Every so often I get to conversing with an old friend who has recently found out about my adventures in writing. Although they generally express little interest in actually reading the books I’ve written (which I’m totally cool with…I’m not sure I would read them either) they often congratulate me merely on completing the task.
I generally shrug my shoulders and change the subject, as it’s a rather odd thing to be congratulated about and I have no clue on how to respond to such comments. I mean, seriously…congratulations for spending a bunch of time behind your computer typing random words. The quality of the end product is never really part of the equation, just that there is an end product. I find myself feeling rather weird about accepting such congratulatory remarks.
I mean, sure, it’s not like we don’t get such appreciation for other things where we just complete something. Long distance runners, for instance. I mean, there’s a very small percentage of people who run a marathon that actually believe they’re going to win. It’s quite the feat, however, to actually complete one. Congratulations are definitely necessary there. The amount of dedication that goes into play to make sure you don’t quit running until you finish is pretty incredible.
And when I start making those connections is where I really begin to feel guilty for receiving any form of applause merely for completing my work. I often do like to think about writing like a marathon. The dedication to the task is exhausting and very often writers do hit something very akin to ‘the wall’ as they make their way through to the end of a novel. We tend to call it writer’s block.
But here’s the difference between me and a marathon runner (I can’t speak for other writers). I do quit. Every day, it seems. Every single freaking day I find myself having to convince myself to un-quit. I love writing, I seriously do, but the exhaustion and, ultimately, the depression of rejection that occurs, well, let’s just say that there’s a lot of internal drama that occurs, which to an outsider would appear to be rather whiney. And…to be honest, it seems rather whiney to those of us who have insight into my brain as well.
I quit. Although it could be based on the unfulfilled need to quit my real job, there’s really no other way of saying it. I quit. A marathon runner who quits during the marathon does not complete the marathon. Completing a marathon is dedication. It means you stuck with something until the finish and don’t stop until you got there. My marathon allows for long periods of self-pity where I do absolutely nothing and then short bursts of actual real work, followed by complete disappointment because I just read what I wrote yesterday. It’s quite possible I spend more time trying to find a way to announce my departure from writing (you know, before actually having a writing career) than I do any actual writing.
I’m the Peter Parker of writers….(for the uninitiated, Peter Parker is the real identity of Spider-man, a character known for quitting on a semi-regular basis).
In the end, I come to the realization that even if I were to quit officially writing, I’d still be writing, which means that I should probably just stop whining and get back to work. Which, unfortunately, isn’t all that different from the reason Peter Parker straps back on the web shooters. (I don’t really care for Spider-man all that much…so, comparing myself to him is even more depressing)
The real amusing thing about this whole stupid post I’m writing here is that I, too, congratulate artists on just fulfilling their creative whims. I’m always quite proud to find that my friends are working toward mastering their chosen crafts and, even if I haven’t actually seen the fruits of their labors, will congratulate them up and down.
There is a certain pride that fills you when you hear your friends are following their dreams…perhaps it’s some sort of vicariously attained achievement. Your friend has just played drums on Jimmy Kimmel? Crap, feels almost like you did just by association…or…maybe you feel like crap because you have yet to read your slam poetry on Letterman…
There is a purpose to this post, however. I’ve been quitting writing for as long as I can remember. Somewhere around second grade, I think, is when I first quit trying to be an author. I’ve been quitting ever since. Each time I quit, there are shorter and shorter periods inbetween quitting and starting back up again (there also seems to be shorter periods between starting up again and quitting again, but that’s a different subject). I quit so often now that it doesn’t even seem like I ever really quit at all (except for about one week every few months). My disappointment in myself has now moved away from being truly disappointed in my art, and gone toward being disappointed in my inability to figure out how to find an audience. My reason for quitting has shifted from believing I’m incapable of ever actually being able to write something I’m proud of to a decision that I’ve spent too much time on trying to make this hobby into something more.
In other words…it gets better.
I’m horribly critical of my own work. The things you don’t want to tell me about while reading my books…I was well aware of them well before you were and cried for long periods of time whilst I tried to figure out how to be better at not doing that. And then ultimately climbed back on the horse and tried again. But I do believe I’ve achieved success…even if it isn’t financially backed.
Last year I released two books which I wrote over a period of five years (not counting the incubation period that happened over the ten year period before them). This year I’ve got three manuscripts sitting on my hard drive that I have written over the last 12 months which I intend to release during 2014, as well as at least one more. I’m now officially quitting often enough that my productivity is growing exponentially. And I’m pretty happy with that.
I’m planning on releasing at least twice as many books this year as last (although I’m already behind schedule, so it’s possible it won’t happen) and none of these books even started being written until last year. I feel weird about being congratulated for writing a novel, but then for whatever reason, feel proud because I’ve written three already in the course of a year (well, technically one’s a novella, but I still count it).
I do quit, and I have very little reason to believe I won’t continue to quit for the foreseeable future…it’s an issue with chronic crippling depression. But even through all that ‘pain’, I find myself feeling quite proud that I’ve even done anything, knowing that the immediate (if ever) financial return on my investment would be absolutely nothing (in fact, I’m still quite in the negative).
Of course, once can’t complain about having folks eagerly awaiting the release of the next book…even if there are only two of you.
Oh, so, yeah…you’re probably still wondering about the point. Here it is, long rambling speech about nothing later…if you’re like me, you might have something you’ve been wanting to do for forever, like writing a book, running a marathon, making a cartoon, learning to play the violin, or whatever. You might look at the task and see it, as I did with writing, to be a completely insurmountable task. I stayed away from writing a book for years, even though it was something I dreamed of doing, purely because of how much work it seemed it would be.
And it is.
But it’s totally worth it.
Even if it sits in your dresser forever to avoid being rejected.
But…even though having someone tell you that your artistic expression sucks can break your heart…it’s actually pretty cool just to know that someone’s read it, or seen it, or listened to it, or whatever.
But seriously…my heart stops (like a man finding his wife in bed with another man) every time I see a new review has been posted, or even that someone else has started reading it. It’s even worse when it’s someone I know.
Yeah…actually…just thinking about that. I think I’m going to have to quit. It can’t be good for my heart.
Have a great Memorial Day weekend!
And have fun out there!