Monday, April 13, 2015

I Quit Writing

That’s it. I quit.

I quit writing. I suck. Who am I kidding? Nobody is going to want to read my work. Outside of my family and polite friends, not one person will miss my writing if I stop right now. I’m under no contract, no deadlines, no series to hand in. I’m not financially dependent on my writing. (Because that last $3.24 cheque will only cover my coffee.) I’ve been working so hard at improving, honing my craft, making corrections and editing, editing, EDITING and I still suck.

I quit writing.


I’ve been down this road before. I’m shedding a skin. Each time I quit, back away for a while, I learn something new about this insane life as a writer – for whatever that means. This is not a mature, calm decision to take a break for a few weeks. Instead, I come to a screeching-halt conclusion that I just cannot do this anymore, life would be so much easier without it, and I throw the writing life to the ground and stomp on it like a giant, ugly, stag beetle, panting and sweating before walking away from the splat-mess I’ve made.

A few days later I decide to ONLY write poetry and ONLY when I’m in the mood. As much as I want to deny it, the stag beetle wriggles back to life. But during this stage, I will still tell you that I have definitely quit writing…as I keep half an eye on Market listings.


Why do I subject myself to this punishment? This solitary exercise in frustration, this head against a wall and nose to the grindstone insanity must have a purpose in my life. So I ponder. And, write about it.

I write because I need to communicate in ways that are linear, clear, and with purpose. I write to make sense of things in my life. I write because, usually, what comes out of my hands is more intelligent than what comes out of my mouth. I write to share my thoughts and experiences with others, because none of us is truly alone. Sometimes I write to entertain.

The last two reasons bring it to the “business level.” Sell yer stuff. Get it out there. Face the music, make it good, you ain’t writin’ for your mama no more. The amount of pressure writers put on themselves varies for each individual. (Until a publisher/editor/agent takes some of that burden.) I fall under the immense-pressure category. I know I am a very driven creature, and although this trait usually serves me well, it can also be my downfall. I run myself into the ground.

For (at least) the last year and a half, I’ve constantly felt like I was not writing enough. I worked on a horror novel, finished a sci-fi novel, wrote the first half of part two, wrote short stories, and sent them to markets. I used any spare time I could find, squeezed it in, cancelled other things, let stuff slide, and lost my sense of balance more and more with each month that went by. Work harder, longer, faster, learn more, fix more?

The rejections hurt more.

In January and February I edited the horror novel with a sense of frenzy I’d never felt before. I dove in fully and determined to keep the novel succinct, without continuity errors, following all the rules of grammar and spelling, and show-don’t-tell, and plot, and characterization, and OH MY GOD how many rules am I STILL breaking and I am still going to SUCK.

Then I crashed.

It’s April, and I’m writing this in spurts because I have a job, twin boys, I like to read, exercise, and I need an hour of Sons of Anarchy before bed. I have to clean the house and do laundry. I want to listen and be fully present when spending time with my family, and not always pulling my brain out of my work in order to function. When I quit writing, it is not all-consuming. It’s almost pleasant, or fun to come up with ideas.

This past weekend we went to a conference and met up with writers, editors, publishers, and many other friends in the biz. I couldn’t help but look at everyone in a new way – I started seeing them as the accumulation of the hours they’ve spent on their own work. I spoke on panels where new writers took notes on the things we said. I like helping, I CAN help, because I’ve learned a lot in the last decade. It occurred to me that I need to know my worth, understand my value, and be honest about where I really am in this vast mess. I got all, Atreyu walking through the Sphinxes, man. The right story at the right time with the right person, kumbaya.

I am shedding a skin, letting the frenzy fall away from me with a new understanding that it will get done. Maybe all I need is a decent schedule with limits and concrete blocks of time that won’t leak or flood into the rest of my day/week/month. But the writing won’t ever stop. I will continue to improve, and I will always, on some level, suck. And when the “I-suck” gets to be too much and I quit again, I will shed another skin and learn from it once more.

The stag beetle lives to scurry across my deck while I drink my coffee, perhaps with a harder shell.


  1. I feel your pain, Marcy.

    I've had a few stretches of time when I was ready to quit. Life always tries to sabotage our writing.

    I'm glad that Ad Astra helped to energize you, and I'm certain that you'll find a way to dive back in.

    1. I know that the big rejections in the winter hit me harder than I'd like to admit, and yes, life does have a way of derailing a writer. I think part of it has to do with wanting the freedom to walk away, and to choose that life over again rather than feel it's thrust upon you. :)