I Quit!

30 April 2013

From The Writer’s Guide to E-Publishing:

Last month, an author I’d not spoken to in a while came to mind. She was someone I’d spoken with professionally, we’d read each other’s blogs, and I truly enjoyed her books. I began to wonder if I’d somehow lost another colleague’s posts in the sea of social networking I do every month. (Sadly, it happens.) So, I decided to look her up and find out if she had any new books out.

I couldn’t find her Facebook page or profile.

Her website had been deleted.

Her books were no longer on Amazon.

I started to doubt my recollection. I hadn’t spoken to her in a few months. Did I have her name confused with someone else’s? Had I written her blog address down wrong?

I emailed her, not at all confident I would hear back. I worried that she’d died or suffered some personal catastrophe. How could someone vanish?

She wrote back the same day. She’d quit writing completely, unpublished her books, let her website expire, and gotten the hell out of Dodge. I was stunned. She was a talented author. She paid for wonderful cover art, gotten professional editing, and went about social networking like a pro. She’d even successfully signed with an agent.

Her reasons for quitting were varied: home issues, time constraints, poor sales, a few unsupportive indie colleagues, a couple of stinging reviews, and feeling like her books didn’t fit into any recognisable niche. She said to me: “It was an experiment, and it failed.”

. . . .

Anyone I’ve mentioned the situation to has said something like, “Oh, she probably just needs a break. She’ll go back to it someday.” To them I can only say: I recognised the despair in her letter. This wasn’t a temporary setback. She did, indeed, quit. Forever. For good. She said thinking about her writing made her literally sick. Ouch.

I felt incredibly sad at her story, but in truth, I understand. Being a writer is hard. Self-publishing is even harder. We indies have to know a bit of everything, be a bit of everything. We rarely take enough time off. We often spend too much time watching the rankings, checking our stats, feeling elated when our books sell, but no matter the number, we secretly feel disappointed we don’t sell more.

My friend was crushed under the weight of expectations, disappointment, pressure, and criticism. Who among us can’t sympathise with that? Who here hasn’t felt crippling self-doubt?

Link to the rest at The Writer’s Guide to E-Publishing and thanks to James for the tip.

The Business of Writing

96 Comments to “I Quit!”

  1. So sad. One does hope she just needed a break.

  2. That’s an uncomfortable story to hear. Three times in my life (at roughly decade intervals) I’ve quit everything – relationship, job, home and moved to another area. The only thing I haven’t done that with is writing, and that’s probably because I haven’t given writing my all yet. How insane does that make me?

    I do hope that you friend comes back to it – once you can elbow past the negative people, writing is the one place where you can be yourself.

    Ouch. That’s all I can say. Ouch!

  3. “Who here hasn’t felt crippling self-doubt?”



    This is LESS horrible than we might imagine.

    “it was an experiment and it failed.”

    Isn’t that ok?

    I gave it a go, and it didn’t work. I walked away.

    The writing isn’t all it is. It’s just the same with having to play Sunday nights in vile locations when trying to learn not to die on stage.

    She made the choice, (maybe) of her kids. I’d make that one over writing in a heartbeat.

    This is not the disaster that it appears at first reading, although I do admire the posters Catholic guilt:)

    I lied about the crippling self-doubt.


    • Quitting seems quite common; often when reading through old threads on writing boards from two or three years ago I’ve clicked on someone’s book links and they’re sitting on Amazon either never having sold a copy or way down past a million in the rankings, and the writer has never released another book.

      The unusual part is removing all the books; most just sit there, forgotten and forlorn, where they might suddenly become the next big seller if the right person ever finds them and tells all their friends.

    • It sounds like there was/were too many blows to the animating spirit. Having colleagues and strangers take out after one, is no problem for the hardened and muscular.

      But many write from the rootstock which is vulnerable to cold and freeze and draught. Wounds to the spirit, which is ever a child, take time to heal. This writer may be back in the same or a different way of creating again.

      For now, just rest. Repair. And strengthen by being with those who care about you and your work. When we are together with like-kind, even rootstock that is easily written upon, makes a new sea wall that holds in good and strong ways, that allows the work to continue without damage to the nucleus.

      Just my .02 of experience interior and in listening to other creatives… I associate stopping creating with being stunned as by a blow, and/or with a broken heart. Broken hearts can be mended…not without suture lines, but ably so, effectively so, stronger next time. One comes out of the stun in time and returns to hearing, seeing the creative force well up in oneself. That, the creative force, is constant. What we do with it, will be up to us as we seek to be stronger and stronger.

      Many of the most easily written upon are massively talented. There is extra care and learning, to undertake then… to preserve the gift in ways those more easily armored naturally or through having garnered such, do not need.

