Thursday, February 2, 2017

On Quitting Writing

by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson

When do we say enough, good-bye, farewell, I can’t do this any more?

Sometimes the decision is made for you. Contracts are cancelled; series are orphaned; editors leave, abandoning you to uncaring monsters who hate your work… Or on a more basic level, sales tank, your books sold goes into negative numbers (yes, this can happen!), you can’t even get a guest blog…

Worst of all, your heavily advertised, well-written, factually correct books over which you have slaved are totally eclipsed by a shoddy piece of trash that reads as if it were written by a semi-literate third-grader.

How hard do we have to be hit over the head to realize that it is time to move on? We’re working horrible hours to produce the best books we know how. The traditionally published among us struggle with agents and editors, each of whom have a totally different view of our story than we do – and demand that it be reshaped to fit their vision if it is even to be considered. And, after you have done all the work, your advances shrink to chump change - if they manage to exist at all.

Those of us who self-publish have to lay out money to editors, formatters, and cover artists as well as doing our own publicity until it seems that everyone gets paid except the author – but isn’t that sort of traditional, whether trad or self pubbed? Everyone expects to be well paid for their time and skills invested – except the writer. It’s either that or learn to do it all yourself (not necessarily recommended) which takes away from your writing time. Then of course you’re advised to give some books away for free – ‘to get your name out there’ in the expectation that the reading public will rush to pay full price for your next book. I will admit that this has worked big time for some authors; for others, no. The only guaranteed part of it is that it seems to be training readers that books should be free if they are on the internet – hence the proliferation of pirates who take your book and hand it out for free to anyone who wants it. Either that, or they sell it, of course keeping the money for themselves. Once again everyone – reader and pirate – profits except the writer.

To add insult to injury, it makes no difference if you are trad pubbed or self pubbed you are almost completely responsible for your own publicity – unless, of course, your last name is King or Steele or Roberts or Koontz or a couple of other mega-million sellers who don’t really need it. Something else for the writer to do besides write…

How many of us remember why we became writers? I do – it was because I delighted in creating entire worlds and populations out of nothing more than imagination and caffeine. I loved escaping into another life, one that was so often so much better than my real one. Feeling the elation of creation, the joy of constructing a plot and characters that actually made sense. The pure pleasure of working with words, molding them as if they were living clay to create exactly what I wanted.

In the push of publishing today (both kinds) that joy is dimmed if not altogether lost, and that’s sad. No, it’s more than sad, it’s heartbreaking. It’s not only in the corporate world of Big Publishing that books have ceased to be concepts of joy and reverence, valued for their own selves, and have been debased into products whose very existence has been regulated into a thing shaped for commerce.

So why do we as writers continue to let ourselves be relegated to the bottom of the pyramid? Perhaps it is time to revolt, to go into some other form of creativity such as quilting or painting or whatever happens to make your heart sing? Or just to go on writing for your own amusement and fulfillment with no attempt or even thought of publication?

Frankly, with over twenty books out there and over nine straight days of no sales at all on any venue, that option is looking more and more appealing. At least quitting writing to sell is a viable and occasionally appealing option, perhaps one should embrace.

That’s what I tell myself I will do. The thought is as seductive as the prospect of making a big bestseller list.

I will quit writing.

Again.

Of course, I have done so at least once a year for a long time now. I am a woman of my word and once I decide to do something I do it.

Once I even kept it up for almost a month.

Sometimes I don’t know why, but I’ve always come back. I’ll be back.


Probably.

25 comments:

  1. What a great blog post and so true!

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  2. I've been thinking of blogging on this same topic. You beat me to it and did a great job...but one of these days I probably will write about my own questions regarding when to quit. I think many of us face the question, from time to time. Meanwhile, Susan, keep writing.

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  3. A very timely post for me, as I was thinking the very same thing last night as I tried to get interested in the story I keep putting off writing. I tell myself it's the story , move on, pick another one of the many you've started. Thing is none seemed to be calling me and I am starting to wonder why? I am painting lol, which I find myself looking forward to. Sadly I feel like I'm at a crossroads. But writing is in my blood and I am not ready to throw in the towel yet.

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  4. Janis,
    Everything you say is true. But you'll come back for the writing itself. We all do.

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  5. YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO QUIT. EVER.

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  6. Been there. Done that! We all come back because writing is in our blood. You will too. Give yourself a break -- but nothing else!

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  7. I too could have written this post, but I can't imagine what I would do without writing. I can't go three days without writing something. I've learned that the hard way (ending up on vacation without a laptop). Take a deep breath, think of that story you've longed to write, and go for it.

