Is It Ever Time To Quit?


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Hmmm … maybe I should tell him to quit.

By Elizabeth Shore

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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9 Comments

  • Madeline Iva
    October 1, 2014 at 7:55 am

    I have a horrible time quitting, even if I’m hating something. It feels so wrong. But it’s such a relief to quit a horrible job. It’s good to lighten the load, and make way for your passions.

    Speaking of which — Now, quitting on your passion is something else. I think it’s definitely important to think about balance and the fun factor. When your passion continuously sucks up all your time and effort–but never gives as much back in the way of reward, then maybe it is time to take a break.

    That said, many people who want to be writers–over 80%–eventually quit. They want crazy things like health and retirement benefits, children, a home…It’s a huge risk not to quit. To be after twenty plus years still trying to get on. You risk being labeled loser with a capital L by others–but even worse your own self-loathing quotient can be very high.

    • Elizabeth Shore
      October 1, 2014 at 9:38 am

      In the Finnish language there’s a word called “sisu,” which has no exact equivalent in English but essentially it means determination and persistence and never giving up. My DH has sometimes said I have too much sisu, because I’ll exercise when I’m sick or write when I’m exhausted. But damn, I hate quitting, too. It feels sometimes like being stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place, though. I’ve gotten so sick of being rejected in the past but I just couldn’t quit.

      There’ll be ups and down on the horizon – it’s the nature of the beast. But I agree with you Madeline … quitting on our passion just isn’t going to happen.

  • Megan Morgan
    October 1, 2014 at 8:07 am

    I finally hit the jackpot this year, I got a three book deal with a big publisher and numerous other things published–but I’ve been writing for about twenty-five years now (good gosh, do I feel old) and I can’t tell you the number of times I ‘quit’ through the years. So many times when I cried ‘that’s it, I’ll never be a writer, I’m done!’ and threw down the pen. I even declared it publicly once or twice, telling friends and family ‘I’m through, I mean it this time!’

    But writing isn’t just something I do, it’s who I AM, and those weeks or months when I turned my back on it were painful and empty. I’ve always had dreams about some shining future where I’m a published author and when I took those dreams away from myself, everything sucked. The muse would always charm me back, no matter what. Every time I’d give it up, I’d come back shaking my head at myself and get back to work. I’m prone to tantrums I guess, but writing is a parent that’s patient with me.

    I guess the point is, if it’s in you, there’s always another wall to look behind.

    • Elizabeth Shore
      October 1, 2014 at 9:34 am

      Congrats, Megan!! You’re the poster child for not quitting.

      I agree wholeheartedly with what you said. Writers are who we are so we simply can’t give up on ourselves, no matter how dark and lonely we feel at times.

  • Kemberlee
    October 1, 2014 at 8:29 am

    When we want something badly enough, we will do what it takes to make it happen. ‘Give up’, ‘quit’, and ‘can’t’ aren’t in our vocabularies. They all just translate to ‘won’t’. We can do what we want if we put enough effort into it, which includes more research if necessary, and actually listening to the messages we’re give rather than going on the offensive over advice which is meant to help us improve our work.

    When we send out rejections, they’re never to discredit the author or their work. We reject based on the book not being ready for the submission process, then outline the top 2-3 reasons why. Most publishers won’t do that, but instead send the canned response: “Not right for us.” We feel giving reasons is one of our ways of giving back to the authors, by helping them understand why they’re getting rejected…the book isn’t ready. Of course, it’s all just our opinion, but still a valid one

    In the rare instance, we get replies back about how dare we say this or that about the work; it’s perfect as is. Those are the people in the ‘won’t’ side of the business. And probably won’t be published unless they self publish. Not that there’s anything wrong with selfies, but doing so because you’re rejected by publishers and won’t listen to advice is the wrong way to publish.

    I say never give up, on anything…writing, dreams, goals, etc. Don’t say can’t because it just means won’t. If you want it, go for it, and keep going for it until it happens. I go back to the first line — If we want something badly enough, we’ll make it happen.

    • C. Margery Kempe
      October 1, 2014 at 9:24 am

      I think that’s a really kind and valuable thing to do for writers, Kem.

    • Elizabeth Shore
      October 1, 2014 at 9:32 am

      I once waited an entire year for a response to a ms I’d submitted to an agent. When she finally got back to me she wrote, “I really have no good reason for passing on this excellent manuscript, but in the end I’m going to pass.” Wtf? Disappointing to say the least, and frustrating. The fact that you at Tirgearr take the time to provide feedback is invaluable. Bravo to you guys, Kemberlee. You keep us writers from wallowing in despair and never giving up.

      • Kemberlee
        October 1, 2014 at 10:22 am

        I submitted a book to Berkeley Jove back about 15 years ago, when they were still Berkeley Jove. After a year, I rang to check status because letters weren’t being responded to, nor email. I got the editor, Cindy Wang, who said it was on her desk and since I’d called, she was taking it home that night to read, and to please ring back same time next week. I did as instructed and rang back. Same story, with the added, “It’s been crazy around here. I’m sure you understand. Ring me next week.” Next week she wouldn’t take my calls. I found out a few months later they were moving offices, then rumors abounded about them hooching out stacks of unread submissions. Photos showing dumpsters behind the old offices with unopened packaged in them. I sent a letter 00 a couple letters — requesting the return of my work in the SASE provided. Nothing. This went on for at least another year. To this day, I’ve never got a rejection, but the funny thing is that I submitted again, just for the laugh, after the move and after Cindy left…we’re talking maybe 5 years later (7 years after the initial submission)…and I received my package back with a letter saying the book was already under consideration!!!

        That’s almost as funny as submitting to Richard Curtis (UK office). I received a request for the full manuscript, which I duly sent. Two weeks later, I received a *crumpled* form rejection letter with the box ticked “We do not represent children’s books”. Umm . . . Dude, this is romance and you asked for it! Sheesh. I rang the office asking if I could resend the manuscript, as I believed the book was wrongly rejected. I was told it was already rejected and they couldn’t look at it again (!!!!).

        We do what we do at our place because I’m also an author, and I know what authors have had to go through for years trying to get published. With small presses so available these days, there’s no reason why we can’t give a little more personal service, and there’s no reason why authors should have to practically beg for their work to be seen…anywhere. If there’s a slush pile 5 feet high on the floor, stacks of them, get more first readers. If you don’t have any, get some. It’s really not rocket science.

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