      Just my .02

      • “Just my .02”


        You’re making me think, hard.

        Nicely put.


      • USAF,
        You happened to write just what I needed to read today. And you wrote it very well.


      • Beautifully and compassionately said. Thank you!

        • I knew one writer, just an online connection and not a personal friend, who had a slip of the foot in mouth on a popular writers blog but before she knew it she was vilified. She didn’t mean any insult, just an opinion that probably should have been more thought out before it flew, and the popular writer was pretty metered with his response, but his followers went after her en-masse everywhere she hung out. Mysteriosuly enough, her single indie release started getting horrid 1-stars. She dropped off the map for about 6 months I think; website, FB, Gmail, Blog, everything was gone overnight.

          I noticed she’s back up recently and, in her abscence, got about 4 more great looking books done and up. Happy ending, but it’s important to stay objective about this stuff. Especially considering how many cowardly, dickhead drive-by artists are out there.

      • +10 for care, USAF. Kindness always works.

  4. That’s sad, but I just don’t see the point in unpublishing books. The investment is done. You never know when one of them might hit, and all it takes is one.

    • I suspect the point is both symbolic and personal.

    • Agreed, but I can see the other side too: there’s a sense of closure that probably one wouldn’t have if the books were still out there (potentially earning more stinging reviews).

    • I suspect the “wound to the spirit” (to use USAF’s phrase) didn’t come from the reception to her works — every creative knows & expects adversity — but from lack of support in her own personal life.

      A lot of people come to writing, or other creative endeavors, expecting it to make up for shortcomings in their personal lives. A crappy job, say, or a lack of friends, or parental disapproval. Or because of the time & effort required to be good at something creative, those grew worse. So when the adversity in the writing world got too much for this writer, she unpublished as a “so there!” to the online world. (The online world far too often didn’t notice that person to begin with, but a person has to make some kind of gesture like that to preserve his/her dignity.)

  5. I stopped writing when my kids were little, because there just wasn’t the time and creativity to both write and raise two mildly special-needs kids. (Yeah, I know, some people have done it, but I couldn’t.) Now that my kids are in college and don’t need me (as much), I’ve decided to try writing again. I don’t know that anything will come of it, but it’s always worth a try.

  6. Hmmm. I’m the never-give-up type. I’ve been known to announce in a moment of stress: “I give up!” But it’s never true. Once the emotions subside, I always have another idea or avenue to try that…just…might…WORK!

    It means that I do tend to bash myself against walls for too long before stopping. On the other hand, I also achieve goals I might not, if I could be discouraged. I almost said “easily discouraged.” Which had me laughing. If I really want something, if it’s really important, I simply do not quit.

  7. I know a couple of friends like this who also quit, though they were done in by traditional publishing’s continual rejections/pressures. Sometimes I look back down that road and sense the hundreds of people who were destroyed by it, whose names we never learned and whose books we’ll never read. :/

  8. No idea about her personal situation, but a lot of writers seem to be writing with their primary goal to be either tradionally published or become a mildly\wildly successful writer.

    Life is too short, and if you’re not writing because you love it, regardless of whether anyone buys your books or not, you ought to find some other interest that you do love.

    • Yeah, I’ve met a few writers who told me “If I don’t get famous, I see no point in writing.” Usually, I don’t like their work. There’s no heart in it.

      Someone this hurt, though, probably did love it, but couldn’t bear to have it insulted. Unfortunately, nothing in life can escape that except maybe doing things you don’t care if people insult.

    • Brad, the point of writing is communication. I just don’t buy this idea that the genuine writer will write regardless of whether he is read or not, and anyone who doesn’t is not a true writer. That’s a Hollywood biopic view.

      • I totally agree, and it’s a good thing I didn’t say that. I said nothing about a ‘genuine writer’ or ‘true writer’ — and I don’t believe there is any such thing.

        My point was towards the purpose of why you are writing vs. quiting.

        If I took up painting in order to become a famous painter or make a bunch of money, that would be foolish. I should take up painting because I like it, regardless if no one else likes my paintings or wants to buy them. I don’t believe writing is, or should be, a lot different.

      • True, it’s a cliche — but there’s truth in cliches. That’s how they become cliches.

      • I can’t handle a lot of feedback – just don’t have the energy for it.

        But I was going bonkers with NO feedback, as beta reader after beta reader (okay about 4 or 5 of them) dropped out.

        I am finding just the right amount of connection by posting a revised and polished scene from my WIP every Tuesday on the blog I created for that – and to put anything else that makes me think.

        I do care if no one comments – not that there is anything you can do about that – but I have been blessed with a small number of very good comments, and that keeps me going.

