I don’t have a lot of patience for quitters. I’ve spent so much of my life pushing hard through difficulty and frustration to accomplish whatever it was I was working towards that it irritates me deeply when someone (especially someone close to me) gives up on something that is ostensibly important. To some degree, giving up feels like a moral weakness or failure. Setting something aside for a while is one thing… An inevitable thing in mortal existence… An uncomfortable but bearable thing… An acceptable thing. Giving up with no intention to circle back and try again later is quite another.
Given my feelings as just described, you would think that quitting wouldn’t be something I would seriously consider. However, if you believe that you would be wrong. I am seriously thinking about quitting something I’ve been working on for years. I’m thinking of giving up on writing anything with the intent of sharing it. I’m thinking of giving up my mostly unvoiced hope that what I write means much to anyone but me. I’m about ready to take all of what I’ve written out of the public sphere and quit my attempts to find someone to represent it, giving up hope that any of it will ever be published anywhere other than on this generally unread blog.
Why would I do that? I’ve spent years writing poetry, essays, a complete novel, and parts of three other books. I’ve spent countless hours polishing and piecing together stories, thoughts, and images. Usually I’ve done that just because I liked the outcome… Just because I wanted to do it for myself. The process and the result were the reward. If all I am looking for is self actualization, there could be no reason to quit. However, that idealistic view is only partly true, and only sometimes.
I have to admit that I want others to read and appreciate what I write. I believe that is true for every artist or author, but I wonder how they manage to not let the need for acceptance and an audience contaminate their work and take the joy out of it. As I got closer to finishing a novel, I started hoping (occasionally) that I could get it published. When I started assembling my poetry into a format to print for archival and my family, I allowed myself to hope for a wider audience. When I started a math textbook, it was the first time I actually intended a wider audience.
Over the last several months I’ve made attempts to get people to read the novel, and I’ve offered up my poetry collection. Both have been disappointments. Even among close friends and family, only a very select few have bothered reading the novel. It would seem it’s just not worth the time it would take to tell me what I need to do to make it better. None of the literary agents I queried thought it worth reading either — none requested more than the first few pages that I submitted with the initial query. Clearly I overestimate my ability. Combine that with the fact that I don’t constitute one of the “under represented voices” nearly 100% of the agents openly admit to heavily favoring, and my efforts are flatly futile from the start. A waste of time and hope.
Worse, in hoping for positive feedback (or any feedback for that matter), I’ve learned to almost hate the book. The failure of most people who initially expressed interest to ever get back to me with anything even as simple as “it was too boring to finish reading it” leaves me to conclude that it’s much worse than I had thought. In hoping for acceptance, I’ve become dissatisfied and unhappy with something of which I was once proud. The product that absorbed free time for several years appears worthless. My judgment and creativity seem to be worthless, or worse. It now looks to me like an utter waste. A waste of one of the most precious things i can call my own — free time. I liked my story better before it became a thief. I liked it better when it was just for me.
My poetry collection didn’t fare much better. In an effort to afford to print a few copies, I put it out in the public on Kickstarter. I shouldn’t have. It let me hope someone other than family would give a crap. Unfounded hope. In fact, a rather large part of my impressively large family opted not to participate. I shouldn’t be disappointed, but I definitely was. Even after printing and distributing the few copies that I could afford to print, I’ve watched as the copy on my bookshelf at home collects dust. Nobody lifts it from it’s testing place and peers inside. I liked my poetry better when it was just for me.
In fact, I like all of what I write better when I write it for myself. It’s really hard to keep that focus when there is even an unvoiced hope for something more, and this isn’t the first time I’ve come to this conclusion. Over a year ago, I temporarily took everything off of this blog that I had written since I pulled over posts Liz had done on a blogspot page. One of the three semi regular readers of this site asked what had happened, and I silently relented and made those posts public again. One reader was enough, I guess, but I really shouldn’t care if I even have that many.
I don’t think I’ll pull everything back again. That was an angry reaction while depressed, a condition I still frequently face, but those particular urges have faded since I quit looking at the site visit statistics and better embraced the fact that this blog is 100% for my own benefit. In fact, I might post more here instead of privately working on stuff with the hope I might eventually be able to sell it. But I won’t promise that.