have been in that place many times. Usually the reason has nothing to do with husbands, family, work or anything else, it’s always that there is something wrong with the story and once you solve it – the quitting thoughts disappear. Interesting post. Thanks.

    1. I think that’s what makes us writers.  Whenever anything gets in the way and makes us think we want to give up, we keep going anyway.

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