I Quit

You’ve seen Wonderboys, right? Michael Douglas plays a writer who hasn’t been published in years. Throughout these years of non-publication, however, he is writing. He’s writing a magnum opus that ends up getting blown away into a river, thanks to Robert Downey Jr. Once the monstrous manuscript is gone, Douglas is asked what his book was about, to which he replies: “I don’t know.” When further questioned, he admits, “I couldn’t stop.”

I’ve been working on my novel for a year and a half, and it has—for the past six months—become the bane of my existence. I dreaded working on it. I wallowed in my own guilt because the last thing I wanted to do was write. I hated my characters. I was sick of my story. I didn’t want to do it anymore. So last week I decided to quit. And a wave of peace and joy swept over me as I moved my novel’s folder off my desktop and into my hidden documents. The peace increased as I realized I could leave that story behind. Finally, I could stop.

By no means does this mean I will stop being a writer. Instead, I’ve been filled with random, weird ideas for new projects. Apparently, my mom thinks I’m funny, so while I was home for Christmas, she asked me why I didn’t write a funny book. I responded that I don’t like reading funny books, so I probably wouldn’t like writing a funny book. Then I realized I was lying to myself. I do like funny books. I adore S#%# my Dad Says and Yoga Bitch (which I just finished; review forthcoming). And I do like writing funny blog posts, so why not try for a funny book?

So my head is now filled with strange images and ideas for stories. There is a certain amount of anxiety with starting from scratch. Will I be able to know new characters after having spent so many months with the old ones? Will I be funny if I’m actually trying to be funny? Will I be able to put together a cohesive funny story at all? I’m a writer, so I doubt myself almost every day. However, I also have faith. Faith that I can be funny; faith that I am a good writer; and finally, faith that these two beliefs were given to me for a reason: to use them.

Yes, there will be outcry from my writers’ group, who will never know how my 460-page, never-ending-a-la-Wonderboys manuscript would have ended. There will be the shaking of heads from my doubters as they mutter, “What a failure.” But I don’t feel like a failure. I feel strong, because I have finally admitted to myself that my year and a half experiment is over. Like Michael Douglas, I have let it go, and I’m ready to move on to better things. Let’s face it: I’m already a better writer now than I was a year and a half ago. Maybe my old manuscript was just practice for the one I’m going to start soon. I have been reborn, and it feels good to say, “I quit … but I am ready to begin again.”

11 thoughts on “I Quit

  1. ?!!(/6&3-,&@5. S*^*\_

    I understand completely, but am stressed our not knowing how it ends.

    I know whatever you work on next will be wonderful.


  2. WOW. Amazing jump off a cliff in order to fly. I recently read Alan Alda’s autobiography Never Have Your Dog Stuffed. I know. Crazy title. It is a beautifully written, funny and touching book. I think you can have both. I highly recommend reading his prose. I was stunned by his talent. He’s been writing since he was a kid growing up in burlesque with his parents. (It’s in the library.)
    YOU are a writer. You can’ help it. Lot’s of people dump their first effort. You are funny and charming and very observant. You should write something, even a story, about trying to find the heart of Phoenix!

  3. We all have trainer novels hidden away, Sara. Good for you for realizing you’d hit a wall. Maybe the ms is needed practice, maybe it just needs time to rest. The important thing is that you’re starting something new. Be sure to read what Maggie Stiefvater says about the decades it took for The Scorpio Races to work–it’s in the Author’s Note at the end. Sometimes the story just has to wait until the teller is skilled enough to tell it.

  4. I’m excited for you, Doll! What a fun time to stretch your creative wings. I do love your humor and think that many others already do, too, on you blog. But whatever you write, I know that God is using your talents and will bless your efforts. All my Love, Mom

  5. Congratulations on discovering what you need right now. Sometimes shifting gears is the magic that keeps the words flowing. And who knows, with some time away from the original novel, you may be able to look back on it and fall in love with it again.

  6. I am so excited and proud of you for making this move, BooBoo, and feel a shared big sigh of relief with you about your decision. Yea! Let the tension gooooooo! Love you.

  7. Everybody—even the best and most successful writers—has a ms. in the back of their desk drawer that they just didn’t know how to finish. I have one myself, which I abandoned about four years ago, and have written four books since. HOWEVER….I was recently struck with how easily I can fix it. So—I have another book to write before that, but sometime this summer I will dust off the old ms. (well, I can’t really DUST it because it’s hidden away on the computer) and breathe fresh new life into it. The point being: I’m sure there is MUCH GOOD in the ms. you just kissed goodbye. Leave it alone for a while—more than a year—and write other things. Maybe it will never again take up much space in your brain, and if not, so be it. But I—much older than thee—don’t have regrets for anything I’ve done, but HUGE regrets about thing I did NOT do. So remember your 460-page effort (that’s a hell of a long unfinished book!) did not die; you’ve just tucked it in bed with blankets up to the chin for a time. Meantime, much luck on whatever you tackle next.

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