Rest but never quit. Even the sun has a sinking spell each evening. But it always rises the next morning. At sunrise, every soul is born again.
The Jeff Goins of the world fascinate me with their stories about multiple failed blogs before finding success. Lots of writers start and stop, never to pick it up again. But it seems like many of the names we recognize have a start-stop-start story. They kept going.
In talking with other writers, reading other stories of writers, and my personal experience, I’ve found four things that regularly cause us to stop writing. While there are many more than that, these four seemed to come up regularly.
Watch out for them. When they creep in, know the feeling of wanting to stop is right behind. Fight it.
Writing is work. We put time and effort into the things we create, then share them with the world. Yet, a lot of times we don’t get the response we hoped for.
Our page views weren’t as high as we thought. Or maybe they were, but with all those views why didn’t more people clap?
How come no one followed me after those last two posts? Those were gold!
We get dissatisfied with the lack of response to our craft. If no one cares, it feels like we should just quit. So we do.
SOLUTION: If you build it, they will come.
Yes, we all want 20,000 followers in our first year. But that isn’t normal. The people that do that are the exception. The rest of us are more likely the rule.
It takes consistency. Post often, and post regularly, and don’t worry about how many people are reading. If you continue your work your tribe will eventually find you and grow.
The problem was that I carried around with me a tendency to feel that other people’s respect for me would vanish if what I did was second rate. And while I accept that this perfectionism is likely to stimulate the production of better work, it doesn’t, unfortunately, go hand in hand with a relaxed and happy attitude to life.
― John Cleese
Again, writing is work. But after we put the time and effort into our creation that feeling of “it’s not good enough” enters the room. We’re scared to publish because we want people to like it. But do we even like it?
We read a few articles, play the comparison game, then return to our piece doubting all our abilities.
Perfectionism is a killer. It’s ruined many of the things I’ve created.
We stop believing we’re good and that people will like our writing, we get discouraged, and we quit.
SOLUTION: Find another set of eyes.
Writing for Medium and/or a blog is inherently a solo job. We write alone, edit alone, then post it alone. The argument over the goodness of our work happens in our head.
When I ask someone else who knows me and my writing to look things over before I post, I always get great feedback.
I’m blessed to have a mom that works in the book industry and can edit for me. But even asking my wife, who really doesn’t enjoy reading much, gives me insight into the flow and feel of a piece of writing.
As someone outside my brain, she can read to answer the question: Does it work? If not, it’s pretty easy for her to point out the areas that feel awkward to read.
Then I know what to tweak before it goes public.
At times the whole world seems to be in conspiracy to importune you with emphatic trifles. Friend, client, child, sickness, fear, want, charity, all knock at once at thy closet door and say, — ‘Come out unto us.’ But keep thy state; come not into their confusion. The power men possess to annoy me I give them by a weak curiosity. No man can come near me but through my act.
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Personally, this is my biggest struggle. This is what has caused my writing to stop the most.
My marriage and kids are the first two big rocks of life, then work. It doesn’t leave much room for writing. Throw in a TV show here and there, then social media and maybe a game on my phone, and now I’ve let everything but writing have my attention.
The kids will get sick and require more of me than normal. Then I’ll need to drop everything to respond to something at work. My brain is tired from helping everyone else, so I run to my phone for a little shot of dopamine.
When interruptions happen a couple times in a week and my writing doesn’t get done, it’s easy to just let it go. It’s hard to pick it back up.
SOLUTION: A schedule.
Put writing on your calendar like any other appointment you’d give attention to. Set a time, don’t be late, tell everyone you’re busy.
My writing is either early, before everyone is awake in my house, or in the evening once the kids are all sleeping. If I just “plan to get it done sometime today” it never happens. When I have a time set in my day for it, I don’t miss.
Look what I’m dealing with, man, I’m dealing with fools and trolls.
You wrote something. Someone read it and thought it was stupid. They thought you’re stupid, and they let you know about it.
Sometimes it’s easier to just not write anything at all than to have people comment negatively. We’re disinclined to deal with the jerks of the world.
So we quit.
SOLUTION: Ignore them.
The trolls of the internet are most often unhappy people that want to go around making everyone else feel as crappy as they do. If you read a comment that is obviously mean and disagreeing (i.e. not constructive), don’t reply and forget they ever commented.
Those people aren’t worthy anyone’s time; especially yours. You’re going places. They’re not.
The difference in winning and losing is most often not quitting.
You are a writer. Go write!
Don’t let page views and claps determine the value of your creation. Find someone you know to serve as your editor, then make your words public. Schedule your writing time so it gets done, and ignore the haters.
If you’ve stopped, start again. Don’t quit.
The world needs your voice!