Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday Fricassee

Sometimes, it really is time to walk away.  Forever.

That's not something you really hear from me.  I am your advocate--your constant reminder to keep working, keep learning, keep growing, keep querying, keep BELIEVING.  Walking away when the going gets tough (which is frequent) does not a successful author make.


Sometimes the revelation comes that you've been trying to force a square peg into a round hole.  Sometimes it really is time to move on to the next thing.  And learning to tell the difference between angst-and-despair and a true sense that you've been going in the wrong direction is key to knowing what choice to make.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I happy to continue writing stories regardless of whether or not I'm published?  Because the honest, gut-slicing truth is that not every aspiring author is actually cut out to be a writer.  And that's okay.  You can always write for pleasure--for the rest of your life, really.  But only you can decide if this is true for you.
  • Have I chosen the wrong career path?  Because it happens.  Folks go to college for four years, and then decide they really didn't want to major in whatever degree they're holding in their hands.  So they go back to school.  Heck, I have a degree in music education, and I'm certainly not teaching music to elementary students right now.  (I did that.  For one year.  That was enough for me to know that I wasn't going to do that for the rest of my life.)
  • Are you happy living the story you're going to tell people some day?  Right now, your writerly journey is your own, personal story, leading to wherever your dreams lead you.  If you're not happy living your story, then it's time to reexamine if you are living the right story.
  • Do I have what it takes to JUST KEEP GOING until I'm published?  This is truly the separating-sheep-from-goats point.  The darkest hour truly does come before dawn, and many people who would have succeeded, had they just stuck it out for a little while longer, give up before they see the light of day.  If you know you've got what it takes to keep writing, keep waiting, keep trying, keep restrategizing, keep on KEEPING ON--then keep going.  Don't give up, no matter what's going on around you.
Your answers to the above questions may produce valid reasons for you to quit writing.  That's the stark truth.

But there are also reasons NOT to quit writing:
  • Your critique partners rip apart your manuscript and suggest a rewrite.
  • You've queried 50 agents and nobody requested anything.
  • You've written one novel and it didn't go anywhere.
  • It's been three years and you still haven't landed an agent.
  • Your agent hasn't sold your novel yet.
  • Your debut novel flopped.
  • You're burned out.  (Take a break--don't quit.)

Food for thought on this Friday afternoon!  I think that, regardless of who we are or what our aspirations in life may be, there are times when we need to step back and do a little soul-searching.  If we feel angst, where is it coming from?  Is it because we're worrying too much about our novel that's on submission?  (Answer: keep writing.) Or is it because we know we should actually be teaching steel drum classes on a cruise ship instead of writing stories? (Answer: probably you should be a steel drum teacher.) Don't be afraid to ask yourself the hard questions--you will be stronger and wiser for it.

Now go and have a wonderful weekend!


  1. Ah, yes. Been there. I've been querying various novels for a while now and each time I have to trunk a novel, it hurts. But I keep on keeping on because writing is not what I do, it's what I am. Would it be nice to finally land an agent and go out on submission? Sure. But, even if I don't and I'm still querying when I'm 90 (great hook!) then so be it. I am a writer. Repeat after me: I am a writer.

  2. Excellent advice, Ms. A. And Kathleen's comment is also superb!

    I have written stories all my life and I'm now 73; but only in the last 10 years have I tried to get things published. No books as of yet, but numerous articles appear in various magazines and newspapers. Plus a recipe in 2 "Taste of Home" cookbooks.

    Like both of you, stories spring at me from all events around me--in the news, interactions between people on the street or in a store, the look on a teenager's face or a parent's face, etc. All of this is grist for the writer's mill. Thanks for the pep talk, I was thinking of going the self-publishing route. But...maybe not. Good luck to us all.

  3. How long does it take to learn to play steel drums? I love that sound. However--I'm far more likely to write a secondary character who plays steel drums than to actually take it up myself. There's nothing like writing and research!

  4. Quitter live a life of regret. If you no longer want to do something then stop. That's not quitting, it's redirecting. Never quit.

  5. Very interesting post, Authoress. Thank you for the thought provoking questions. Quitters live a life of "what if...".
    I think I'm going to retire from writing. I come up with lots of ideas but the motivation to write them is not in me.

    Have a great day.

  6. Yes. I will always write, but a few years ago I realized that, though I never want to give up writing, I do not (at least at this point) have the drive necessary to push toward publication. And it took a while for me not to feel guilty about this. For a long time I felt like I was somehow a failure for not wanting to pursue this dream. But now I realize that my chosen career (academic librarian!) needed my focus and drive and also that THAT was where I WANTED to put my focus. And that it was okay to put writing on the back burner because that is what is right for me right now.

  7. This post gets to the heart of it. I've been at this a long time (much longer than 3 years). I'm ready to quit every other week. At the same time, writing is woven into my life in such a way, that it would be too great a loss to lose it. I don't have an agent or a traditionally published book to show for it, so the only thing that keeps me going is that with each new piece, I have more requests, more almosts. As long as I progress, there's still hope. I hope.

  8. Today's NYT essay titled "Failure is Our Muse" seems like a good companion read to your post. Worth it, I promise!

  9. Is it totally sick that reading the Friday Fricassee made me want to cry? Been there? Done that? I didn't buy the tee shirt, at times I think I OWN the whole concession.

    And you know what? I've been writing since I was four years old and I cannot not write. I know. I've tried. I have more story concept notes stacked in file cabinets and on flash drives than I think most people can imagine stories to write in a lifetime. I'll never get a fraction of them written but the ideas refuse to stop. So I write. But there is always a sadness with each rejection or, worse, the hollow, no-response response. Then there is the psychosis of get a request for a partial. You're on a manic high. Then you don't hear anything. And you wait. And you wait. And... the depression kicks in.

    And the people inside my head refuse to shut up. They demand their stories be told. I fall in love with them, every one, or I cast them on the heap, cannibalizing them, stealing their energy and giving it to someone else. And I go on. And I write their stories. And, every now and then, someone is intrigued enough to want more. And someday... someday, someone will want more and then others will be able to meet, and fall in love with, these people I know so well.
    Should I continue to write? Maybe for a little while longer... like until I take my last breath.

    I've had a couple of things published but only locally - short stories in anthologies. I don't that really counts.