When I was in college, I quit my writing. I thought, There is no way I can make a living off of writing, or no one will take me seriously. So I just stopped writing. I don’t have many regrets in my life, but I do regret this decision to quit writing when I was young. Imagine where I would be now in terms of my skill or network had I kept writing this entire time!
In 2016, I began writing again and became fixated on one writing project that was continually rejected by the industry. I kept revising and making changes to no avail. It stopped me from writing and creating more. It discouraged me. I felt stuck and unable to move forward. In this instance, I am very happy I quit that project! I have had my share of quitting, and have learned a thing or two about staying committed to the journey.
How do you know when is a good time to quit, or when to stay committed?
One thing you have to decide is to STAY COMMITTED TO THE JOURNEY. What does the journey look like?
First, you are not motivated by external factors such as money, awards, or fame. Similar to how college graduation is not the end of our professional journey, it is just a milestone; these external factors are not the destination of our journey, they are just milestones along the journey.
Instead, you should be motivated by improving yourself, your skills, and your network. Your only competition is you. Your only point of comparison is yourself.
Second, use your imagination! The saying goes, you cannot be what you cannot see. So take a moment to imagine your life in 20+ years from now, actually imagine it in detail. What does it look like? What do you want? How can you start taking steps towards that now?
When I worked in public policy as a young professional, I was surrounded by mid-level and senior researchers. I saw what my life could be like in 20+ years. It was uninspiring to me, un-enjoyable work. I fell asleep at every quarterly meeting (my supervisor was horrified). I just didn’t want to be in that same field by the time I was 50 years old.
On the other hand, it was really difficult for me to imagine a creative career as a writer or illustrator. I didn’t know any authors or illustrators. Therefore, I was unsure of how to start, what steps to take, or what path to follow. You cannot be what you cannot see.
Because I decided to be committed to the journey, I started making decisions for the sake of GROWTH and not just pursuing money or publishing.
WHEN TO QUIT
It is okay to quit PROJECTS, but it is essential to stay committed to the journey.
Not every project is going to be beneficial to your journey. Sometimes, they can cause you to become stuck in one spot instead of continually improving and growing. For instance, becoming attached to a manuscript that is continually rejected by the industry can be bad for your creative process if it causes you to stop writing. Sometimes, a project may even take you in a direction away from your initial purpose.
One saying I embrace is: it is NO for now, but not forever. When my children were infants, I had to say NO to a lot of projects because that was simply the season of life I was in. I did not have time for anything other than the kids, and taking on projects I could not complete only frustrated me. Now that my youngest is old enough to play on his own, I can take on more projects and complete them. It’s the best feeling ever! I had to say no in one season, but I could do it in the next season.
Still wondering when to quit or when to stay committed?…
Just ask yourself a few questions:
- Is this helping me grow and improve my skill/craft?
- Is this helping me become the person I want to be 20+ years from now?
- Or is this frustrating me, stopping my creativity, and discouraging my journey?
If it is stopping your journey and growth, maybe it’s time to consider quitting that project. Remember, it may be NO for now, but it doesn’t have to be forever.