“I’m stuck,” she said.
“You’ve got your ankles behind your head again?”
I could almost hear the eye roll. “Do you ever stop being a pervert?”
“Tell me you didn’t just ask that.”
“Right,” she said. “Whatever, I’m stuck on these edits and I just can’t seem to make anything work.”
I felt her pain instantly, which isn’t terribly unlike getting your ankles stuck behind your head. You want to get free, but you can’t find a way to do that, so you’re sitting there with a cramp in your thigh and an overwhelming fear things will never function properly again.
So I offered her the worst advice I could think of.
“You should quit.”
“Quit,” I said. “Set the book aside and start a new one. You can always come back to this one later. Or hell, don’t come back to it. You don’t even have to start a new one, right?”
She was quiet for a long time. Such a long time, I started to worry she was really attempting ankle thing.
“I can’t,” she said. “I can’t be that person who starts writing and gives up.”
I should note that this is my critique partner who isn’t published or agented yet. It’s a distinction that’s almost not worth mentioning because she’s an incredible writer – better in tons of ways than I am, and better than plenty of published authors I know.
But publication is her ultimate goal, and she wants it badly.
Badly enough that she won’t quit, not even if she hates her manuscript, or she can’t dig her way out of a plot hole with a backhoe, or she wants to scream from the thigh cramps.
Someone a whole lot wiser than me once said, “the only difference between a published author and an unpublished one is that the published one didn’t give up.”
I believe that with every fiber of my being.
An hour after I hung up the phone with my critique partner, she sent me an email. Her message was so insightful, so lovely, that I asked if I could share it here. She refused, so I beat her with an empty wine bottle until she relented.
Here’s what she wrote:
Why I write
Shared with permission from Linda Brundage
First of all, thank you for letting me be where I was at today. For saying it is “okay” to not keep writing this book. Somehow, it was what I needed, to be free to actually consider it. I suppose it had the reverse effect in that suddenly in my mind I was thinking of all the reasons why I write. All the reasons why I cannot stop. (At least not today.) The most important of all is because I like myself a lot when I am being creative, when I am writing. I love words and the ideas that come from stringing words together. It is a challenging, rewarding and ultimately a magical process. I like the feeling of hope that comes from writing (the idea that yes, I can get published.) Without hope, I am lost.
I couldn’t possibly have said it better myself (which is why I’m certain we’ll eventually see her name in a bookstore – not just on a wanted poster in the lobby, but on an actual book).
And even though she and I are at different points in our writing careers, those words apply to me, too. I know I’ll encounter plenty of new stumbling blocks as I go along. Bad reviews, bad sales, bad hair days. The hope that things will get better is precisely what will keep me going.
Well, that and a fervent desire to make obscene hand gestures at anyone who doubted my ability to succeed.
Have you ever considered quitting when it comes to writing or any other pursuit that means something to you? What made you keep going? Please share!
I’ll be limbering up for my next attempt at the ankle thing.