Writing: When Should One Give Up?

Well, I think that does it! We’ve covered everything there is to know about querying an agent. Did I miss something? Is there something you would like covered? Do you have any questions about the writing process you would like to discuss? I’m open to suggestions, so please let me know.

There’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, and I was wondering if anyone else had gone through it in the course of their writing career. As those of you who follow my blog know, I’ve finished four novels and have maybe six more that I started and didn’t finish (from the early days of my writing). I’ve written five picture books as well. I’ve yet to land an agent, despite receiving interest. Currently, my most recent novel is making the rounds with the agents; and I’ve been wondering; what do I do if it doesn’t pan out again? Other then being a wife and a mother, writing and being a successful author has been, and continues to be, my biggest dream. But there’s no sugar-coating it; breaking into the publishing world is hard. Sometimes, I feel like it’s impossible. So what do I do?

It takes me an hour and a half to type 1200 words (on a good day). That means that it’s taken me at least 250 hours to type just my four finished manuscripts. Revising those manuscripts more than doubles that total, probably taking it to about 700 hours. That’s like working 17 ½ weeks for no pay, no agent, nothing except for improving my writing with each finished manuscript. And yes, that improvement is huge and important, but if I can never land an agent or a publishing contract, it’s still for nothing.

Yes, I enjoy writing, making up worlds, and living vicariously through my characters. But I’m nothing if not honest, and honestly, I want other people to read and enjoy my work. That’s why I’m really doing it. And so I have to ask myself; why do I put myself through the stress, and the worry, and the rejection over and over, if there is the potential that I will never have anything to show for it? There are some easy answers here, but I don’t think they’re the truth. The truth is; I don’t know.

Hope plays a big part in it, and also the unwillingness to see my dreams die, but I can’t come up with an explanation other than that. I could give it up and be content being a wife and mother; I know I could. But a small part of me would also die. As I sit here, waiting to hear back from the agents who have my manuscript (three fulls and four partials!) a part of me is contemplating all of this and wondering; if this doesn’t work out, do I have it in me to start all over again? Honestly, I’m not sure. I want to say yes, my heart says yes, but my brain says I might just be wasting my time. I feel like the two parts of myself are at war with each other, and at this point, I’m not quite sure who’s going to win.

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9 thoughts on “Writing: When Should One Give Up?

  1. It depends what you’re doing it for. I decided a few years ago that creative writing had to be its own reward.

    I’m lucky enough to be able to earn my money from writing – mostly journalism and the odd bit of copywriting. Yet I still get up early (most) mornings and spend an hour or so chipping away at the draft of my next novel. One day I wil get it to a point where I can start sending it out – as I did with a previous manuscript which, like yours, got interest.

    It may go somewhere or it may not. But for now the process is enough. If, however, the frustration of not getting anywhere starts to outweigh the enjoyment of doing it, then, yes, I guess it will be time to stop.

    Good luck.

  2. I don’t know if love is always enough. It’s like loving a man who doesn’t want to have kids, but you are 100% sure that you do. At some point, you’ll have to leave, even if he’s your soul mate. I’m probably just burned out from how hard I’ve been working, and will feel better after I take a break for a week or two. I’m sure every single aspiring writer in my position has at least had the thought cross their mind…

    • If you’ve gotten that many full requests off of partials, you’re obviously on to something. Writers are supposed to pretend they want to write ALL the time. But that’s crap, I think. A break always helps me (if even to work on a completely different project). The obvious bonus is that when you come back with fresh eyes and enthusiasm, your writing is better.

      The process is full of ups and downs (let’s face it–mostly downs) and it starts to chip away at your confidence and eat at your soul. If that gets to be too much, there’s nothing wrong with a break. If you love it, you’ll be back, even if you swear you won’t.

  3. They say if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. I know I will keep writing regardless of landing an agent or getting published. Those things would be nice (and I’m driven to do it), but I try to be careful about how much it influences whether I’m going to write or not. Words are in my soul and they’re going to come out agent or not. 🙂

  4. I feel this way A LOT and empathize completely. I love writing, yes. But, I also want a career out of it. I want in on the business side. I want success and credit. The process alone is NOT satisfying to me. For me, I don’t mind the time spent. I was learning and trying; to me that’s not wasted time. The emotional investment is where I get frustrated. I hate looking back on the rejections, close calls, and what ifs and all that EMOTION and I think, man that was ugly. Is THAT worth it? I don’t know. I don’t know when it’s time to quit, but if you do, I respect that. If you don’t, I respect that too. You’ve got balls either way. Balls are a good thing.

  5. Of the people who set out to write a novel, most do not ever make it across the finish line. You have something to be proud of, even if it doesn’t fall into a neatly marketable genre or fit the current fads. Just my 4.5 cents.

  6. Keep at it—you’ll be inspiration to the rest of us when you do get published. And when your book—whatever book that may be—goes to print, you’ll at least have one reader: me! Stay strong.

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