How do you know when it’s time to quit?
You grow up hearing that quitters never win, winners never quit, you can’t be a quitter, etc. But sometimes it’s the best thing you can do. A job, a relationship, even a dream may prove to be the wrong path or even detrimental to your health and well-being. In that case, how do you leave it behind without damaging your dignity and sense of self?
We’ve all had jobs where our self-respect is challenged every single day. If you were raised with a good work ethic, it can be painful to admit that your employers or the work situation aren’t conducive to doing your best. Perhaps there is too much stress, or not enough personnel to handle the tasks assigned. Maybe the higher-ups don’t care about the workers. I read recently about a coffee shop in New York where relations with management were so bad that the entire staff quit in a body. Agreements could not be reached, and there didn’t seem to be any other recourse. In that case, what else can you do?
Sometimes you meet who you thought was the person you’d been waiting for, but their behavior isn’t what you’d hoped. Maybe they make promises they can’t keep, or are indifferent or even violent. Maybe they cheat, or steal from you. Many people choose to stay in a bad relationship because they are terrified of being alone. Women especially are prone to taking the blame for their lovers’ bad behavior, but men do it too. “If only I were a better wife / husband /girlfriend / boyfriend / partner,” they lament. Is it better to be miserable, or free? How can you find someone you are truly happy with if you’re chained to someone whose actions make you feel terrible?
Writers are told to keep trying. No one will publish a book that is sitting in a drawer somewhere. This is very true. But there comes a point when you’ve done all you can and you don’t want to do any more. There’s nothing you can do but stop, or at least stop trying to get published. It’s an abysmally hard profession to break into. Hundreds of books are rejected every day, most of them awful, some of them brilliant.
Even more infuriating are the awful books that get published, while your carefully crafted and meticulously edited tome languishes perpetually in Queryland. Friends and family don’t always understand why you keep trying, and after a while, maybe you don’t either. Your heart may break, your dreams shatter into dust, and it’s just too much for you.
There’s nothing wrong with writing merely for yourself. You’re still a writer, but you’ll never be a professional one. With print-on-demand services, you can at least have a copy for friends or family of your latest volume of poetry or recipes or the next adventure of your peerless heroine. Maybe no one sees your work but you.
Don’t feel badly if you must quit. Consider the following:
- I tried my best. I gave it all I had. What did I learn from my efforts?
Give yourself a break here. Maybe your efforts failed from lack of knowledge. Or maybe it had nothing to do with you. With the former, identify what you learn to better your next effort. With the latter, let it go.
- Was there anything I could have done differently to affect the outcome?
Albert Einstein once said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If you truly could not have changed it, then let it go.
- What shall I do now?
Look ahead, into the future. It may not contain what you’ve left behind, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing. So your novel or your poetry won’t be published. Maybe another kind of writing will satisfy you, or another artistic endeavor altogether. There are myriad ways to quell the creative urge. You have to find one that fits both you and your life. But in order to move ahead, you must let the past go.
Quitters do win, if they really need to quit. Let no one judge you for your decisions; they are your own.
Please share in the comments anything you think might help others in need of advice on letting go.
PS – I’m not quitting!