Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Insecure Writers' Support Group - Permission to Give Up

You know how some people are afraid of speaking in public? How they are just not able to get behind a podium without shaking like jello and spilling the water all over the mic, shorting out the entire sound system?

That's not me.

In fact, I've gotten up on that stage and presented everything from budget projections to speed networking (like speed dating but without the creepiness.) But that was for clients. I can talk any kind of nonsense in front of any number of people as long as I'm representing someone else. But as myself, as a writer?

Naked. Completely, uncomfortably and embarrassingly naked. That's how I feel. So when I realized I wanted to be a writer, I tried to come up with some structure, some thing that would give me the authority to say I'm a writer.

Yep, your looking at it. This blog. Then I went out and made bloggerly friends and read a ton about the industry. I went to a conference. I went to another conference. I blog-hopped. I lurked and commented and stalked. I was faking it until I made it. And I felt pretty good, pretty official and kosher.

Until I started getting rejections. I KNOW it's part of the process and I shouldn't take it personally. Tell that to my ego which is cowering under the (imaginary) BElieve in YOUrself embroidered pillow next to my desk. Insecurity for writers is a daily work hazard.

So I'm going to share with you my secret for soldiering on. Ready? I contemplate giving up. I think about what it would look like, feel like to just stop and say "I'm done." I let the idea of never doing this again fill my soul.

After I graduated from college I moved to England with my boyfriend. I was going to graduate school  in my favorite city in the world with the man I loved. It was going to be AWESOME. Until immigration deported my boyfriend (long, long story) and I was left alone with two duffle bags full of useless stuff and not a soul to talk to. I tried to be a grown up, find a flat, store my duffle bags, figure out what bus went to my school. But I was so lonely, so completely freaked out about not knowing ANYONE that I often cried (ok, ok wept is more accurate) myself to sleep.

I didn't know how to fill my time while I waited to see if boyfriend would be allowed back in (wrong visa, delays at consulate blah blah). One day I took the train to Oxford. it was shagging down rain. I got on the Oxford sightseeing double decker anyway. I sat behind the driver, watching him give his pater into the mic while me and a couple of Japanese tourists tried to make out the dreaming spires through rain smeared windows. The rain dripped onto my head until it drove me crazy. I went back to the train station and called my dad.

Now, brace yourself. This is before email/text/cell phones. I used a payphone with a phone card that you shoved into a slot. I cried at Dad. I told him how I was feeling and everything that had happened and why everything was so terrible. And he said the magic words.

"So, come home."

Nothing stops a weepy tizzy faster than some common sense. I could go home. I could give up. It would be easy to do. He'd pick me up at the airport and we'd forget all about this little adventure. By giving me permission to say "I give up." Dad made me realize that was the last thing I wanted to do.

I stayed for almost five years. My boyfriend eventually was allowed back in the UK. And, reader, I married him.

Go on, imagine what it would be like to throw the writing towel in. If it fills you with relief then, yeah, maybe its time to take a break. But, if like me, it makes you nauseous, like you'd rather suffer any indignity other than that, then - congrats - I confer upon you the title of 'writer.'


  1. Bravo! I really needed to read this today!!

  2. I'll stick with the part where I write words down. All the rest of it? Maybe it's time.

  3. What an incredible story. Good for you not giving up then or now! You are braver than most people.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog earlier!

  4. Incredibly romantic story at that (even though there are some sad parts to it). I'm so glad that you waited and are living happily ever after with your true love in the dreamy UK of all places. I've always wanted to see England. /sigh.

  5. EXACTLY!!!!!

    This is why I don't give up. I wouldn't be happier. In fact, I'd be even more miserable than I am now being stuck. You've made a great point through an awesome analogy. Very, very well done!

  6. Number One: Awesome husband story. You will have to dish details later.

    Number Two: My willingness to give up and live a simple, no-bald-patches kind of life happens at least once a month. Something happens to send me off the cliff, heading straight into a gravel pit. My boyfriend listens every time, saying very little because he knows once I think through the hissy fit and emotional meltdown, I will realize I am a writer.

    The thought of not writing sounds great at first. Until I think about what life would be like without writing. I did it for a long time. I was miserable. So, I welcome the kicking, biting and tantrums. They are but part of the journey.

  7. Permission's funny like that isn't it? sometimes just having permission to give up means that you can keep on going. Sometimes you have to do something just to rebel, and once you have permission you don't have to do it anymore.

    Sounds like it all worked out for the best. :-)

  8. I feel like I could have written this post (well, besides the epiphany part and the part about the boyfriend deportation. And I cried every day while living in France, not England, but you get the idea).

    I just got an e-mail from my critique partner who *loves* my writing style but has decided, after finishing the book, that he hates my plot. I realize he's not my target audience, and that there is no reason he should have liked the plot given facts about him and facts about my book. But am still so monumentally crushed.

    But this post helps, if only because it reminds me that I don't want to quit. And I can't even imagine doing so. Thanks, Alex, for another great post.


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