Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Monday, May 22, 2017

If Your Choice is to Quit Then Own It

The stories are everywhere: why a once-enthusiastic and committed writer stops writing or doing anything further for their career. They may share online or just quietly disappear. Anyone involved in a writing community at all, online or otherwise, has seen it happen over and over.

Sometimes it's because things change in one's life and writing takes a back seat. Sometimes it's because the hoped-for success is too slow in coming, so slow it's no longer possible to believe it ever will. Lately, I've seen posts about jealousy, and how comparing one's own success or lack of it to others is too discouraging to even continue trying.

There's the one book that gets finished, it's pretty good and finds an agent but never sold to a publisher. It would be tough to get to work on the next book when that's happened. Or maybe it gets published with disappointing sales. Again, no motivation to write another.

Or maybe they try it on their own with self-publishing. The hope rises as they see other self-pubbed authors and the success they are having. But then when it doesn't happen, discouragement hits again. Why bother?

As a publisher, I've seen writers with stellar marketing plans and excellent books give up promoting after barely 30 days.They go back to writing the next book, since that's more comfortable than blogging or reaching out on Facebook or trying to set up author events or any of the other things they said they'd do in their promotion plan. But without committed and regular promotion, the next book won't fare any better. Eventually, they give up on the writing dream altogether.

As a writer who follows other writers online, I've seen the cycle played out on writer groups, blog posts, frustrated Facebook complaints:

"I can't compete with the success of others. This is making me miserable and I'm giving it up."

"I'm too introverted to market. I don't feel comfortable with that part of it."

"Writing is hard work. I can't fit it into my schedule."

"Amazon's algorithms and buy buttons and Kindle Unlimited have hurt my sales. I'm making half what I did a few years ago."

"I hate social media. If that's what it takes to sell books then forget it."

"Trolls who leave hurtful reviews have poisoned everything for me."

"My publisher went out of business and ruined my life."

"My publisher doesn't do anything to sell my book."

"Blogging is dead, and that was the only thing I liked to do to keep my name out there."

"My family isn't supportive."

Meanwhile, Stephen King has written nearly 100 books. Neil Gaiman has written 66. Agatha Christie wrote 69. Barbara Cartland probably tops the record at 722 novels published. I'm pretty sure these people all faced the same kinds of challenges that any other person does who tries to make a living as a writer.

Everyone has personal trials. Everyone has petty jealousies. It's human nature to condemn others for our failures rather than suck it up and figure out how to do better. It's easier to blame outside forces than to look within ourselves, accept responsibility, and make real changes.

I can identify. I'm fully aware of what it takes to make a success at this, and it is extremely difficult. But at the same time I think if someone decides to quit writing, to give it all up, that's fine and dandy-- just own it and don't put it on any outside forces. Writing comes from within, and not writing comes from within, too.

Am I being too harsh? Have you been seeing these kinds of complaints and "why I'm quitting" writer posts? What's your response? Can you identify, or not?

23 comments:

  1. You're right. It is a tough business, but it doesn't force anyone to quit. They do that themselves. I've also seen a lot of writers come and go over the years.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I can identify with some of the points made here about self publishing marketing. However i can't quit writing it's in my DNA, i do it for me

    ReplyDelete
  3. I've pulled back on writing, but not because I've given up due to any of those reasons. I just have the IWSG to focus on instead.

    ReplyDelete
  4. One thing writers need to do is tune all the voices out. There is so much out there and a lot of it is valid but not all of the time. Writing is an avocation and if done right, a job with income.

    And like everything quitting is an option. I think what is hard are the unrealistic expectations of family and friends. It is hard to explain that all that work you put into writing may amount to nothing in end.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ann, Tuning out outside voices and distractions is really necessary. I think many of us manage to do it part of the time, to get the book written. If that same focus can continue, then we will be alright.

      Delete
  5. When my first publisher went out of business, I was angry and diappointed , but I never for a moment considered quitting. I have far too much love and time devoted to writing. Yes, I get discouraged and impatient, and it seems like it will never pay off enought to make it worth it. Yes, I hate public events and would rather not market myself. Sometimes the logical course looks like quitting, because you have to be a little crazy to think of writing as a career. But, I will never stop writing. I love the process. It makes me feel good, and that will never stop. It keeps me sane.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Norma, That's happened to a lot of writers, where the publisher goes out of business. That's got to be a huge stumbling block to moving forward, and I'm glad it worked out for you!

      Delete
  6. Hey Karen. Real quick, just want to say thanks for your kind words today. That made me super duper smile big. Much thanks.

    As for you being too harsh? No. Not to me, like you said, own it. It really all does come from within. Same with starting a youtube page. Most of these things can be said for that, or any type of putting yourself out there.