        I’d be writing anyway, but I have fewer days when I feel I’ll never find an audience.

        And a blog is a wonderful way to meet like-minded people (witness PV).

      • I have to agree with Brad. Writing isn’t just about communication. Some people write purely as self expression. For some people it is escapism. Some never share their work. Diarists are a good example. Few go on to publish their writings, but they are writers nonetheless. Many poets end up with thousands of unpublished poems, but that doesn’t stop them writing them. Few scripts ever get turned into film, but people still churn them out, and I can’t believe it is for that one shot in a hundred they get optioned. For me, writing is a personal pastime first and foremost. The rest is just icing.

        I have no idea what drove this person to quit writing. I just hope she ends up happy without writing in her life.

  9. Wow, just wow. To lose your lose your love for something to the point where you have such a visceral reaction.

    The “unsupportive indie colleagues” surprises me though. Lots of folks disagree, but most indies will bend over backwards to help.

  10. It’s fascinating to read this at a time when I wonder about whether it’s more important to focus on professional development that is more likely to bolster our family’s long-term economic security rather than marketing my independently published book. Sometimes, it feels foolish to invest so much time (and some money, too) into something that is at best a gamble. Even if my book has earned back what I spent in actual dollars, there is no accounting for the hours invested. I had the same dilemma when writing a dissertation, but decided that even if I was not planning to pursue an academic career, it was important to me to finish the degree I’d started. Unpublishing does make sense for privacy reasons, but it could also be used more strategically, especially if it is temporary (in the case of a book that will be “republished” in a new version).

  11. I may be a mite judgmental here, but it sounds like the sort of person who has a “woe is me” sort of attitude. Someone who wants people to feel sorry for them. I could be wrong. Also, unpublishing her books sounds more like taking her ball and going home. There’s some strong emotion behind doing that, whether that be a purposeful reason or merely strong desperation.

    It also sounds like, honestly, someone who wanted the pleasure of having written rather than the commitment of being a writer. When you mention bad reviews, bad sales and “unsupportive colleagues,” didn’t fit into a niche–that all smacks of unrealistic expectations. Having been in this position more times than I’m proud to admit, citing home issues and time issues sounds like the reasons I rationalize–or give myself permission–to quit something, likely ignoring the fact that it’s really the other three reasons.

    I kept thinking of DWS’ advice to keep writing, move on to the next project, don’t wallow in your sales numbers, and for the love of God don’t read the reviews! And if she has plenty of product and she feels like it’s not working, what about changing the cover art? Republishing the work? We don’t know if she tried that.

    I guess it could just be maybe the writing wasn’t very good and she realized that. That would be a brutally honest self-assessment.

    I don’t know how much sympathy I have for this person. I’ve quit things before and I regret it every time. Besides, if she really doesn’t want to do the work or can’t, then that just gives the rest of us who DO want to do it more room.

    • I guess it could be that she was mind-controlled by space aliens who forced her to fight in an intergalactic arena where she rose to the level of warlord after managing to rally the ragtag combatants and led them against their overlord masters, and the “I quit writing” thing was just her excuse because she’s too busy to actually devote time to it.

      I think there’s also a chance she’s busy evolving into a being of pure energy, so her lack of a corporeal body is making it difficult to interact with most writing implements, and she had to get one of her revolution buddies to actually type the email response for her.

      What we don’t know is if in the process of evolving she encountered other entities who had already evolved, or if those entities were friendly or utterly hostile to physical life. It’s possible she’s had to devote a lot of her time and energy defending us from malignant energy beings who want to consume the bioelectric energy every human possesses in order to further their nefarious but unknowable plans.

      It’s equally likely that instead of evolving into energy, she was so wounded in the revolution against the alien overlords that her entire body was replaced with advanced technology, and she’s now essentially a consciousness integrated into advanced alien computer technology, giving her access to all the information in known space.

      I wasn’t originally going to post any of these ideas, because I wasn’t sure if the process of jerking my knee was reliable enough to speculate on the motives of a human being I have never met in any way, especially since the only information I have comes from a secondary source. But then I read your post and figured it would be OK.

      • This might be sarcasm.

      • Sounds good to me! You should totally write that novel.

        But then I figure your point applies to every single post on this thread. Aren’t we all posting knee jerk reactions here?

      • As I said, I could be wrong, and maybe I am. I’m not trying to judge the individual, I don’t KNOW the individual. But I see the potential in a lot of creatives to do this very thing. To react this same way. There are two motivations for what she did, one positive, the other negative. Does it not behoove us to think about the negative motivation, to keep it from being ours?

  12. P.S. I wouldn’t be shocked if, after the broadcasting of this anecdote, this author didn’t lurk on threads like this to see how sorry people felt for her.

