Overcoming the Urge to Quit

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been a bit morose over the last couple of years. I have wanted to quit wanting to write and been indulging that demon as much as possible. But something kept stringing me along. I didn’t want to succumb to writer’s block. Maybe because I don’t believe in it. I just need the proper motivation. Getting an MFA isn’t the proper motivation. Getting published isn’t either. Teaching isn’t it. Praise from a teacher or workshop don’t do it either. It’s from me… Or you, if you’ve been going through the same thing as me.

In any case, I am playing the part of my own motivation and saying to everyone who wants to listen that I am back (on the block?) and I want to be a writer. I am a writer.

And now it’s time to write.

I hope people are still out there, sort of watching me and my self-neglected blog. I want to make this as public as possible — I am committing to finishing something I am proud of and working hard at it. There. I said it.

Have you been going through some rough writing times? Would love to know how you worked through it. For me, I guess it’s just been a matter of giving it time and eventually getting sick of hearing myself complain. That and ultimately showing my two beautiful girls that quitting at something you love just shouldn’t be an option.


Comments 13

  1. Jenniferbrown100@hot wrote:

    Hi Gordon–

    Good luck with this!

    I’m coming off of my first year of a fiction program having fallen out of love with fiction in love with CNF and I’m finding it very hard to work on my fiction. But I’m going to dedicate myself to working as hard as I can on both this summer.

    Hopefully things will work out well for both of us.

    Keep the faith, man, keep the faith.


    Posted 15 May 2010 at 10:06 am
  2. grrlpup wrote:

    For me right now it is turning 40 and wondering why I have so little work written since I graduated college at 21.

    And realizing at a gut level that if I don’t work, hard, now, I will become one of the women wearing sweatshirts with cats on them who go to one-day workshops and write horrible pieces using all five senses, over and over.

    I’ve given things up for writing– playing music seriously, pursuing a different ambitious career. Whether that was all necessary and wise or not I don’t know, but I know that it’s time to make good.

    I hope you find great satisfaction in your work. I and probably a bunch of other strangers are sort of watching, and believe in you. :)

    Posted 15 May 2010 at 10:15 pm
  3. Geoff Cain wrote:

    I loved all of the reasons you listed – none of those are really enough to write. I am very much a “to do is to be” kind of person. Writers are people who write. I just kept getting ferociously busy and not writing. Last year I cracked and did the National Novel Writing Month challenge: http://www.nanowrimo.org/ I found by writing 2 hrs a day, I got what I would consider a fantastic discovery draft of a novel. I highly recommend it. I am working on that novel and writing short stories and sending them off to publishers.

    Posted 17 May 2010 at 1:37 pm
  4. Lisa Romeo wrote:

    Good luck, and you are SO not alone. I agree w/Geoff above, about the incredible power of National Novel Writing Month, for any genre. The year I did it, I produced more words, and wrote more regularly, than across an entire semester in my MFA program. Accontability is key, and for me at least, it’s that accountability to an OUTSIDER which works best.

    Posted 19 May 2010 at 10:57 pm
  5. eileen wrote:

    hi gordon,
    i love your blog and am so grateful that you’ve been so willing to share your thoughts and observations about writing and all that can keep us from it.
    i’m a more recent grad (last may) and am not working full-time at the moment, but i know many of the roadblocks you’ve described on a first-name basis.
    your post today is a perfect place to start. i keep a yellowed newspaper clipping of michael jordan over my desk for when i’m feeling particularly unable to get back to it. the quote is “i can accept failure. everyone fails at something. but i can’t accept not trying.”
    it usually does the trick of pulling me back in to give it another shot. another thing that has helped lately is thinking about *focus* — which i wrote about here.


    here’s to the next page, and the one that follows!

    Posted 21 May 2010 at 9:06 am
  6. Gordon wrote:

    Thanks, Holly. Here’s to your future without cat sweatshirts.


