Tuesday, September 18, 2007

To Quit or Not to Quit, That Is the Question

The other day I said to myself: why not give up The Dream of writing fiction? Why do you want to do it anyway? (I was speaking to myself in a pretty mean tone of voice.)

Because I like to read good books, I said timidly, and I would like to give a good book to someone who would like to read it.

But you don’t love writing fiction enough to do it every day, Mean Me said. If you did nothing would stop you.

Sad Sack Me said: But I still want to. I do take a stab at it every few months. I write other stuff in the meantime, to keep my hand in. And when Mr. Blue’s in preschool…

There’ll be other excuses then. Besides, what great difference would another middlebrow novel make in the world? Not that I’m saying you should quit writing completely. You can keep the blog, and the lessons you write for the church (judging from what people tell you) help more people than a novel ever would. You’re just making yourself dissatisfied if you think success = publishing a book.

I don’t, Sad Sack Me protested. Don’t get me wrong, I do want to be published. It was cool to get a story published in a Real Literary Journal (even if my pay was 1 copy of the magazine). But mainly I want to do this hard thing, to make up stories to get at a deeper truth about the most complicated of things: human beings. I’ve always wanted that, ever since I was a little girl. Why would God give me the ability to write (I know I have the ability, if I can shake off this crippling perfectionism) and the desire to write, if He didn’t want me to do it?

Mean Me sighed. Have it your way, she said.

(And then tonight I picked up the [recently deceased] author Madeleine L’Engle’s book A Circle of Quiet, in which she says that during her thirties, she couldn’t write until the children were asleep, and then she was so tired she would often fall asleep with her head on the typewriter. A decade during which she, a published novelist, sold nothing she wrote. So she decided to quit, and having made that decision, burst into tears. Then she realized that in the back of her mind she was thinking about how to write about failure. She opened the typewriter back up and said she was going to have to write whether she ever published anything again or not.)


  1. Wow. That story about Madeleine L'Engle is really inspiring. I think all the time about giving up the dream. And then I don't. And then I think about it some more. Hearing stuff like that really helps.

  2. Sis,

    Keep writing - at least you know how. I mean, I am going to attempt my hand at writing a book, and I have bad grammer.

    You've got the gift. never quit.