    • That’s pretty harsh.

    • Uncalled for.

      No, that’s not strong enough.

      Damn downright low, actually.

      We know about this because someone else wrote about it.

    • I agree with Becca and Keran, Indiana.

      • You are all correct, of course. It was harsh. An addendum perhaps uncalled for. I don’t know the person from Adam, and face to face I wouldn’t say that. Perhaps I rank in there with the unsupportive colleague crowd. I was reacting out of my own experiences with people doing that very thing.

        Please accept my humblest apology.

    • “I kept thinking of DWS’ advice to keep writing, move on to the next project, don’t wallow in your sales numbers, and for the love of God don’t read the reviews! ”

      Its funny you mention DWS –Dean Wesley Smith just finished a roughly 70k novel in 10 days and posted his day by day progress so his readers could follow along. He said he simply does not have time or interest to do anything other than write. He’ll check his sales once a month, that’s it. And yeah he doesn’t read his reviews. I believe he said his job is to write not read reviews.

      • DWS’ novel was a ghost writing job where payment was guaranteed and sales aren’t an issue for him because the named writer is the one who’ll worry about sales. It’s not analogous to the plight of the writer who decided to quit.

        • Dean has that attitude about all of his writing, not just one ghost novel. It’s professionalism he’s learned over the decades.

          • What Edwin said. As Dean just stated in his latest posts, “this is just another day of writing” All his days are the same. He approaches them in the same manner and attitude. Somebody commented on how that must be “punishing” to do everyday. Dean’s answer:

            Dean Wesley Smith (in his own words):

            “Not sure what is “punishing” about this pace to be honest. I just have a work ethic unlike most writers who think writing one book a year is a “punishing pace.” (grin)

            Caution out there folks. When you hear yourself use words like “crank out” or “punishing pace” or “impossible pace” and things like that, you are speaking out of a myth. Catch yourself. Just catching yourself and realizing you are doing it or thinking it will help your writing. Honest.”


          • You cannot become another person. DWS may in fact have the perfect attitude toward writing, but if your temperament is not his the best you may be able to manage is to wear that temperament externally rather than actually reaching whatever level he has where he just moves on to the next thing. Which is useful in a job interview, and in an office situation, but it won’t keep things from eating you up inside.

            Seriously “just become exactly like that guy over there” is one of the most useless bits of advice anyone can give to anyone, for any situation, ever, until the end of time, hallelujah and amen.

            • “just become exactly like that guy over there”

              That’s not what Dean is saying nor is that what his blog is about. He is the first one to say every writer is different of course. But Dean is saying writing itself is actually easier than the world makes it out to be and WE make it hard by putting all kinds of myths on top of the simple process.

              • He says it and I disagree with it.

                • No that is not what he says friend. In DWS’s blog he states that he doesn’t want people to be fooled by all these writing myths that’s all. In another post (look up ‘think like a publisher speed’) he says over and over “each writer is different”.
                  Actually you are welcome to go over to DWS site at the link Barzun gave (ghost novel day 9) and ask Dean himself. I’m sure he would be more than happy to respond to you about what he means.

                • PS Dean just responded on this matter and he verified what he says. But I don’t want to argue with you. I merely agree to disagree. I have to get back to work. Take care.

            • Preach it, brother!

              If I tried to hold myself to other people’s standards of writing, I would curl up into a ball of despair and get nothing done. I can strive to improve, but at the end of each day, Some Writing is better than No Writing. Better to write “unprofessionally” than not at all, say I. (I save my rants for editing. 😉 )

            • Well said. One size does not always fit all.

  13. Charles Grodin wrote a very good book where he touched on this. It’s called It Would Be So Nice If You Weren’t Here. As as actor he’s speaking more from an actor’s POV but it’s any creative person. The world is full of us and the treatment is harsh. The best talents are probably the ones too sensitive to press on. According to him.

  14. Kathlena Contreras

    In reply to a couple of the comments above, my own take is that this person (“Mabel” is good)wasn’t out for sympathy. Remember, the author of the article sought HER out, not the other way around.

    Not everybody is the same. Some people are very, very sensitive. It’s just the way they’re wired, they can’t help it. You do give something up in exchange for a thick skin. And maybe Mabel wasn’t willing to make that sacrifice, or maybe she couldn’t. I agree with USAF that perhaps Mabel’s sensitivity was what allowed her to be such a good writer.

    Saying, “She must not’ve been be a real writer if she quit writing” is just whistling past the graveyard. People who give something their all, whether it’s a relationship or anything else important, only to find that it isn’t giving back… well, they may be quite healthy and realistic in their assessment of the situation.

