It was my very first writers conference. I waited impatiently for my critiqued manuscript from a well-known and well-respected literary agent. Sitting on a bench under a tree, I opened the large manila envelope and pulled out my crisp, white pages that now ran red with scarlet ink – each red slash a tiny cut to my heart.
It was the moment I gave up.
Deflated and discouraged, I forced myself to stuff my dead work into its paper coffin, and attend the “Turning Your Chapters into Articles” class. I decided I would dismantle my much-loved dream and try to use it still. Being overly dramatic is a literary trait, and I wondered if this was a tiny taste of how the loved one of an organ donor feels. My manuscript that I loved would be used for good, but not in the way I’d hoped.
After the class, I met with the editor who led it. She asked how I was doing. (Apparently, that afternoon, Alice Cooper and I shared the same makeup artist.) She went on to encourage me not to give up on my dream. “This is one agent’s opinion, Joanne,” she gently reminded me. Her words gave me a microscopic ray of hope. (Purchasing an article for her magazine helped my mood, too.)
The agent who sliced my work like Dexter did me a great favor. He showed me how to shape my work in a way that would be acceptable the next time. Months later, I received my first book contract.
Since becoming an official “writer,” I have quit at least six hundred times. As a matter of fact, I even titled one of my emails to my agent, Rachelle, with these very words this summer: “When do you give up?” She immediately called and talked me down from the ledge, and recently addressed this timeless writer-question very eloquently in her blog.
I thought I’d share a few ways to encourage the quitter in you:
•Take a laptop sabbatical. My computer recently died, and I thought I would too. Once my laptop was up and running again, so was I! Three weeks was just the break I needed. Giving my right-brain some creative rest helped me look forward to working on my next project.
•Shake a leg. Exercise and I are not the best of friends. But whenever I get outside and get my blood pumping, it seems to clear the cobwebs in my middle-aged head. I take my recorder along, just in case I get an idea I can’t ignore.
•Make time for someone. Get out of your self-centered word-filled world. Go out and see a movie. Call a writer-friend and vent a bit. Have a quiet night at home with your spouse. Cuddle up on the couch and read a book to your child/grandchild.
•Fake your own death. Just wanted to see if you were still reading. Please don’t do this. Definitely not a good career move.
“John Creasy the English novelist kept at it. He kept getting rejected so decided to use pen names to create a new identity. Fourteen of them! Collectively he received 753 rejection letters. But he didn’t give up. His 754th became the first of his 564 published books. What if he had quit at the 700th rejection?”
This Christmas season, take a winter break and enjoy real life moments. Try to live this life you write about. Love the ones you are blessed to have alongside you, and pray God holds these tender moments close to your heart. A true writer must experience what they wish to convey. Gather up some word-filled ammunition for the coming year.
Regardless of what you do or don’t decide to do, giving up is not an option. It’s never an option. Never.
When was the last time you quit? What encouraged you to write again?