On Giving Up

I've been thinking about this post for the last few months but I've procrastinated on writing it.

Part of the reason for dragging my feet is, well, laziness. Haha. But the bigger reason is that my thoughts are incredibly longwinded and jumbled on this topic, and so I've been nervous about crafting a post that actually, you know, makes sense. And that hopefully resonates.

Please bear with me then?

{A picture of pretty flowers! Completely unrelated to the post!}

Right after my book sold in March, I went through a period of elation and excitement and general relief—cue lots of crying and high-fiving! Then when my brain settled down somewhat, I slouched onto my sofa one morning in Apri and I thought about the last six years of my life: of the writing and revising, of the querying and subbing, of those moments of sheer happiness—so fleeting!—and of those long days when I wanted to sell my computer and give up.

I've almost given up many, many times.

Sometimes I wish I could have a heart-to-heart with my younger self, circa 2007. That was the year when I started writing in earnest. That was the year when I kicked off my crazy publishing journey, when all of this began.

When I think about that girl—and I figure I can use the word 'girl' because I was only 24 then. A mere baby!—I smile and wince at the same time. I smile because I was so darn gung-ho about writing and so contagiously hopeful about seeing my name in print. But I wince a little too because that girl will face so much rejection ahead of her, so much heartache. She has no idea how long it will take her to see her name in a magazine byline, much less on the cover of a book.

If I could talk to that girl, if I could give her some advice, I'd tell her something like this:
Focus less on getting published and more on improving your craft. 
Share your work with other writers. I know this idea freaks you out more than a horde of Aragog-sized spiders but—believe me—you need outside feedback. 
There are so many things that you can't control in publishing. That's why you should concentrate on the stuff that you can control, namely staying humble, being patient, and writing the best damn books that you can.
There's a lot more advice I wish I could give myself, like 'Stop comparing yourself to others!' and 'Less TV, more writing!' But there is something that I wouldn't say to 24-year-old Caroline:
I know. That sounds kind of weird, right? Why wouldn't I encourage myself to keep going? It's not like I want to sabotage myself into giving up. So what I mean by this is...

Looking back, as I remember the rejection I received and the dejection I felt, I realize I needed to grapple with giving up. I needed those soul-searching moments when I felt stripped bare, when I wanted to turn my back on writing. Because within those moments, I was forced to ask myself: What do you want? Do you want to give up and do something else? Or deep down, do you want to write?

Sometimes a few days or weeks would pass and I would still think, "I want to get off the publishing train!" But slowly, gradually, my fingers would itch for the push of the keyboard and I'd find myself diving into another round of revision or fiddling with a new story. In the end (so far at least), I've come back to writing. I've come back to my stories. I haven't given up.

Of course, I'm not saying that I'll feel this way forever! Maybe one day another opportunity—another dream—will come along and I'll decide to chase that instead. (Perhaps sloth ranching? Or professional Quidditch?) And that's okay. Dreams can change, after all. But for now, I write because I love it. I write because I feel empty without it. I write because, even though it can beat me down, I just can't stop.

And that's a lesson I had to learn in these last six years. Every time I wanted to throw my hands into the air (and there were a few times when I stopped writing for weeks or even months), I'd end up digging in my heels and pulling on my Indiana Jones hat and saying, One more try! I'll give it one more go!

Maybe I'm just too stubborn?

So I guess this is my very longwinded way to saying: it's okay, younger Caroline, if you want to give up. It happens. Don't beat yourself up over it. In the end, most writers, most artists, will reach a point in their journey where they will ask, Should I keep going? Or should I give up? It's all part of the process, this give and this pull, this stretching of the creative soul.

The hard part is figuring out the answer.

But you will.