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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Should I Quit Writing? by Terry Burns



She caught me off guard with that question. She sat down for an appointment and instead of pitching her projects she launched into how her kids were interrupting her writing time, how church and work and just life in general left her no time to write. She listed obstruction after obstruction and said when she did find time to write that it wouldn’t come, that she was getting nowhere with it. Then she hit me with that question.

I didn’t hesitate a heartbeat but just said “yes.”

She was probably expecting a pep talk or at least for me to commiserate with her. I didn’t. I said, “I think anyone who can quit writing should do so. All of the writers I know CAN’T quit. They have words inside them that have to come out. The serious writer simply has to do it.”

Writing is not easy. There is never time to do it, and there is a huge amount of frustration and difficulty involved. Why would anyone put themselves through it if they didn’t have to? Oh, I know there are those who say “When the kids leave I’ll have time to write.” Or when I retire, or if I come into money, or any other factor in their life that will create this big block of time where they can easily write.

Never happens. Life expands to fill the amount of time available. There is always something to take up the time. The serious writer has to carve out writing time and jealously protect it. Maybe there are people who can dabble at it, a fun little diversion that they do here and there, and they don’t stress over it or worry about it not producing the results they want to have. That’s someone who writes as a hobby, and that’s okay. It makes a nice little hobby if they don’t care about getting a lot of books out and can settle for hobby results, a few books to family and friends, maybe a few outsiders.

But if they have to start trying to write better, to reach more people, to get serious about it. Then it won’t let them be, and it can be a hard taskmaster. Sure, if you can quit, do so, and spend your time on something easier that provides quicker gratification.

She left stone-faced, shaken. I saw her the next day and she said, “I took your advice and felt an immediate peace come over me that I could let it go. But it kept coming back nagging at me. Finally I realized that I really can’t quit.”

I smiled at her. “Then quit making excuses and feeling sorry for yourself. You don’t have any more things fighting to steal your time than anyone else. All writers face it, even the ones that seem to be writing full time and that is all they do. Don’t believe it. They are warding off constant things that want to steal their time. They just have to be disciplined and protect that time no matter what.”

She nodded and said she understood. “Everyone else has been feeling sorry for me and telling me things will get better. You’re the first one that has ever slapped me in the face and told me I should quit or get on with it.”

Really? Maybe there are others who need a wake up call on protecting their writing time. Why did I know what to say so easy? Because being an agent has stolen almost all of my writing time. Oh, the job had some help from family, church and life in general, but I made a conscious decision that helping other writers was more important than my own writing and now I get to do precious little of it. I was talking to myself as much as I was talking to her.

18 comments:

Lindi said...

Terry, this is so true. And this is what I needed to hear today. :)

Linda Glaz said...

This is so true, because I find myself putting my aside for the same reason. It's a tough balance.

Terri Tiffany said...

I tried quitting this spring--thinking I couldn't write anymore but it didn't happen. One day, my desire returned and I'm writing. Thanks for a great reminder.

Normandie Ward Fischer said...

Excellent post, Terry. It is a very tough balancing act.

overcominganything said...

This reminds me of something a wise, um, "man" once said, "Do. Or, do not. There is no try." Very good stuff!

Noel Kurian said...

Hey thanks for sharing this incredible experience. Reminded me of an article I wrote two decades ago: Learning from God, lessons of life. Thank you for bringing our mind back on track to keep going.

Terry Burns said...

Thanks for the comments, I'm glad someone found it applicable.

Linda Glaz said...

Terry, it took a lot of courage to be that honest with her.

Jonnia Smith said...

I KNOW this is true, but I would still benefit from reading the reminder at least once a week. Whining is just wasted energy, yet it creeps on me from time to time.
Very applicable. Thank you!

Davalyn Spencer said...

There's always a dog of some sort chewing away at my life. And I don't mean my husband, children, or responsibilities. I mean that gnawing you-can't-do-it varmint that just needs a good kick in the teeth. Thanks for the post, Terry. I heard a few canines crack.

sally apokedak said...

Love this post.

And I need it.

I need to finish a book that I'm dilly-dallying on.

Thanks.

sheri said...

Thanks for sharing this pist from another writer! It is what I need to do! Quit making excuses, carve out the time each day & finish the editing on my first book!

laurenclaire827 said...

Terry, thank you so much for sharing this story with Hartline readers. Your insights and advice are so very true, and I also thoroughly enjoyed how you narrated this through a story instead of just writing a blog post on the topic.

Connie Cameron said...

Loved this blog, and it was so well put!
Another aspect to consider is that those who write books that are not Christian-based, that glorify evil, do not quit.

Timothy Fish said...

I figure that if someone has time to write then they really have no business writing. While I agree that some people will never quit writing because they always have words that must come out, I'm not sure I agree that is a good enough reason to say that they should continue writing. On the other hand, I look at people who are busy doing thing that are more important than writing and see people who have something worth sharing.

Mary Beth Dahl said...

Thank you. Every day it crosses my mind to stop putting myself through all of this, but then I know I can't stop the stories without denying something inside of me. I wonder how many incredible books have been laid to the side because someone just gave up. "...let us run with perserverance the race marked out for us."

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

Well... I'm thrilled you had the time to write this one! Stong, certain words of encouragement. I like it.

peace~elaine

writerlaurenclaire said...

I wanted to let you know that I posted a link to this in my latest blog post (http://writerlaurenclaire.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/tweetable-writing-tips-part-1/). When I read this post, I found it eye-opening as a writer.