Lessons I’ve learned in Writing No. #1: Forget about Giving Up.
Picasso’s Don Quixote
If there’s a central bit of advice I’ve heard or can give, it’s “Don’t Give Up.” Don’t give up working, don’t give up trying, and don’t give up on anything if it gnaws at your soul. If you want to put something new into the world, you have forget giving up.
Successful people know, first hand, how hard it is to succeed. The process involves a lot of failure and mistakes and they developed the fortitude to keep trying until they got it right. Once, I was disheartened to read F. Scott Fitzgerald rewrote some pages twenty times; now I wonder how he made his prose that good after only nineteen revisions. To make something of quality takes a kind of tenacity comparable to OCD. If you want to make something good, get used to the work it involves. Don’t Give Up.
It takes another type of resilience to find the people interested in publishing your work. There are all kinds of venues looking for creative people but few of them will be interested in you. Your precious creation will be too long, too short, too old-fashioned, too avant-garde and mostly not what they’re looking for. Your ego has to be strong enough to withstand all that rejection but open to honest criticism when it comes your way. That’s a hard balance to achieve but it’s necessary for you to eventually find the people who will take a chance on your work. They’re out there, keep trying to find them.
The time you use to create is important but it’s not the only part of your life. Most people have family, a job and friends. We have responsibilities to our world and to others. Sometimes the work you do for yourself will feel like a self-invented taskmaster that isolates you from life and love. Everyone in your social media circle will be doing something with someone, somewhere; and you’ll still be alone, tied to the work. Under these circumstances, do you wonder why every creative person hasn’t already quit?
Well, they probably have at one time or another. Quitting is an easy thing to do. Staying quit is not. The need to create and communicate is a drive that must be regularly tended or it makes its victim miserable. Ignoring it or medicating it with sweets leads to self-hate and a lot of extra pounds.
So, if you’re driven by the urge to create, you have my sympathies. There’s a treatment, if no cure. The treatment is to continue creating, despite doubt and the certainty of rejection. Commercial success is beyond your control but you can figure out why that sentence won’t work. Fix it, a word at a time, and then go to the next. Keep working. Keep trying. Keep tilting at windmills. Don’t quit. Never give up.