    May we all find enough success and/or satisfaction that we never feel like giving up. But as writers, I think most of us can at least put ourselves in the head of someone who did.

    • Not everybody is the same. Some people are very, very sensitive. It’s just the way they’re wired, they can’t help it.

      Yes. And if you don’t have a thick skin or the tenacity to go against the odds–because writing successfully for a living is not nearly as easy as working in an office–then you’re going to hang up your keyboard and walk away.

      I don’t have that thick a skin, but I do have an incredibly thick head if my mind is made up about something.

      I made my mind up about writing a long time ago, and even after not being able to write for more then ten years, I didn’t give up. Won’t give up until I’m dead, and if I find out you can write in the afterlife, well, then it really will be heaven, won’t it?

      • I wonder if, for Mabel, the downsides didn’t outweigh the joy. I didn’t have a thick skin when I first started seeking publication, but I developed one as the years went on, I think. If my skin hadn’t toughened fast enough, I might, too, have lost sight of the sheer delight of writing. For some, the scales tilt one way — for some, another. There but for the grace of God, etc.

    • I think you’re right in principle, but I thought there was a side of the coin people weren’t looking at. We should all, as creative writers, beware the temptation to give up. To have unrealistic expectations from this business. There is an angle of looking at it that is a cautionary tale about being too sensitive for our own good.

  15. I have a friend who quit writing. Burned her manuscripts and just stopped. Ten years later, she’s a very successful painter. Ours is not the only creative game in town. 🙂

  16. There’s nothing sadder than when someone gives up on a dream. If this was her dream, I’d encourage her to get back on the saddle and keep trying. With self-publishing, your book is immortal and you can keep learning, growing and iterating until you get the formula right. You can’t fail if you never give up.

    On the other hand, if she realized this wasn’t her dream, and writing didn’t make her happy, then kudos to her for recognizing it was the wrong path. Life’s too short to waste time pursuing activities for which you lack passion.

    The people who succeed at anything are those whose passion powers them through the inevitable trips, stumbles and punches in the gut.

    • Mark, you just said what I wanted to say, so ditto.

      The grind of an agent and publisher rejections nearly wore me down but then indie arrived. But I wasn’t going to quit regardless.

  17. That’s wonderful news. I’m completely, totally happy for her.

    She was a woman who felt miserable, stomach-churning unhappy at even the thought of writing. Just the thought of having her books available for sale shoved her into the pit of despair.

    And she broke free. She was able to quit, cold turkey, and she’s not looking back.

    So why wouldn’t I be happy for her? Life’s too short to do something you hate.

    If she had invested 20 years in a marriage to an abusive husband and walked away, would you feel sorry for her?

    How different is this?

    So here’s my advice, as welcome as a tax audit: Check in with her a month from now. See what she’s doing. See if she’s happy.

    If she’s still sad and feeling adrift, that might be a warning sign. But if she’s happy and relieved and digging in her garden, or doing something else she enjoys, be happy for her.

    God knows literature’s full of unhappy writers. Why be one more?

    • BINGO!

      We have to remember that what quitting means — and what taking down your work means — is different for every one of us.

      For those of us utterly emotionally invested in our stories, the idea of not just quitting, but erasing all that work we loved to do, erasing all memory of the joy writing has brought to us…. the very idea rends our souls in two. OH, how HORRIBLE something must have been to make her give up that wonderful thing!

      Except the very fact that she did erase all signs indicates that it probably didn’t mean the same thing to her as it does to us. Did she give up on a deep rooted dream? Or just on a really attractive whim? We can’t know that.

      It’s like when I quit grad school. I only went to grad school in the first place because I got offered a full ride for two years with an assistantship. When that money came to an end, I left. A friend, who lived and died by academia, was horrified and badgered me to get loans, and find grants and do anything and everything to complete that degree! “Oh, no no no no! You can’t destroy your life like that!”

      She couldn’t imagine anyone wanting anything out of life different from what she wanted.

      So anyway, when someone quits writing (or anything else) I try to remember that person, and remind myself not to be a narcissistic annoyance. (I also remind myself to be available for if the person really does need support too.)

      • People change. The idea that you’ll always be who you are now is scary indeed. I quit for about 6 years once. I had dreamed about being a published author from the time I was 12 and one day I just said, I’m done. I was glad to do it too–the relief was immense. Life changed more. I changed more. And now I’m writing again and publishing. I’m not who I used to be, anymore than I was then who I was before. But the fact is, I could decide to quit again tomorrow and if that’s what I wanted to do, I’d hope a bunch of people didn’t sit around and talk about how terrible it must be for me. I’ll say again, when I quit the first time, I abandoned writing fiction for 6 years and I loved every moment of not writing just as much as I’m loving every moment of writing now. I don’t believe I’m less of a writer just because I’m not absolutely consumed by the need to do it. No one person experiences life the same as another. I enjoy writing. Obsession? No. The world is full of creative outlets. I occasionally wrote a few stories over the last two years, for fun, and then realized if there was ever a chance for me to make my living doing something besides a day job, self-publishing would be it. It’s worked out so far and I’m happy to be writing again. Would I have come back to it as anything more than a one-story-every-few-years hobby if not for self-publishing? Doubtful.

