The unspoken question hisses into the ears of every writer: "Should I just give up?"
There are myriad reasons behind the question, depending on the stage of each writer's journey. It might be, "I've written four novels and none of them work well enough to query." Or, "I've queried 184 agents on three separate projects and have never gotten past a partial request." Or, "I've been doing this for twelve years with no results." Or, "My agent and I have gone out with five projects over the last four years, and nothing has sold."
And you sit amidst your doubts and wonder...is it time? Have I gotten this whole thing wrong?
Here's the thing. The answer to your question has to come from the right place--or it's the wrong answer.
Self-deprecation ("I will never amount to anything.") is the wrong place.
Fear of failure ("Whatever I send out next will get rejected, anyway.") is the wrong place.
Drama ("Forget it! I quit! Whatever! My emotional stability is suffering! Gah!") is the wrong place.
You get the idea.
There may, however, be a right place. But only you will know that. And only if you are honest and kind with yourself.
When Mr. A and I were a goo-ified, newly engaged couple, we met with our pastor and his wife for a "pre-marital counseling session" of sorts. In the context of this "session," the pastor's wife asked Mr. A how long he was willing to pursue his dream of writing music before he "grew up".
That may sound a little harsh. But what she was really saying was, "You're getting married now. Writing music isn't a viable means of making a living for the vast majority of aspiring songwriters. When is your reality check going to kick in?" Or, more simply put, "Are you going to recognize when it's time to quit?"
To be fair to my husband, he already had a "day job" (which he hated). So it's not like he was asking me to come live in a tent with him while he chased his elusive dreams. Also? He was never unrealistic about his dreams in the first place. He knew it was a crap shoot. So I'm not sure whether he needed our pastor's wife, at that precise moment, to remind him that his artistic aspirations were a huge gamble that needed to be evaluated as time went by.
Because the short story is that Mr. A quickly abandoned his dreams and moved into a corporate job at which he excels. And which occasionally sucks the life out him.
Now? I watch my husband struggling with the unfulfilled-ness of being an Artist Who Is Not Creating. Not that I think he should abandon everything and spend his days writing songs. But I surely would like to see him doing something to satisfy his muse.
Writing songs--like writing stories--is something you can keep doing regardless of whether or not you are pursuing it as a career. Just like all the other fine arts.
If you're born to create things, you need to keep creating. The quitting decision has more to do with your goals, and not with the creating itself. And that's what you need to examine when you feel as though you're at an "I should quit now" place.
So yes, by all means, take a hard look at what you are doing and how you are faring according to what you'd ultimately like to accomplish. Stand as far away from your work as you can and ask yourself, "Is this viable? Am I kidding myself when I say I'm going to press on no matter what?"
No one can answer those questions but you. I want to sit here and cheer you on and scream, "Never give up! Never never never!" Because it's the never-giving-up that leads successful people toward their ultimate success. (Truly. It's a known fact.) But I don't know your goals, and I haven't read your work. All I know is that if you are working hard and responding well to solid critique and growing as a writer, then you're on the right track.
The decision-making is up to you. You are the master of your creativity, the chooser of your goals. If the time comes when you finally lay down your pen and say, "I have done my best," may it be for the right reasons, and may it bring you the satisfaction of knowing that you really did do your best. And that you are simply, peacefully, moving on.
It's a privilege for me to have intersected with your journey, regardless of where that journey leads. May you find joy at the end of it, and everywhere along the way!