Quitting is Not an Option

by Patricia Mae White




At some point in a writer’s career she may consider quitting.  The rejections are coming too often and are too brutal, the publisher she was writing for has folded, or the editor who has had her manuscript for over three years suddenly disappeared to join a traveling band of gypsies.

And that’s before the author is published.

Before I sold in 2002, I used to think, “That’s it, I’m done!”  I’d tell my online critique partners that writing was not for me, and it was high time I got a real job like working the concession stand at our local movie theater, (I’d do almost anything for a free movie).  I’m sure they thought, “Yeah, yeah, White.  Keep saying it if it makes you feel better.”

In truth, it did.  Saying “I quit” gave me a sense of power, a sense that I had control over my writing life.  After a few hours away from the computer, I’d find my way back into my office using the lamest excuses, “the cat’s stuck in the printer!” or “I’m expecting an important e-mail from Mel Gibson!”  I wanted desperately to write, but had been hurt by this often-disappointing business.  If this sounds familiar, I’d like to share some coping skills I’ve developed over the years.

I had been a six-time Golden Heart finalist and had a book sitting on an editor’s desk for more than two and a half years — yet I still hadn’t sold.  Here’s what I did to keep from losing my mind and throwing my computer out the second story window.


1)      Re-program your brain.  I remembered reading about how the brain is like a computer and processes whatever messages you feed it.  Therefore, I created a sign and posted it on my bulletin board:  “Quitting is not an option.”  Each morning I’d read those words, my brain would process it and I’d think, “Okay, what am I writing today?”

2)      Why do I write?  I had to go deep inside and figure out why I write in the first place.  For me it had to be a spiritual reason, not a monetary or an ego motivation.  Therefore I asked myself, “Sherman, (my nick-name) why do you write?”  Because I love it.  I listed all the reasons I write fiction:  to fly, to laugh, to experience new places and people, to get that “high” that only writing will give me.  What’s on your list?

3)      Don’t go it alone.  I scanned books on the writing life.  My favorites are “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott and Stephen King’s “On Writing.”  There is something very comforting in knowing that these accomplished authors also struggle through the process and endless rejections.

4)      What can you control?  I took a very big step away from the frenzy of “I need to be published” and accepted the fact that I had no control over whether or not my books were published.  All I had control over was writing a great book that only I could write.  My voice was special, unique.  My job was to use my voice and imagination to create magic.  After that, it was in Fate’s hands.

5)      Focus.  To that end, I had to focus on motivation, not desperation.  Desperation leads to stress, which greatly affects your writing.   I had to find ways to motivate myself to write my five to ten pages every day, regardless of getting three rejection letters that particular day.

6)      Surrender.  You can quit!  No, you can’t quit writing, but you CAN quit obsessing over the results.  Write your book, send it off, and let it go. 

7)      Support.  Besides finding support from books, I also found support in critique partners.  They know you well enough to know when you need encouragement more than a tough critique. 

8)      Think positive. In other words, if you’re hanging out with authors who enjoy feeling sorry for themselves, it’s time to cut and run.  Feeling blue does nothing to help your production of good pages, and can lead to depression.  “Keep your face to the sunshine and you will not see the shadows.”  This is another phrase I’ve got posted above my computer.  I suggest you do just that.

9)      Affirmations.  Whatever you send out into the universe is what kind of experience you’ll have in life.  I highly recommend setting goals and writing daily affirmations to help you reach those goals.  My favorite story is about my friend, Laurie Brown (THE NIGHT WE KISSED, Kensington, October 2003) who told me she started writing, “I will be a multi-published author” fifteen times every morning.  About six months later she had a two-book contract, and one of the books wasn’t even written!  What do you want from this writing life? A best-seller?  Ten best-sellers?  Write it down!

10)  Take care of yourself.  Julia Cameron refers to this as a weekly “Artist’s Date.”  Make a list of things you’ve always wanted to do.  Keep that list close and the next time you’re feeling down, pick one thing from that list and do it to bring your spirits up.  Also, keep special music in your boom box, you know the CD that always makes you swing your hips or sing out loud.   The right music is a fabulous way to brighten your spirits.  My current favorites are The Corrs “Live in Dublin” and U2’s “All That You Can’t Leave Behind.”


      Another highly recommended book is THE FOUR AGREEMENTS by Don Miguel Ruiz.  I especially like the “Second Agreement” which says “Don’t take things personally.”  A thick skin can save your emotional life in this business. After all, once you sell you’re going to have to cope with reviews.  

      The most important lesson I’ve learned on this journey is to “Walk On” as Bono of U2 sings.  In other words, write the best book you can, send it out and let it go.  The tighter you hold onto things, like a rejection letter, the more it eats away at you.  Learning to detach is key. 

      And remember, you are not alone.


After writing for seven and a half years, Pat sold her first book, PRACTICE MAKES MR. PERFECT (July 2003, writing as Patricia Mae White) to Silhouette Romance, and four months later sold her single title, GOT A HOLD ON YOU (August 2003, Romantic Times Top Pick) to Dorchester.   She said, “I quit!” many times during those seven years, but luckily always found her way back to her computer.  Send her an e-mail at Patwhitebooks@aol.com or visit her website at:  www.patwhitebooks.com.

For more of Pat's titles, visit our Fiction Bookstore.

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