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  8. Perhaps the REASON you began writing - "...it was because I delighted in creating entire worlds and populations out of nothing more than imagination and caffeine. I loved escaping into another life, one that was so often so much better than my real one. Feeling the elation of creation, the joy of constructing a plot and characters that actually made sense. The pure pleasure of working with words, molding them as if they were living clay to create exactly what I wanted." - is the problem. YES, there is this joy in writing, but, in this paragraph you said nothing about your readers, only what gave YOU joy and purpose and fun. If this is truly how you feel, then perhaps quitting to simply write for your own enjoyment is the best decision. Write what you want, enjoy doing it, even thrill doing it, but don't try to struggle with trying to sell it. I'm not saying to discover how to 'write for the reader,' but it might be a good thing to explore. Anyway, best of luck with whatever you truly decide.

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  9. I feel your pain! Seriously...I quit on a regular basis too, LOL!

    Good luck and God's blessings
    PamT

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  10. Take some time off. Like you, I get discouraged and depressed as well. But I always come back to writing. Face it, for many of us it's what we do. We can't help the compulsion to write.

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  11. I know how it is. I stop for a while, but can't help coming back again. Writing is my obsession, but I can't concentrate well with distractions, like Christmas, income taxes, vacations, etc. Writing isn't my whole life. That's my excuse for not applying more discipline. I have the freedom of choice, since I have only my own deadlines, and not that of a contract with a publisher.

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  12. Janis, you are saying what so many of us feel. If you've always been a writer, it's almost impossible to stop. But the few times I've been so disheartened (because of piracy) I've felt a huge relief, as if a load is taken off my shoulders when I've stepped back for a few weeks. Found time to do all sorts of things. I'm writing the words for songs at the moment. But those half-written novels? Yeah, yeah. I'll finish them soon I suppose.

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  13. Some days I think how much easier it would be to sit back and read everyone else's book. Writing is hard. Why slave over the computer in the time left to us? But I'm not there yet...and maybe not next year either. And heck, if we stop writing, we can always manage the backlist titles. That's a full-time job too, right?

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  14. Quitting is easy. I've done it a hundred times.

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  15. Maybe because it's a New Year, but there seems to be a lot of negativity coming from Romance Writers at the moment. I understand why. The industry is in a state of flux, and it's not in the writer's favor. But I'm a debut author. I've just released my first novel, and am nearly finished my second. I'm excited, motivated. But also occasionally getting cold feet over all the negative posts. However, I consciously chose this path, and for the first time in a very long while I am happy. So I'm going to put my faith in my future, hang on tight, and keep on writing HEA's with lots of heat....
    Good luck, Janis. Hope you can find the light, no matter what it might be. Anni xx

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  16. Another Amen from me. I can't count how many times I've tried to quit. Then the characters in my head start demanding to have their stories told and I go right back to it.

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  17. Your feelings are all too familiar, Janis. Last Spring, after being struck with a repetitive stress injury that makes it painful to type or write longhand, I was ready to quit. I prayed about it, sincerely ready to give up writing if that was God's will. And wouldn't you know, shortly after, I was offered a contract for a YA novel I thought would never be traditionally published! I'm hoping you find the answer that's right for you.

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  18. Amen...amen...amen. You very eloquently listed what is forcing me to re-evaluate continuing the path as an author. I think I went through all of them and a few more. Having multiple major events I was to run cancelled at the last minute by the requesting organizations still hurts at the thought of the time forever lost. When writing is no longer fun, it is time to quit. But like you, I just can't seem to. A new years wish for us all.May your sales be healthy, your royalties paid. May you find readers who truly love your work and last of all, may the writing be fun.

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  19. True, sadly, so true. After 7 books in a series, I was cast adrift with all the others when my publisher decided to forgo mysteries. Huh? My brain is still shaking but I find myself continuing to talk to those imaginary friends.

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  20. Wow, so many of us experience the same thing. Frustration of one sort or another with writing pops up with me sometimes and then I quit--for an hour or couple of days. Then I'm good to go again.

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  22. "delighted in creating entire worlds and populations out of nothing more than imagination and caffeine." = Love!

    Do it because it's fun. Write what you want to write. Chase whatever impulse you want to chase. Life's too short to get bogged down in the other stuff.

    xoxo

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  23. Hallelujah, great and honest post, I thought it was just me :D. I've felt this way on and off for years! Each year I think of a new way to approach writing / a new way to market / a different genre to dip my toe into... but we're still up against the old adage that around 80-90% of all writers would live under the breadline if they relied only on their writing. But... here we still are :D. I'll do it for as long as I enjoy it, whatever the reason. I don't think you can say fairer than that - and it leaves the control in the hands of the author. And if it works for you, please keep up your good work!

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  24. But...I write, therefore I exist!

    There are days and, in fact, I was this close to quitting. But as Clare London above said, I still enjoy - all of it.

    Great post, Susan!

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