I wrote to a friend a long time ago something like, “I’m not good at writing, I don’t even like it anymore. I think I’m done trying.”
He wrote back: “Okay. If that’s what you want.”
When you’re having that kind of conversation over text or Facebook or whatever, it’s easy to stop answering or log off, pretend it never happened, passively channel your disapproval into something or someone else. Except when your usual channel of choice happens to be writing, which you just declared you weren’t doing anymore. Then what?
I didn’t want him to tell me not to stop writing. A good friend, after all, lets you make your own stupid mistakes more often than not, and when you come shuffling back after you’ve gone off to wallow in your dumbness, there’s not judgment. You don’t ever have to even bring it up again. Nobody’s right, or wrong, just a little more grown up.
Of course I didn’t quit writing for long; I kept writing terrible cliché prose and it didn’t matter if people liked it, I just knew I had to do it, and that was the first time I tried quitting, and realized just considering it—quitting—made me a better writer.
Wanting to quit, pondering the possibility of quitting, realizing no one is going to stop you from quitting, makes you see the act of quitting in a completely different light. Quitting becomes That Thing Everybody Always Said You’d Do, ergo, The One Thing You Can Never Let Anyone See You Actually Do, Ever.
For a few hours, for a day, for a week, sometimes Life Happens, you want to write, but you can’t, there’s something in your way and you’re not ready to face it head-on yet, you need time to think, to breathe, to scrutinize; but you plan on coming back, and often you do, and you’re like a freaking phoenix, at least until you want to quit again.
But you won’t quit, not for real. Writing is a part of you. A piece of your soul. You need it to live. You’re nothing without it. I’m nothing without it.
Funny, though, how I may never have understood my own dependence on the practice if in college I had not stopped journaling for seven straight months, because it hurt too much, because a paper or an article was Nothing Personal and I did not have to open to a blank page and watch my own soul bleed out ink onto an innocent piece of paper.
We try to force others to understand the passion—“Read this, does this make sense, can’t you see writing is all I’m good at or what I suck at the most, blah blah quitting blah”—but they won’t, they can’t. That’s why someone else will let you quit, knowing you won’t, but you’ll let yourself quit and truly believe it’s forever.
Most of the time I despise what I write, I always want to back up and start again, and when I don’t feel like doing that, I just want to stop. I’ve thought plenty of times, since that first time, of stopping forever, but knowing I could, knowing that same friend still wouldn’t stop me, made me finish this sentence. And will make me write this one, too. I don’t think anyone ever loves their own work, but somehow we learn to tolerate it, and cringe through the worst dialogue, because even one more word, that’s the opposite of quitting. One word a day is still progress.
I think the more we Almost Quit the less likely we are to actually do it. Maybe that’s all we need when writing gets to be too much, to be reminded that we didn’t quit last time, or the time before that, and doing it now, well, that would be pretty stupid.
One more word, one more page, just one more, one more.
Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.
A recent graduate with a B.A. in English and a completed major in nutrition, currently seeking a graduate degree in health communication, Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and dietetics. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi (and the mastermind behind this site), Meg is an editor for College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine’s Stone Soup. She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink magazine. Follow Meg on Twitter.