Thursday, August 22, 2013

When Your Writing Dream Dies Should You Stay the Course or Quit?

Fighting, glovesI've said it before, my writing journey hasn't gone as I've planned. I know I'm not alone. I'm sure there's some blessed soul out there where the universe works in her favor, but for the majority of us, I don't think that's the way life works.

For most of us, I think the course on the way to dream fulfillment needs to be constantly adjusted. It's easy to stray and get distracted, but if you stay the course, we should reach our goals, right? That should be the way it works.

But what happens when dreams die? When a star athlete blows out a knee and can never play again. When a singer like Julie Andrews loses her singing voice. When a couple can't have a baby or a marriage ends in divorce. When you've struggled for years, maybe decades learning the craft of writing, but you can't seem to catch the eye of an agent or editor.

What happens when your dream dies and you want to quit? I think you have three choices.

Quit. For some this is a valid choice. The road is too painful and maybe the joy has dwindled and you have no more fight in you. If you find yourself able to quit, then you shouldn't beat yourself up for it. Maybe it's time, and if God gives you the grace to throw in the towel, maybe He's giving you a new dream.

Stay the Course and Fight. Sometimes you're not ready to quit and you still have more fight in you. Then quit whining, ball up your fists, and come out swinging. Who knows, one more round might be the break through you need. If not, keep fighting until you can't any more. Then at least you'll know you gave it your all.

Adjust Your Course. I think most of us fall into this category and need to be open to a change in direction no matter how big or small. Sometimes a tiny adjustment can make all the difference. As writers, we might need to study the craft more or join a critique group. Some of us may even need to take a good hard look at ourselves, our disciplines, and maybe motivation and quit making excuses as to why things aren't happening. (Ouch! I FEEL the sting of that one.)

When our dreams die and we want to quit, we can, we have a choice. But we can also stay and fight, or adjust our course. No one can tell us what to do, though we all need friends to talk us down off the ledge. Bottom line, the choice is yours.

Where are you? Are you ready to quit, fight, or adjust your course?

Gina Conroy is founder of Writer...Interrupted and is still learning how to balance a career with raising a family. Represented by Chip MacGregor, she finds time to write fun, quirky mysteries in between carpooling and ballroom dancing . Her first mystery Cherry Blossom Capers, released from Barbour Publishing in January 2012, and Digging Up Death is available now.

19 comments:

Nicole said...

Real. I've posted on the concept that sometimes our dreams aren't God's dreams for us. We can fight and scrap and push and shove, but to what end? We might even get published. All I know is if God's not in it with me, it's a waste of time and energy. The adjustments could be the deal - or either of your other two choices. Your bottom line conclusion is spot on. Thanks, Gina.

Geoff Wright said...

Good practical advice. I can't say I'm a quitter though. After ten years I finally have two books under contract with a small publisher (not Christian) though I didn't really write just for the Christian market in the first place. I think for stubborn people like myself, putting the writing to one side can be a better option than quitting. I have had several breaks over the last ten years. I know God made me a writer, but I also know he wants me to take one day at a time, and serve him in many other ways too. Writing is just part of the journey. Being a good husband and father, and growing to maturity in Christ is the main thing. Thanks. Geoff Wright. Australia

sally apokedak said...

Great post. I've adjusted my course many times. And I'm happy every time. I can write blog posts and be happy. I can edit and be happy. I can be an agent and be happy. As long as I'm working with words, I'm happy.

Ane Mulligan said...

NEVER EVER give up. I've adjusted, limped, grown, and leaned on crit partners for 11 years. Nothing will ever happen if a writer gives up. :)

Ric 'The Turtle' Ryan said...

As a person who got drafted into his first writing job, because I could take pictures, not because I could write. When I complained I couldn't write. My commander said, "I have dozens of officers who can write, we will teach you. You have a gift for photography and that is not something I can teach someone overnight." So I was a writer for the Command Newspaper in Panama my last year in the Army. I got out of the Army went to school and drove a truck till I had a heart attack. Then I read my daughters blog and praised it and she talked me into starting one. I love doing it. I would love to get recognition and money, but I mainly write cause I enjoy it. That is one thing that I think is a must. You have to enjoy it to stay at it. I started doing trucking stories, as that is what I did. Then got into politics and issues. My most successful stuff seems be when I share how God has worked in my life. That is becoming more and more what I write. It has been my pleasure to go to the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer' Conference two years in a row. God opened the door which is a story in itself. A conference will definitely inspire you. To me the important thing is are you where God wants you to be. If you are it will all come together in time. There was thirty years between my start and my restart. If it is meant to be, it will be.

Sherri Wilson Johnson said...

I've been fighting and doing a lot, lot, lot of course adjusting. But not quitting. Never quit! I've still got time to see 25+ books in print and a Hallmark movie or two. :)

Gina Conroy said...

Your take is spot on, Nicole. And there's also the quitting for a season option, which falls into adjusting the course.

Gina Conroy said...

Yes, good take, Geoff. Slow and steady will at least get you across the finish line. I'm taking that route as well! LOL!

Gina Conroy said...

Good for you, Sally! I think it takes some of us longer to get to that point, but oh what a happy place to be!

Gina Conroy said...

Absolutely true!

Gina Conroy said...

Amen! :)

Gina Conroy said...

I'm right there with you, Sherri, but I'm holding out for the big screen! ;)

Lesley M. said...

Sometimes "quitting" isn't "giving up". Sometimes it's moving on to the next step.

It's one of my pet peeves when people label someone a "quitter" without knowing their full situation. Sometimes that's the best course of action.

Of course, it's a very individual thing. Any of the options you present, Gina, are valid for certain people at certain times.

And sometimes all we need is to take a break so we can regroup and press forward.

Gina Conroy said...

I agree, Lesley! You're right, people can't know the full situation or why people make the choices they do. I'm not a quitter, but there are somethings in my life I've had to let go of. Some for a season, some permanently. And I don't feel like a quitter, though many might label me that. As long as we can live with our choices, that's what counts.

Ron Estrada said...

Oddly, the fiction we read and write is based on real life. We have to follow our own character arc, stop believing The Lie, hit bottom, and finally scratch our way back up. And just like our novels, we have friends that guide us. You're surrounded by them. I certainly feel like I am as well. I doubt too many of these things get published without a great support cast. Just keep swimming!

Anonymous said...

I guess it all comes back to why are you writing? If your sole purpose for writing is to be published then you need to recognise that not everyone gets published in this over-saturated market because these days it seems everyone wants to be a writer. Personally, I write because I love to write - being published would be amazing, but for me that's still a pipe dream. Write for the enjoyment of it and you can still live the dream.

Linda Strawn said...

If your goals/dreams will serve a greater purpose, never give up. Don't let someone's opinion sway you. Agents, editors, friends, readers are all human. They may have different tastes and motives than you do, but persevere and one day you'll cross paths with the right people who will help you realize those dreams.

Gina Conroy said...

Good thoughts, Ron, Anonymous, and Linda!

Alex Marestaing said...

Thanks for an honest post about the topic, one that includes quitting as an option. I think the question to ask is, does writing still give you joy or has it become a burden? If it's the latter, it's probably time to at least take a break, pray, enjoy life without the pressures of publishing for a while. When all is said and done though, if writing still makes you smile, then it's time to hit the books.