      • I’m sorry, Camille. This wasn’t meant to be directed at you. I also didn’t mean to sound quite so vehement. 🙂

  18. Well, I used to paint and stopped.
    Now I write. I love writing and shall go on writing as long as I love it. That’s good enough for me. Reviews and sales do not affect this. I’ve always just moved on to the next book after a disappointment. The story-telling is the thing.

    • Excellent point.

      What is so different about writing as a creative activity?

      I know several people who ‘used to paint.’ They seem to be happily employed doing other creative endeavors.

      I know several people who were trained actors – and are not currently doing anything acting-wise: they gave it their best shot, and moved on with life. Ditto screenwriters and playwrights.

      For me, not writing would be a big deal. But it isn’t really that different from all the other things I can’t do any more.

      Maybe it’s because NOW writing and self-publishing are achievable.

  19. I think every writer needs to look into the abyss:

    What if I never succeed at all? What if I never sell a single copy? What if the only positive feedback I ever get is from fellow writers who are just trying to be encouraging? Do I still want to do it?

    Nearly every career, even successful ones, has periods which are like that. Periods in which ALL the feedback is negative, and worse, periods with no feedback whatsoever. And you never know how long they are going to last.

    One way to inoculate yourself from the negative effects of that is to quit pinning your dreams to a success that is out of your control.

    If you look into that abyss, and consider that you will never sell a single copy of your book, there are two things you can do: you can write the book anyway, or you can quit now.

    And if you quit…there is no saying that you won’t come back and write that book anyway. But if you don’t, you’ve saved yourself some trouble.

  20. The fact she unpublished her books, leads me to believe that both her heart and her spirit are broken right now.

    But, just because you walk away from writing, it doesn’t mean writing is going to walk away from you. I’m guessing in a couple of years, she will be back.

  21. Sounds like me and drawing. I discovered I had the talent of a dead hedgehog and that I wasn’t motivated enough to pay the price in years of work to get good and I quit. Best decision ever.

    Writing is the thing I come back to always. I can’t quit: it won’t let me.

    I wish this author well, that she’ll find the thing she comes back to always.

  22. This reminds me of author Laura Kinsale, an exceedingly popular romance author who just suddenly quit. She’s tentatively back now, but it took a long time. She writes briefly about the feelings here: http://www.laurakinsale.com/tea/detail/war/

  23. Well, she didn’t unpublish her books and I don’t know what has happened to her since, but best selling romance writer LaVyrle Spencer up and retired at what was probably the top of her game. She was 54 with a string of NYT bestsellers.

  24. “Keep moving forward.”
    Walt Disney

    And maybe she is.


  25. When my son died, I quit writing for exactly five years–to the day! Then picked it up again, thinking I’d get back to writing, look up some agents, etc. Then Amazon got into the game, and I grabbed onto that monster’s tail and never looked back.

    I never take this writing game for granted. It’s fun, it’s been profitable, but nothing stays the same.

  26. When people used to ask me if I had advice for aspring writers, it was always simple: “Give up.”

    Because if you could, you should. And if you can’t, advice doesn’t matter–all that matters is the writing.

    And that’s really all you need to know. Either you can give up or you can’t.

    Lately, I’ve altered that advice to “Stop aspiring.” Because one doesn’t need to anymore, not with Kindle and Twitter and the internet and etc. One can simply write–or not.

    I hope the author who quit is happy in the choice.

    • Suburbanbanshee

      You know, that’s not helpful advice.

      Because personally, it’s a lot easier to give up breathing than to keep on with it, and yet someone advising me to stop would be an accomplice to suicide, at best.

      It is always easier to give up, to huddle like a ball, to listen to the singing of Mr. Knife. Always.

      But it is wrong.

  27. After reading all the kind and thoughtful replies, I must say they are okay, but Christopher marched right past that level to fabulous.

  28. ‘When you put your dreams to rest
    You can get what’s second-best,

    But it’s hard to get enough.’

    –David Wilcox, “Eye of the Hurricane”

  29. This does sound discouraging. Makes me wonder what are the chances of making a living writing and publishing my novels.

    • It depends on how well you write. It depends on if what you write has a broad or narrow audience. It depends on how much you write. It depends on presentation. It depends on luck — the things you cannot truly control.

