What If I Quit Writing?

Posted by: Birgitte  :  Category: Inspiration

Can I call myself a writer if I’m not writing?

Stagnation. Writer’s block. Too much work. Too little money. Too many whiny kids. The transmission in the car falls out.

All of it keeps me from writing.

So, if I’m not writing, can I call myself a writer? For too many months this question has haunted me. Writing friends ask, “How’s your novel going?”

“Oh, um. Good. I’m doing a lot of brainstorming right now. You know, plot development stuff.” While waiting in line at the auto shop. Or yelling at the kids. (Note to self: real-life arguments with teenagers are more boring than being stuck behind a road-stripe painter. Insert a policeman driving while he’s texting when I write the argument-scene in Chapter Five)

Months of “brainstorming” go by before I have an epiphany: “I’m not brainstorming.
Or plotting.
Or writing.

Then a panic attack: Have I given up? Am I quitting on my dream after 6 years of workshops and critique groups and NANOWRIMOs and pages of spewed words that I’ve laid at the feet of writing Gods in hopes that my dutiful obeisance will one day earn me enough money to buy a car with a transmission?

Truth: I don’t ask that question. I’m too afraid of the answer.

But in my heart I know: “Yes. I’ve given up. I’m done.” And in my body I’m relieved. Soooooo relieved. Intense joy. I fly everywhere. My feet stay dry, no longer slogging through Seattle’s rinse cycle. A whole day goes by. “I’ve quit,” I tell myself, and I revel in being a quitter.

I sleep really well that whole night. My brain turns off by itself, without the help of a glass of wine and a teeny bite of sleeping pill. I don’t dream.

The next morning I wake up and see, curled on my pillow, a tiny plot point. I wonder where it came from. It can’t be mine; I’ve quit.

Quitter. I fly through the day again. But while commuting to work I see a policeman driving his patrol car and texting. Okay, look again, it isn’t a cop. It’s a green and white taxi and the driver is reading the newspaper while mindlessly applying his brakes every three seconds. What if he loses the beat and forgets to brake? I drive four miles without remembering that I’m on the freeway, because I’m “what-if’ing” Chapter Five. Just before my exit I come back to reality. “Stop! Wait! I quit that dream.”

Remember?

And I do remember. I remember a Facebook status I read recently. “Blessed are they who expect nothing for they shall not be disappointed.” Which in some round-about way that I can’t fathom right now, made me realize that I haven’t quit writing, I’ve quit my need to control the minutia of my writing. In letting go of that control, I’ve allowed my mind the freedom to play. I’m not planning scene and structure and plots and turning points and character objectives. I’m not brainstorming.

I’m daydreaming. That’s what’s given my feet wings these past few days. Daydreaming. Like I used to do riding home from school on the bus; playing the “what-if” game with my own mind. I always did love the “what-if” game.

That night when I go to bed, the little plot point is still curled up on my pillow. “Okay. You can stay. But I’m warning you, I’m going to take all my favorite books off the shelves and pile them on this bed so scoot over, we don’t want you squished. Then I’m turning on the rocket blasters and you and me and all these cool stories are taking off for parts unknown and we’re not coming back until tomorrow morning when the alarm goes off.”

And I close my eyes. But I don’t dream. I quit dreaming, remember? Instead, I daydream. And I’m happy. Beside me, the little plot point is happy.

And just when I think the damn rocket boosters are going to shake every last book off the bed, the plot point leans over and whispers, “What if…?”

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42 Responses to “What If I Quit Writing?”

  1. Claudine Says:

    Fabulous!!
    You had me really ‘sceert’ for a minute.
    This is a really great read. Not only that, but I’m SO glad you haven’t quit writing. That’s okay. My inner optimist couldn’t believe it anyway.

  2. Lia Keyes Says:

    Twitter:
    This post proves that it would be a crime for you to quit completely, but giving yourself permission to daydream “what-ifs” without stressing about technique and goals and ambition is a really positive step forward and I’m wholly behind you on this one! May we all indulge in day-dreams that make us fly!

  3. Birgitte Necessary Says:

    Twitter:
    Thanks so much, you guys! :) I love your support. Need it too. Big hugs!

  4. Tiffany Says:

    This happened to me in January. :) What a wonderful post!

  5. Birgitte Necessary Says:

    Twitter:
    Thanks, Tiffany! How did you get through it? What did you do to re-ignite your energy and inspiration?

  6. Ellen Booraem Says:

    I needed to read this today. Thank you.

  7. Birgitte Necessary Says:

    Twitter:
    Thanks, Ellen! Consider this blog a twelve-step program for writers who aren’t, um, writing. Let’s all give ourselves permission to just be okay with that, and play in the realms of our imaginations again to re-charge. :)

  8. Sheryl Gwyther Says:

    Loved this post, Birgitte. You nailed the dilemma that we sometimes face, but I love how hope triumphs in the end for you.
    I’m glad you’re not quitting too! :P

  9. Birgitte Necessary Says:

    Twitter:
    Thank you, Sheryl. I’ve decided there’s a difference between giving up, and giving “over” to my inner daydreams. Confession: I do hope that all this imagination stuff gives rise to actual words on a page again. But right now, I’m happy to take the pressure off a bit.

  10. Engrid (Penny Epel) Says:

    Twitter:
    Excellent posting, Birgitte. I can’t imagine a day without a few “What ifs.” No one should give up their dream, or their daydreams. I have a drawing on my cork board of a frog hanging out of the mouth (bill) of a big bird (a heron, perhaps.) The frog’s legs are dangling and “she” has her arms out of the mouth, strangling the very bird that’s trying to eat her. The caption: “Don’t EVER give up.” I smile at that drawing every day and ask “what if…..”

  11. Shelley Souza Says:

    Birgitte, this post resonates with so much that goes on in my process of writing. I’ve found recently that the way I translate daydreams into actual writing is by trusting the process. By not forcing that whisper of of an idea before it’s ready to reveal itself in words. And by writing my process in a journal I keep in Scrivener where my story is, every day.

  12. Birgitte Says:

    Twitter:
    I’ve seen that drawing, Shelly. It’s funny! And certainly appropriate. It sounds like you’ve found a good way to add daydreaming as a tool. I’m just waking up to its usefulness. Thanks for your inspiring words!

  13. Rachna Chhabria Says:

    Hi Birgitte…I am sure all of us go through this atleast few times in our writing careers. Its good that you are day dreaming about the “What if’s”. Its a sign that the story is trying to draw you back. :)

  14. Melissa Says:

    Twitter:
    Birgitte … this was a wonderful read and such confirmation that those ‘breaks’ are often very necessary in the writing life. So glad you’re still plugging away. I have been busy, busy with my writing – so much so that I’ve neglected you. I’ll be back this summer … I promise …. if you’ll have me!

  15. Birgitte Necessary Says:

    Twitter:
    Hi Melissa!
    Thanks for your great comments. Of course I’ll “have you,” silly. :) I know how crazy life can get!! I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

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