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!

4 thoughts on “Quitter

  1. I was on the edge of my seat as I read –glad you’re not quitting A to Z so close to the end. I’ve never been the kind of person who liked to quit. I feel my reputation and my own self -perception is on the line if I do. But you are right–sometimes there is no other good choice and you have to quit in order to move forward. Then again you have to be careful: There have been times when I’ve convinced myself that quitting was the best option only to find later that only if I had persisted there would have been a major payoff. Guess you just never know for sure, but inaction and indecisiveness wastes time.
    A to Z Challenge Reflections Mega Post

    • LOL I’m sorry if I scared you!

      There’s a lot going on in my life right now, and some of it is good, some not so good. I want to be published and paid for my work, so I’m going to keep trying. I’ve not been doing it long enough to stop just yet. It’s other things that are making me feel quitty. And I do plan on finishing the blog challenge. I did it on purpose to get back into writing every day. I thank you for putting it out there, Arlee! :)

  2. Elizabeth, I read this the other day but didn’t have time to comment. I enjoyed this post. I’ve always been one that’s very loyal and believe in sticking things out. But there are times when quitting is the best option. Yet I find myself stuck in places that I’ve out grown or no longer brings me joy for a myriad of reasons.

    • Me too, Wanda, and it’s really a killer to realize that it’s time to give up on something. Letting go is very hard for me but it helps to think that some things have to go bye-bye so that new things can come in.

      I heard someone say one time about relationships, “When the pain outweighs the pleasure, you go.” I think that could be applied to almost anything: a hobby, a job, a task you’ve set yourself that isn’t necessary/fulfilling anymore.

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