      On the other hand, if you have stories and would write them anyway, then they will never make any money on your hard drive. So you have to evaluate whether or not you’ll be crushed by the inevitable “totally hate this book” reviews (I had beta readers who griped that it wasn’t published for years; supportive beta readers help), versus “if I want to make anything more than zero, I have to get it out there.”

    • Why should it discourage you? Your experience is in no way the same as this person’s. And they are only one person.

      Most successful entrepreneurs get hit by a massive failure at some point, often before they succeed. Many billionaires went bankrupt at some earlier point. It is not failure that matters. It is your response to failure, whether you learn from it, whether you let it define you.

      And not everyone is cut out for publishing. And that’s okay. No shame in it. Write because you love it. Write because you’re good at it. Just don’t write for love and acceptance and self-esteem.

    • Maybe don’t worry about “making a living writing and publishing [your] novels,” given that the writers who do tend to be outliers/exceptions to a general rule. If you focus instead on the quality of writing and publishing books you’re proud of, you may find yourself far more fulfilled.

      Even Shakespeare made his living in the financial and real estate industries first.

      • Didn’t Shakespeare start off holding horses outside the theatre?

        • That’s a popular myth first recorded over a century after he died. No one knows for sure how Shakespeare got started, what his writing habits were (e.g., he set himself a quota of 5,000 words a day), or any personal details of his life. (Some even doubt he wrote his own plays, but those folks are commonly considered part of the lunatic fringe.)

          He did have an excellent business sense — which meant he had a handsome estate at his death, unlike many of his contemporaries who died in poverty. But beyond that, & the fact he wrote very well, he know very little about the man.

  30. Hmmm. One of the most interesting articles you’ve picked up.
    I guess I prefer to look at her situation this way– she’s just doing other things. Hopefully she finds those other things more satisfying than she found the world of writing and self-publishing.
    I used to paint. I suspect one day I’ll stop writing, at least for a while, and paint again, but for the time being I’m stuck with this tremendous urge to write. Regardless, I doubt I’d remove my books.
    Their very existence must have made this author so unhappy. Which makes me sad.
    To paraphrase James Clavell – The pen is a long arm from the grave.

  31. I quit writing back in 1981. And in 1993. And in 2002, for about an hour. I came back every time.

    I can’t “quit writing”, because it won’t quit me.

  32. One of the hardest things for writers to grab hold of is that the marketplace is NOT a meritocracy.

    You can be great and ignored. You can SUCK at all manner of writing craft and succeed.

    I think writing is like raising children. If you can stand not to, that’s a sign you shouldn’t.

  33. This reflects one of my gravest concerns about the indie world right now.

    There is – imho – too much emphasis on sales. We’re getting lost in it. Debut writers are encouraged to put their work out way too soon. The emphasis on marketing is going to exaust people. This is a set-up for many writers to get very discouraged.

    I know that this is a new world, and writers are stunned and delighted that there are piles of money they can now access. It’s awesome! I’m so glad for the changes, I can’t tell you.

    But let’s not forget the writing! The sharpening and honing of a craft and the joy of artistic creation.

    The keyboard – or pen and paper, if you are old school – is home base. That’s where a writer should start and end, and whenever they feel lost, that’s the place to come back to.

  34. It’s funny, I’m a designer/craftsman, and you never get jewellers discussing this sort of thing – what makes a jeweller want to make jewellery, who should do it and who shouldn’t, how you should do it etc. ad infinitum.

    Writers are a strange, introspective bunch.

    • I think one of the reasons, is because writing takes SO MUCH time, and we need some sort of justification for spending all that time on it. Whether monetary or verbal approval from others.

  35. You’ve raised some good points, Abeth, David and Will. I should focus on my writing. I shouldn’t worry about the finacial aspect of it, at least for now.

  36. It isn’t about writing. It’s about your personality. Bad reviews, poor sales, loss of sleep, if you believe in what you do, you keep going, and you keep learning, and you keep improving. Gotta have drive, my friends. For those of you who are writing because you love it, keep at it. For those of you who are writing in the hopes of becoming successful, work every aspect of the field, build contacts, learn, and set each goal higher than the last. All the best-Aaron creator of the Lokians science fiction series

  37. To have such strong feelings after quitting makes me wonder if it’s a choice that she will come to regret.

  38. When a writer (in this case for us writers) gives up because she/he has had it, it is like someone has past away. What keeps us going is hope. When hope dies we or our interests die. Why do we write? Because we have something important to say. Because we like writing just like some people like talking. Because we want to be important or make money, among many other reasons. What if none of our expected results happen? There comes a time when you have to re-assess the situation. Giving up after one book: you didn’t belong. Giving up after two books: you haven’t tried hard enough. Giving up after three books: wake up this is not easy, keep going. But what happens if you published five, six or ten books and you sell no more than the proverbial 57 copies? What do you do then? If you lost heart, quitting may not be the wrong approach. Going down with the ship may make you a hero, but a dead hero. Abandoning the ship, may open another chapter in your life. Who knows? It is wonderful to be successful and tell other people look what I did, you can do the same. It is tragic when you give up, but life goes on. You realize that 95% of all businesses fail within five years? Self-published writers are new businesses, and failure is part of the endeavor.

