Miscellaneous · Writing Tips

The Truth About Giving Up on Writing

Have you ever considered giving up on writing?

I know I have. 

Though I’ve been writing stories as long as I can remember, I consider myself as having two true starts. 

1) When I was eleven, my mom died unexpectedly, and I told myself that day I would spend my life pursuing my dreams, no matter how short my life would be. 

2) Around my senior year in college, I decided I wanted to pursue publishing again after a major break from writing. For a few years after that, I wrote for two indie publishers, and then made the decision to try to get an agent. I got one! Then I lost one. 

Now I’m out here writing again. Dreaming again. Wondering where my future will take me. 

Over the past few weeks, I have had a lot of serious decisions to make. Do I want to write in the same genre? Age category? Pursue the stories I’ve trunked or left otherwise unfinished? Do I even keep writing?

That last question is one I know most writers think about at least some point in their career. I certainly have, though I admit that I eventually realize that the question isn’t whether or not I want to keep writing. I always write. Even when I don’t want to, I find a pen in my hand. Writing is my gravity. The real question is if I want to continue pursuing publication. And that’s a whole different can of worms writers have to contend with. 

Do I want to keep pursuing traditional publishing, or do I want to find another method? Do I want to share my words with the world at all? Why do I feel the need to?

These questions are important for all writers to ask themselves. Why? Well, because of surrender. 

Giving up isn’t a giant Aha! moment, where you throw your pages in the trash and set it on fire, declaring your rage-freedom. 

It’s a culmination of a million little moments, where you prioritize this over that, miss deadline after deadline, trunk project after half-written project, until a striking amount of time has passed without much done. It happens. Sometimes, it happens again and again and again until you no longer remember the last time you gave yourself an afternoon to weave words together. Maybe one quiet morning you find time to sit, only to find all your old weavings in tatters, old files corrupted, versions unsaved or lost. Time now shows the errors you couldn’t once see. Which is just more reason to sigh and click delete, delete, delete until you’re staring at a blank page and have no self-confidence to begin anew.

Why write, you think, when you can buy perfectly good books at the store? There’s no point in making your own. It’s a waste of time and resources. You can simply enjoy what others have made. And yes, maybe you would be happy with that. And entertained. But would you feel pride? 

That’s what I am chasing. 

Pride. Not ego. But rather, feeling proud of myself for pursuing the life I always wanted. The dream I cultivated. Worked hard toward, year after year, no matter what stood in my way.

Writing takes a lot of momentum. For me, it’s not difficult to take breaks, but it is difficult to get started again. Which is why I’m so weary of pauses, especially long ones. During those pauses, I sometimes wonder if I’ve been chasing the dream so long, I don’t even know if I’m dreaming anymore. Have I gotten so used to this chasing that it has become an accepted chore? Is writing more habit than happiness?

Writing used to bring me such joy. Such high. There was nothing like sneaking pages of my romance novels between taking notes in biology class. Nothing like passing pages along to my best friend and chat-giggling about them over the phone late into the night. It was fanfiction of my own imagination. Wild ideas and even wilder characters. Dreamy as they were flighty. Emotions high. Secrets higher. 

The structure of what I’ve learned over the years has broken that all back down. 

Now I look at the Timely Death trilogy—a series I first wrote when I was 14—and wonder if I’d create two-faced, sword-dwelling, Midwest magic teens now. 

Probably not. 

Too bizarre, I’d think. Not in line enough with the market. 

Besides, my teens skip school, and students are on lockdown nowadays. Not to mention the homework on paper rather than take-home laptops.

I feel so out of touch sometimes, I think, who am I writing for?

Years ago, I set out to write for kids like me, but do kids like me still exist? Not really. 

Even the book I am currently writing—a personal story about a child affected by the opioid crisis—would hit differently now than when I was young and needed it. When I was eleven and my mom overdosed, it was unheard of in my neighborhood. I got picked on for it. I didn’t know another classmate whose parent died until I was 16, and that was from cancer. I didn’t know another classmate whose parent died from a drug overdose until I was well into college. And by then, my classmates were overdosing, too. 

Most recently, I’ve written poems about her skipping from pharmacy to pharmacy to fill the same prescription over and over again—and now, there are laws in place that prevent that. (Thank God.) But by God, my truth died with her. Of course there will always be universal truths—grief and all that. But the details of the moment are so dependent on the environment that I fear being unable to connect with the audience I once promised myself I would go back and write for. 