    You said this well.

    ReplyDelete
  7. There are two issues at play in this terrific post, Karen: one about giving up writing because of less-than-stellar sales. The other is about the work involved in marketing a book. As to the first point: yes, I agree heartily. Never stop writing. I am going through massive personal upheaval, yet, writing is a refuge, solace. It is what I DO. No one should give up sharing what their soul and spirit yearn to sing about. Now, then: issue #2--YES, it is SO HARD. You more or less quoted ME when you listed all those lame reasons for not putting one's self OUT THERE in the world of social media. But, it's a learning curve. At least for me, it is. My first two books had dedicated (and decidedly useless) marketing people assigned to the books by the publisher. I wasn't actually PERMITTED to call people or try to get reviews. Not allowed. Now, with Rash coming out (by WiDo--yay) in September, it's a whole new ball game. As insecure and unsure as I am, I am also up for it; willing to throw myself out there, naked and wanting. I will do what I can to make the world aware of this great story, that was so--ahem--well edited. So: thanks for the pep talk. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Thanks for a lot of things. xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lisa, Your experience with the big publisher, the kind that every writer thinks they want, plays up several interesting points. That not only is the book their product, but so is the author. You weren't allowed to interfere with how they chose to package the product. Silly, because really the writer is the one best equipped to promote their own book.

      Delete
  8. I get why people quit - if getting into public recognition for our efforts is the thing that matters, then writing is truly discouraging.

    I give up on marketing from time to time - I simply don't enjoy it. But I can't give up on writing. I can't imagine not wandering around with my notebook and letting the world just pass me by.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi Karen - it is a matter of deciding TO DO IT - and getting on with it ... so true - cheers Hilary

    ReplyDelete
  10. Dear Karen, there's both clarity and reality in this posting of yours. I find myself taking a hiatus from writing because of health. Yet I've known the problem of discouragement in the past. For myself, I'm aware that I'm going to need to learn how to use social media. Once of my nieces is going to give me tutorials on that when I have something ready. Thank you for your insights. Peace.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dee, Thank you for visiting my blog again. It's been a long time! I hope you're feeling better. And social media isn't too bad-- it's just associating with people!

      Delete
  11. I'm lucky I seem to follow peeps who keep on truckin'. Oh, sure I identify with a lot of that, but it's not going to stop me. I'm full of frustration right now, I tore my rotator cuff and can't move my arm--tying -- writing out. This will put me weeks possible months behind. This comment is a taking it's toll now. But somewhere I have a tape recorder...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh wow, that sounds painful! I hope you're feeling better soon.

      Delete
  12. I have heard this and one can make this argument on just about anything and many people use all sorts of excuses instead of looking at themselves and saying they ultimately make their own decision. When I hear these excuses I just picture a whiny little baby...with Trump's head...hahahahaaa

    ReplyDelete
  13. I write for me. It helps that my family and friends love to read my stuff. If that's all that ever wanted to read it, I'd still do it. My hubbie is grateful. I talk in my sleep too much when I'm not writing consistently. It keeps him up. I can't have a grumpy, sleep deprived hubby, now can I?! ;)

    ReplyDelete
  14. I can't seem to bring any of my projects to the point where I have to deal with these issues. I always attribute it to being too busy, but now I think it's because I'm afraid.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I actually haven't yet, but that's because my available time took some huge hits over the past two years. I do realize I have to get back to social networking, though, because I do understand that the secret to being successful as a writer (other than writing brilliant books) is to be seen as much as possible.

    To be honest, I find there's a lot of people who started writing because they though self publishing (or being a writer) would be a quick ticket to success.

    Those writers will invariably be the first people to stop writing because they're not writing for the inherent pleasure of writing. They don't get value from sitting down to write, because the only value their writing has is connected to the amount of fame or money it generates.

    Every writer, I believe, comes to the point where they have to fish or cut bait. It's good for us to take stock, and I have to believe that success will come to those of us who take a practical, pragmatic approach to writing and marketing.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Quit!!? Nah, never. I think it depends on what "it" you're in it for. I write because stories are bursting out of me, demanding to be told. Making it for me is the pleasure of getting better and better at telling those stories, poems, plays and essays. Sure - I want others to read them but because I want to share the passion not reap glory or dough. Besides the prolific writers like Margaret Atwood and Ursula Le Guin there are the ones who might only flower once or twice - imagine a world without To Kill a Mockingbird? Or those that flower late like Mary Wesley. Glad neither of those women gave up!

    ReplyDelete
  17. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Though I've personally had a few of these complains, I would never dream of quitting. Writing is in my blood.

    ReplyDelete