Have you ever heard of Maurizio Seracini? Me neither. But I saw a fascinating documentary about him over the weekend, and it got me thinking about the concept of quitting. I don’t mean obvious stuff, of course. We really should ditch bad habits like smoking or binge drinking or … I don’t know … collecting comic books past age 8. But what about quitting something you really really really want. Like trying to get published, for example. Should you ever have a true heart-to-heart with yourself and admit that maybe the 10,000 reject letters piled up in your desk drawers (another habit worth ditching, I dare say. Those reject letters are definite buzz kills) are trying to tell you something?
While pondering that question, let me tell you about Seracini. He’s a forensic detective of Italian Renaissance art. He’s also a scientist and engineer, having developed several non-invasive methodologies of art analysis. In 1975 he became involved in a project to find a lost masterpiece by Leonardo DaVinci titled The Battle of Anghiari. This painting was made in 1505 but lost 50 years later during the reconstruction of a hall where it’s known the painting had hung. So what the hell happened to it? Seracini has spent the better part of 30 years trying to figure that out. He’s overcome technology challenges, bureaucratic quibbling, and numerous false leads. He’s staked his entire reputation in the art world on asserting his claim that the painting still exists, lying preserved but behind one of the walls in Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio. But for everything Seracini has done, all the hypotheses, and papers, and endless searching, after 30 years he still hasn’t found it. He believes he knows where it is, but trying to prove his theory led to a massive uproar among those in the art world and his work has been stopped by bureaucracy since 2012. Seracini says those trying to make him quit only inspire him to try harder. But for 30 years?
What if that painting is supposed to remain lost? What if Seracini, instead of searching for a painting he still hasn’t found, had quit that effort and used his illustrious wisdom for the analysis and education of art that does exist? On ensuring that future generations retain the knowledge Seracini worked so hard to acquire? Should he have thrown in the towel on the lost Leonardo, finally cried Uncle and declared that he quits?
It’s difficult to say when enough is enough, or whether we ever should. There are lots of writers who’ve gone before us who tried and tried and never did get published. Their dreams weren’t realized. Of course, this applies to anything. I have a wonderful friend who used to work with me in the corporate world. At the end of 2009 he was caught up in a company-wide layoff, received a severance package, and bid his corporate life adieu. He decided he was going to become an actor. Today, four years into the dream, he’s an actor. Oh, did I mention he’s not making any money? He’s not contributing to a retirement plan, pays through the nose for insurance, and were it not for his savings he’d be living under a bridge. Should he quit? You can probably guess his answer: a big fat NO.
My friend, however, is a single guy. He has no family to support, no kids to put through college, so in that sense it’s easier for him to pursue his dream than someone who does have those obligations. But he gets frustrated and discouraged and has, in darker moments, wondered if he should “get a job.” Except what if the next unpaid gig turns out to be his big break? What if that next manuscript you write is the one that puts you on the publishing map? Then again, what if it’s not? How many times do you hit your head against the wall before deciding it’s a good idea to stop?
I saw an interview once with, of all people, Tiger Woods. It was done prior to his tumble down that long dark hole when he was at the top of his game. He’d been acquiring titles with the ease of a true master and was asked if all those wins made him think about retiring. Woods’ response was that titles don’t mean anything in terms of his decision when to hang up the cleats. “I’ll keep playing golf,” he said, “as long as it’s still fun.”
There you have it: wisdom from Tiger Woods. But hey, it seems like the right approach. Whether published or not, as long as the act of writing and creating is still fun, let’s not ever call it quits.
And while we’re at staying with the program, why not hit that little follow button to your right. If you don’t quit on us here at Lady Smut, we sure as heck won’t be quitting on you. Awesome new posts every day of the week.