I was 11 and lost in the bookstore. There are still 11-year-olds lost in those stores. But can I help them? Reach them? Will it matter or make a difference?

I have to believe I can. I have to believe in myself. I have to believe that I’ve turned writing into a habit, because it takes dedication to succeed. And honestly, it still brings me a lot of joy. 

Most importantly, to this day, I have yet to find a book that was made for a kid like me. (Though I’d highly recommend “Hey, Kiddo” by Jarrett J. Krosoczka.) 

I cannot put into words how much it would’ve meant to me to see a book in the middle grade section that covered what I was going through. And though I still made it in real-life without those sorts of books, I wish I could tell you about the many kids I met who didn’t make it. But their stories aren’t mine to tell. I can only tell mine. And for now, I haven’t given up.   

I am still writing. I am still pursuing publication. 

For 11-year-old me. For other 11-year-olds like me. For that college senior who knew she wanted something different out of life. For me now, who still enjoys the written word over much else. Who now chat-giggles about her work over ZOOM with her writer friends.

Giving up may not be a giant Aha! moment, but neither is deciding to continue the pursuit. 

It’s a decision you make every day. It can be undone. It can be remade. 

The choice is up to you.

For now, I am still here, writing, dreaming, doing my absolute best. Tomorrow, I hope to make the same decision to continue. 


14 thoughts on “The Truth About Giving Up on Writing

  1. Wow. This is so powerful, I’m not sure how to respond to it. It hits home in so many ways! I think all of us as writers write for some version of the child we once were. Our culture has changed, but I feel the base questions of human nature don’t change that much. I try to address the basic questions kids go through in adolescence–who am I? Am I good enough? Will people like me for who I am or must I pretend?

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting! I agree! Most writers I’ve met are writing to the child they were, at least to some extent. Writing is where so many of us found peace. Excellent points!

  2. Good points and great to get such a personal view. Writing evolves, writers evolve. It happens to all (most?) of us a I think. I started out writing lots of articles to cut my teeth and earn a wage. Now I do reviews because I enjoy them and write books because they were my real reason to come into the game (and they earn my a wage now too!). Perhaps in another ten years my writing work will change again? I hope so – movement is life 🙂

    1. Thank you 💜 Yesterday would’ve been her 63rd birthday. Thought it was a good day to address writing about her loss.

      I appreciate you reading and sharing your thoughts! I think we all consider giving up sometimes. 💜 It’s amazing how many keep going! 💜

  3. Thanks for sharing your powerful journey. I think many of us do wonder if we’re wasting our time, or if we’re spending more on our independent publications than we will ever earn back in sales. What’s been helpful to me is to make two important decisions:

    1) Define my own terms for success. The standards might be copies sold, profits earned, starred reviews. being able to quit your day job and make it work. But these are things the author can’t control, so I’ve defined my success as completing the things I set out to write, and self-publishing them. Nobody can stop me or gate-keep me to prevent that success.

    2) Be prepared to stop when I know in my heart I’ve done what I wanted to do. Writing is my life-long identity, and I’m proud of how I’ve grown my skills. But, after 40 years, retirement is approaching. I’ll probably be prepared to set my pen down about the same time.

  4. This is well timed for me, as I’ve been struggling with this myself (as I know so many creative types have). My sales have never really justified the time and energy it takes to create, no less produce the books, so I’d actually convinced myself it was selfish for me to spend my free time writing. After all, I was the only one really benefiting from it.

    I’m finally at a point where I’ve realized that’s okay. Not only is it all right for me to get these worlds and characters out of my head and into the world, it’s healthy. I may never get rich doing it, but I don’t define success by how much money I made. Yes, of course sales can be exciting. But never so much as being able to hold the fruits of my labors in my hands.

    I think it’s akin to having children. Nobody has a child because they think they’re going to get rich off of it. It’s a product of love, something borne from your own being that you’ve brought into the world.

    Okay, I’m well off into babbling land now. I just wanted to say, thank you for this post and I wish you the absolute best of luck on your endeavors, whatever your personal metric for success may be.

  5. My freaking goodness have I ever thought of giving up lol….

    Yes.. I get to where I want to delete the blog, all my poetry and then I get to thinking it’s kind of freeing. But then I think of more to write… I’m in a total love/hate relationship with my writing.

    Awesome post by the way.

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