Frustration and the Writer’s Life: Is It Time to Quit?

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Permanent neck ache from hours at the desk. Fifty thousand words on paper. Now a hundred thousand. Forty hours of editing. Rejections. A year gone.

You want to be a writer. Your passion is writing. Has been since you were a kid. But actually going for it can be soul-crushingly frustrating. Sometimes, when you see a cursor blinking against a white screen, you can’t help but wonder: Is it time to quit? Would I be happier if I didn’t have this hanging over me?

Frustration is part of the writer’s life. In fact, if you’re on the sidelines thinking about diving into the business of fiction writing and you’re not okay with alone time and disappointment—you might be delving into the wrong business. I might sound like a cynic, but it’s only because I’ve been there. Most have. So how, in the immortal words of Kenny Rogers, do you “know when to walk away, know when to run”?

Play: Would You Rather….

Would you rather never spend another day trying to figure out what happens next? Would you rather never decide what the villain’s motives are? Or why the hero is so hung up on the past? Or how Grammy draws out her “a’s”? In other words, are you over storybook land?

If you answered “yes”: take a break.

Or does the thought of never getting to “the end” bother you more than the process? Do you find that your characters talk to you when you’re on a run or in the shower or about to drift off to sleep? Would you rather get to the end than emancipate yourself from the effort?

Verdict: take a break…then keep going.

Get Perspective

In 1973, Stephen King was an aspiring novelist working several jobs to pay the bills. His wife rescued a tattered manuscript from the garbage can and told him he had to keep at this writing thing. That manuscript was Carrie.

Beatrix Potter self-published The Tale of Peter Rabbit with an initial print run of 250 copies. It’s now sold 45 million. And I just took my son to the movies *this year* to see the adaptation on the silver screen.

This writing business takes time and effort.

Insanity is Trying the Same Thing Again and Again….

Ask yourself a hard question: is my work good enough? Asking this isn’t about questioning your self-worth, it’s about taking a cold, hard look at your writing skills. Is there room for improvement? Is this your best story, told in the most fascinating way possible?

A best-selling author once gave me the following nugget of advice. She said it was “best to not be published than to be published badly.” What she meant is that if your first piece of work isn’t good, that legacy will follow you and make it hard for your next book to be successful. Debut with your strongest work. You’ll never be that shiny new thing more than once.

Before you give up, dip into the writer’s toolbox. Find critique partners. Join a writers’ organization. Take a class. READ MORE! Improve your craft and increase your chance for success.

Can You Live Without It?

Finally, ask yourself if you can live without writing.

Yes, writing is hard. Sometimes it’s like pulling teeth. Other times you feel brilliant. Like, scary brilliant. Then you’re brain dead. And the cycle repeats. Writers write. If you feel compelled to do it but nonetheless are frustrated, just realize everyone goes through it. Reach out. Find sympathetic ears. Get the support you need.

And remember: only people who finish novels get published. Half manuscripts, great ideas, and plots will never end up on a shelf. Quitting is the end. Persevering means you’re still on the journey.

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About Author

Mary is a young adult writer and archaeologist. By day she teaches at a local college, and by night she writes about the adventures of adolescence.


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