Failing and Quitting
When I was in the third grade, a band director came to my school and gave a demonstration of various instruments and encouraged students to learn to play one. I fell in love with the sound of the clarinet and began what became an almost year-long campaign for lessons. My parents’ response was ‘You’ll just quit and then we’ll be stuck paying for an expensive instrument.’ The message for me was this: You are not allowed to quit. That means, you are not allowed to simply try new things. Combine this with the mandate not to fail and you’ve got a toxic combination. If you had to be good at things and couldn’t quit, it created a formula for never trying anything new, never risking anything, never experimenting…
Quitting is a Dirty Word
My whole life being called a quitter was a dirty word. It was a negative label given to someone who could not see things through, find the courage or fortitude necessary for a task. And that’s wrong. Quitting is often a good thing when it is done for the correct reasons. You quit when you have changed your mind, evaluated a situation and found it lacking, or have simply exhausted an experience’s benefits and are ready to move on. You are not running away from something when you quit, you are simply changing your heading.
Sometimes You Need to Give It a Rest
In any activity, even very fun ones, it is sometimes smart to take a break. To quit for a while. In fact, I recently discovered that when running longer distances it was beneficial to take a walk break–even a very short one–to regain some strength. It turned out I got faster times as a result even though it would seem to make no sense that walking would allow me to finish faster “in the long run.” It’s because we all need rest, breaks, periods of quitting in order to renew our strength to press on. I’ve taken breaks from writing when I needed to step back and reevaluate my goals and to regain lost enthusiasm for projects.
Calling Me a Quitter
There’s been a lot of talk lately about quitting surrounding the decision of Olympic gymnast Simone Biles and her decision to withdraw from some events. She was smart. She was preserving her physical as well as mental health. I was recently called a quitter by one of my reader/reviewers and it hurt because I could not address her charges. It looks as if I have quit writing in my Maryland Equestrian novel series because I did not release the last book (as promised in the preview included in book 2, Horse Gods: The Dressage Rider’s Betrayal. The truth of the situation is this: I have not quit writing and in fact have written two novels since then, but they are not yet released. I needed to step back from the Young Adult series and try something new so I wrote a dual timeline murder mystery set in the Jazz Age and today. That novel is being pitched to agents for representation. I also wrote a romantic suspense in a horse setting that is with my editor, being reviewed and prepared for publication and I’m now, at last, ready to tackle the third book in the series. After a break, I’ve returned with more energy to tackle the complex character of Willow Morozov and the twisty plot in Just Gods: The Eventer’s Revenge.
So, Be a Quitter!
Back to the clarinet lessons. Yes, I wore my parents down and got lessons.Then I quit. Just as they predicted I would, but you know what? I played for years and I had wonderful experiences performing in a band and learning to read and appreciate music. It wasn’t a waste of anyone’s time or money. In order to try new things, you have to allow yourself also to quit.