I often ask myself if I should give up writing. It mostly happens in moments of feeling down, which strike at random. A wound opens up, and I ask myself, am I good enough to keep going? Is it all just a waste of time?
This feeling also rears its head when I’m asking for a critique. Not as dramatic, but, even if I don’t ask directly, I’m hoping the reader will give me some clue that will tell me, yes, keep writing.
I assume a lot of writers fall into this trap. Especially since writing doesn’t have the same milestones as other professions. For example, I know if I’m making progress with Google Adwords because I can take a certification test. I can run campaigns and measure the results. With writing, it’s harder to tell what kind of progress we’re making other than if we’re published and even then it can feel like a one-time accomplishment or luck. Plus, everyone’s path is different.
So, how do we know if we should keep going?
Only you can answer that question
As much as we want outside verification, it’s an internal decision we have to decide for ourselves. No one knows for sure if our work will pay off or not. And no one else knows all of our feelings, dreams, and efforts. Plus, everyone’s tastes are different. Don’t put your future in the hands of people who don’t have all of the information to make a choice for you.
I would love to be able to tell everyone who asks this question that yes, you should keep writing. However, that may not be the case for everyone. There may be times when you can’t write. Or a physical limitation of some sort. My suggestion is, if your desire to write is so strong that it gives you a stomach ache when you think about quitting, seek out ways to overcome your limitations.
Write in your head and on scraps of paper until you have time to fully engage. Use talk to text features. If you have the desire to write, there is probably a way to make it happen. Not that it will be easy, but it’s possible. One example I find truly inspirational is Laura Hillenbrand. She’s written several books while dealing with chronic fatigue syndrome. I can’t even imagine.
Redefine writing success
Becoming the next breakthrough famous author who sells millions is not something we can control. Writing is a tough market with a lot of competition. And it’s not always about who put in the most work or who wrote the best book. There’s a certain amount of luck and persistence involved.
Don’t define your success based on something you can’t control. Create your own milestones that you can check off. Maybe you want to improve your dialogue writing. So you read a book on dialogue and study dialogue in good books. You figure out what’s different between yours and there’s and you implement tactics that improve your writing. That is a success.
You haven’t written for six months so you set a goal to open your computer every weeknight for the next week. You accomplish this… it’s a success. Create small successes that you can use as stepping stones to improve and complete a manuscript. Big success. Create a plan to edit. Every action plan you follow through on is a success.
Manifest the future
To be clear, I don’t believe we have magical powers to create something from nothing. You cannot simply use your will to create the future. Whatever you dream will take hard work and time and luck.
However, I believe that by envisioning a positive future we allow ourselves to believe we are worthy. By believing we are worthy, we are more likely to put in the work and accept opportunities that come our way. Self-sabotage is real, and we need to be on the lookout to avoid killing our dreams ourselves because we’re afraid something else will.
Also, by envisioning an outcome, we can create those actions items to get us there. And we can set up ways to acknowledge our achievements when we accomplish those goals.
Plan for setbacks
There will always be peaks and valleys in our writing lives. You may have to answer the question, should I give up writing, a hundred or more times in your lifetime. Because no amount of success is guaranteed to keep our internal anxieties from popping up from time to time. But we can be prepared when it does.
Setbacks can be a time of recommitment or a time to reflect on your positives. Or, it may be a signal you need to deal with something you’ve swept aside. You can’t plan for everything, but there are a few things you can do, like: recognize your successes, remember (and believe) a past compliment, acknowledge weaknesses and then work to improve them. Remember it’s a process.
The most important thing you can do is be honest with yourself. If your ultimate writing dream doesn’t come true, would you still find writing worthwhile? Would you still want to write if you knew you’d never achieve traditional success? If your answer is no, then take a break. Ask again in a week when you’re in a better place. If it’s still no, give yourself permission to let go and find a new dream. You can always change your mind later.
For those who say yes, I would still find writing worthwhile, figure out why you want to write and use that as inspiration.
It’s like the saying, shoot for the moon, even if you miss you’ll land among the stars. Aim for your ultimate writing dream, but figure out how to turn missing it into a success.