I know I’m not supposed to admit it, but sometimes I feel like throwing in the towel. Most of the time, I have this fierce belief that I’ll be able to “make it” someday. But it’s those other times, the downhearted ones, that knock the air out of my lungs. That’s when I realize that if success is in the eye of the beholder, my eyes feel like they’re wide open in a sand storm.
My up-down measures of “making it” vary. When I think of it in financial terms such as: Can I make enough money to pay for my children’s education through college? It seems daunting. Other times I tell myself I know I will have succeeded if I make the jump to a respected NYC publisher, win a recognized mystery award, have one of my books optioned, or meet someone who really understands the themes in my works or . . . or . . . .
Yes. There are many moments of happy victory. There are also many of sheer discouragement.
The impetus that throws me into quiet exasperation or frustration isn’t always obvious. It can be as simple as a really unproductive writing session. It can be as complicated as a bracing analysis of the impact of early business decisions in my career and their future ramifications. It can be a bad review. It can be envy, jealousy or even an unearned sense of superiority.
No matter the cause, these times of self-questioning and doubt are corrosive. They eat at my resolve, my determination to continue.
Last week, I found myself thinking too frequently about life without writing toward publication. Should I just go out and get some shit job to start bringing in more money for our family? Would I be happier? Would I even write my fiction without a goal of selling it?
While I wallowed in the muck of these questions, I also began to think of writers I’ve enjoyed who did just what I was considering. There is Stephen Greenleaf. I’ve read every one of his books, grateful for his gorgeous prose and plotting. I don’t think he’s writing anymore. Deborah Donnelly had a wedding planner series that was both intelligent and great fun, but she hasn’t put out a book in years. Lee Killough’s paranormal fantasy/mystery works are beautiful psychological analyses of ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances. Is she writing anymore?
I’m sure there are many other novelists who’ve stopped due to exhaustion, disappointment, spent dreams.
When I pause and look at my future, I can’t truly imagine quitting yet. Without being romantic, writing fiction is a creative endeavor that requires heart and dedication. To give up that focus—at least with the written word—seems to me to be a very empty proposition.
But some days, some weeks, the temptation becomes frighteningly attractive.
Writers: How about you? Have you ever felt discouraged? What brought on the feeling? What helped it pass?
Readers: Do you miss any writers who are still alive but who’ve thrown in that towel?