Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

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?