I have a confession to make; I’m a quitter.

As I wrote in this week’s #GOALdigger newsletter, the story of my life is not filled with tireless nights of hard work, but rather a series of happy accidents (or luck), which have put me in the right place at the right time and with the right skills.

I got into my university without much effort and on accident. I got into and out of grad school with relative ease. And although I spend nearly every, waking hour on my computer doing something, my foray into writing hasn’t been as difficult as it has been for some.

Despite having the ability (or good fortune) to capitalize on these opportunities, I’m still not where I want to be, and it’s all my fault.

In my 32 years, I’ve quit more things than I can count. Dance classes? Gone. My high school basketball team? Meh. That one blog project I was so interested in before? Dunzo.

Though quitting has been my Achilles heel, the things I’ve managed to hold on to haven’t faired much better, either. Why? I’ve given them a half-assed effort. Every.Single.Time.

Even this year, as I’ve managed to carve out a very tiny place for myself in the writing world, there have been plenty of nights and weeks that I’ve surfed the ‘net thinking about writing or pitching articles, but just never getting around to do it.

If the saying, “Writers write,” is true, then I must be a magician.

This whole journey seems to be made of juju and a few well-placed introductions.

Once I broke out of my comfort zone and began pitching back in 2010, folks have been offering me gigs and opportunities to prove myself. And while I’m very, very thankful for them all, my lackadaisical attitude toward my life and my career sometimes takes over and I just stay in the same place.

But I’m over it. I’m ready to break out of this holding pattern and soar.

Last night I stumbled on this essay by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love. I’m not sure why I googled her, but I’m glad I did. In the essay, Gilbert doles out her advice on writing, and while I could literally quote the entire essay, this part jumped out at me:

I believe that – if you are serious about a life of writing, or indeed about any creative form of expression – that you should take on this work like a holy calling. I became a writer the way other people become monks or nuns. I made a vow to writing, very young. I became Bride-of-Writing. I was writing’s most devotional handmaiden. I built my entire life around writing. I didn’t know how else to do this. I didn’t know anyone who had ever become a writer. I had no, as they say, connections. I had no clues. I just began.

It struck me because, when it comes to writing, I had no such “calling.” While I believe writing is what I’ve been put here to do and it is definitely what I love, I don’t feel completely bowled over by my ability to write. Other people’s words? Certainly. My own? Not so much.

For me, writing isn’t this deep spiritual thing. It’s not how I get down to my true essence. It’s really just something I’m able to do fairly well, and pretty easily.

Which…is apart of the problem.

In college I majored in poetry because its brevity fit my attention span perfectly and I knew how to craft a line, use a metaphor, and make words pop on the page–for a few stanzas. Anything more and I’d get a little nervous.

While I somehow managed to bang out a book-length thesis for my MFA program (it’s not bad either), trying to finish my novel has been damn-near impossible {note: it totally became possible because I’ve written & published several}.

Why? I love words. I love to tell a story, but fiction writing doesn’t come easy for me. And if things don’t come easy for me, I usually quit.

The novel I started back in 2007 is still sitting on my hard drive, unwritten. And while I’ve angrily read many poorly written books since then wondering how those authors got published, my book still remains unfinished, waiting for me to write.

Ironic, much?

Reading Gilbert’s essay was a reminder that I need to get my ish together, quickly.

This line, in particular, hit me in the heart:

“I never promised the universe that I would write brilliantly; I only promised the universe that I would write. So I put my head down and sweated through it, as per my vows.”

That little nugget sums up my entire problem. I quit things, particularly writing, when it gets too hard because I don’t want to fail (can I get an ‘Amen’?).

I don’t want to be one of those people with a horrible novel full of clichés and unrealistic dialogue. I want to write a GREAT book! But writing great books is hard as hell, and so I don’t even get going.

It’s a horrible catch 22, but I’m ending it now.

If you’re a quitter like me, here’s a little advice to get you going (and keep you moving):

Toni Morrison on writing what you love:

“If there’s a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it”

Anne Lamott on how trying to write perfectly will get in your way:

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.” 

E. L. Doctorow on why you don’t need to know where you’re going to write:

“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

Stephen King on inspiration:

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

There’s one thing I know for sure about writing: If you just keep putting words on the page, soon you’ll have something to work with.

Now go…write!


Do you have a problem seeing things through? Please leave a comment and let me know how you deal with motivation and inspiration when writing. Got any more tips or handy quotes? Share!

*Want to connect with a growing group of #GOALdiggers? Meet us over on Facebook


Related Post