    Posted 02 Jun 2010 at 10:28 pm
  7. Gordon wrote:

    Great points about nanowrimo. I actually did it way back in 2002. Parts of that manuscript were what I used as my writing sample get into my MFA program.

    Might be time to try that again. In the meantime I am going to be focusing on de eloping a few hopefully simple habits that will end up making a difference in what I accomplish over the long haul.

    Stay tuned.

    Posted 02 Jun 2010 at 10:37 pm
  8. EricaG wrote:

    I finished an MFA in poetry in 2004. How can it already be 6 years later???? Instead of writing poetry, I’ve spent the last 6 years creating and nurturing two wonderful sons and accumulating additional graduate credits that may never be put to any use. But that’s okay! I’m excited about writing again, and I’ve enjoyed reading about your journey.

    Posted 15 Jun 2010 at 8:18 pm
  9. serge avery wrote:

    Loved what you wrote above and I am inspired that you are following the dream. I miss our short-lived writing group and hope we can resurrect it upon my return. I have done some soul searching of my own out here in the Pacific and will share my newfound wisdom over a beer soon enough.
    Keep pushing,

    Posted 08 Jul 2010 at 2:22 am
  10. Stacey wrote:

    Hey there! Interesting blog!

    My MFA experience was mostly negative, and I didn’t do much writing for years. Then I sort of got interested in writing genre fiction–a big change from literary poetry. I published a historical romance this past spring.

    But I’ve been doing a lot of poetry writing in the last year or two, too…I have one coming out in Southern Poetry Review this summer…and just lately, I’ve become sort of obSESSED with reading, writing, and thinking about poetry. It’s a great feeling…

    Posted 10 Jul 2010 at 9:31 pm
  11. Armand wrote:

    Hey Gordon-here’s my recent revelation:

    I am not an over-educated under achiever. I am not a “man of letters” who is stuck doing everyday drudge work that is beneath my dignity.

    I am not smarter, more artistic or more clever than the average person. I am not more special.

    What I am is a dad who works in admin. and part time teacher who occasionally gets to spend a few hours in the silvery light, working on my novel.

    It’s helped me a lot especially when I get into one of those self-pitying funks.

    More important than what my mantra is however, it’s the sense of inversion of ideas that I want to communicate.

    The goal is to remind myself that it’s okay for me NOT to identify as a writer. In fact, as long as I write, I can call myself anything I want and I feel more honest calling myself a dad, admin clerk and part time teacher. Writing comes fourth on the list but-like my friends devoted to skiing, home improvement or X-boxes- the passion and work is real

    Oh an here are a few other notes that I wrote to myself to keep myself from going crazy: (I call them “The Acceptances”)

    1. There are no shortcuts for me, but sometimes I’m lucky.
    2. I’m just a working stiff like everyone else, but it’s okay to be happy anyway.
    3. No one else can give or take your self esteem.
    4. You may never get that one great job, so work with what you got.
    5. Being goal oriented is useful, but don’t assume it will make you happy.
    6. Each book you write is the work of a lifetime.

    Thanks for starting this topic and prompting some introspection on my part.

    Posted 08 Sep 2010 at 3:45 pm
  12. Gordon wrote:

    Hey Armand

    Thank you for commenting. I have to say your thoughts and revelations came at a great moment. Thanks for helping to shake the cobwebs off. Your perspective, as always, is practical, insightful, and right-on.

    Posted 11 Sep 2010 at 9:47 pm
  13. Eric wrote:

    Hi Gordon,

    Just found your blog and this post.

    You’re not alone. I’ve been like grrlpup. Graduated college with high hopes and plans and…..

    Here it is 25 years later and I’ve written nothing.

    Plenty of scraps of paper with ideas. Folders full of ideas. Plot ideas, character ideas …. world spanning epic fantasy ideas, life-changing introspective ideas.

    None of it executed as I endeavored to make a living doing anything but write.

    Posted 17 Dec 2011 at 2:03 pm

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