  39. I think this PG group, like myself, is passionate about writing, both as a business and as craft, so the views here reflect the ‘serious’ writers among us. We cannot imagine giving up on stories, because that’s what brings us joy. Even the poster’s opinions don’t truly reflect the opinions of the writer who walked away. We’ll never know how she felt unless she stops by.

    Not everyone is passionate about writing. Some just want to try it on for size, because 90% of the population thinks they have a book in them. Or maybe it’s 75%, I’m not sure. So they write it, may even try to publish it, and then they stop. Maybe after one, two, three titles, but some people do stop. I don’t call this quitting. I call it life.

    Life is all about trying new things. I used to love gardening, now I’d rather spend time outdoors walking my dogs. I used to love antiquing, but I got tired of the clutter and prefer a sleek, comfortable look now. I used to make bath and body products for myself and my friends until a soap bottle exploded in my friend’s shower. I’ve never tried to make my own wine, but that’s on the list:)

    People change careers all the time. I have a friend who had a very successful jewelry shop where she hand-crafted every piece for 20 years. Now she’s a singer/songwriter.

    Who’s to say writing was this author’s dream? She herself said it was “an experiment.” I have never referred to my writing as an experiment. I worked my way through the trenches as a copywriter, freelance writer, restaurant reviewer, and humor columnist, always aspiring to be the novelist I am today. I didn’t give up on any of those jobs. I enjoyed them. I learned from them, but I find ten times the satisfaction writing fiction.

    Think of all the writers who left successful careers in medicine, law, marketing, etc… to write fiction full time. Did they quit? Or did they just decide those careers didn’t fulfill them?

    Again, I think TRYING is the important part. Failing to try is the real tragedy. I admire people who try new things, who find joy in exploring all that life has to offer. If they choose not to stick with it, then I believe most often than not, it didn’t bring joy into their lives. And I think it’s admirable to have the courage to walk away from something–or someone–that doesn’t enrich you, strengthen you, grow you, or make you happy. Sometimes we hang onto those things that drag us down far too long.

  40. Quitting is easy. The urge to stop trying is seductive in it’s lack of effort needed. I quit once. I stopped believing in myself and thought “What’s the point I’ll never be a big time writer, I’m not that good”.
    My wife (well really, shouldn’t your spouse be your cheerleader?) metaphorically smacked me in the head and told me that I could indeed write. She told me that others who said I was a talented writer were not just saying things to make me feel better.
    So here I am again. You try, you fail, you get back up again.
    I will say that one thing I have learned is that the world of electronic publishing is a godsend. Even if I don’t find my legions of readers in the first year or two, I can leave my products out there in perpetuity.
    Who knows, in 3 or 4 years some bored reader will find my writing and want more – lucky for me I will have followed wiser writer’s advice and kept writing and publishing so they will have a nice choice to read and recommend.
    Easiest job on earth this writing gig. I hope to keep it well into my golden years.
    Now I have to get back to writing and my publishing efforts. I have to get my first couple books completed and placed on Amazon and elsewhere.

  41. This is an industry that grinds you down no matter what route you choose to pursue. More than once my friends and I have asked ourselves, “Why do we do this?” The answer always comes back to the fact that we love to write and tell stories. Or at least, that’s what I tell myself whenever I have a setback and there have been many over the years. I love to tell stories and meet new people. I live to visit places I haven’t been and go on marvelous adventures through the words that I put on the page. I try to keep that away from the sales part of the industry because in reality, I have no control over that. No matter how good you think your book might be, it may not sell well. You have to disassociate the love of writing from how well the book is selling, otherwise you will make yourself miserable.

    • You’re a fantastic writer, Caridad and your volume of work is amazing. I don’t know anyone else writing (and sell!) 20 books in 10 years while holding down a high-profile, high pressure job. All your devoted fans are glad you’re in the game. And I agree, I think this field really does tend to grind people down. There are a few little blasts of joy here and there, mostly when someone says our books have brightened their day or gotten them over a rough patch in their lives. That *almost* makes up for the occasional mean-spirited review or the disappointingly small royalty checks!

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