Know when to quit

This is the season for resolutions. So many people resolve to create unrealistic expectations for themselves that they enter the new year destined for disappointment. When it comes to our writing practice, let’s think more realistically.

Know when to quit.

“What?!” You bellow. “I am a writer! I will NEVER quit!”

That’s good, dear reader. But hear me out. You’ve come along this far, whether you were with me for the past few months following my writing prompts and practical posts, or whether you just happened by this morning. Breathe. And consider this:

Perhaps you’ve been working on a novel for years. Or a series of novels. And have been rejected by one hundred publishers. “But J.K. Rowling and Stephen King were rejected more,” you moan, outraged. True, but are you really as good at writing novels as J.K. Rowling and Stephen King? Really?

If the answer is objectively yes, that you just haven’t found your niche, your publishing home, and an editor to recognize your endurable genius, then please, by all means, keep on keeping on. But just maybe…

…maybe you should consider quitting the novel for now. Switching genres. Trying something else for awhile. Perhaps attend some writing workshops. Or a writing class to work on craft in a more formal environment. Or join/start a writing group to get more substantive feedback on your novel because…horror of horrors…what you are doing clearly isn’t working.

I would never advise anyone who is driven to be a published writer to quit writing, but I would recommend that if that person is writing in a genre that doesn’t seem to be working, he or she should take a break, quit that approach for now, and try a new direction.

Plodding down the same well-worn path when that path isn’t taking you anywhere is counter-productive. If long-form fiction is your thing, why not try writing a long-form story for a literary journal instead of tackling a large novel? Or maybe ratchet back to short stories to work on concision and tight prose?

Maybe your subject matter isn’t working as well as you think it is. You love romance novels, but all of your efforts have failed? Friends politely smile and say, “That’s interesting,” instead of “Oh my god! That’s amazing! How did you THINK of that?!”

Perhaps your heart is filled with poetry, but when you write it, the words come out lame and limping.

Sometimes re-evaluating what we write and how we write it can be a useful exercise. Quitting one genre or style or subject might lead you to the successful genre or style or subject – something that is a better fit for you.

If you’ve worked at this particular genre/style/subject/form for years and had no success? Time to quit and try something new.

Take on the new year with vigor and determination not to tread the same inadequate path. Commit to trying something new or expanding your education in the craft in order to improve. Quit whatever isn’t working and by the end of next year, you will see positive results.

The happiest of holidays and a most productive New Year to you all.

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