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In Defense of Quitting (A Project)

I might be an expert in this. It seems like I’ve quit nearly every other project I announce on this blog. I would be down on myself about it, but the reality is…it happens.

And I’m not just saying sometimes, I’m saying all the time. Writing is a hard thing to do. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You’re not just putting words on paper. You’re putting worlds on paper. You’re crafting a story and you want everyone to fall into it.

Don’t get me wrong, writing is a fantastic craft. I love being a writer. But I’ve also written for fun, for hobby, for work and seen a project just fall apart. I’ve worked on ads for hours and had to have a conversation with my boss saying it’s just not working.

woman in red t shirt looking at her laptop
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It doesn’t make you a bad writer to not be able to get a project from point A to point Z. It just means that project is not meant for you.

Sometimes It Doesn’t Work

Not all projects are the project. Some ideas are just not good ones. It’s the hardest thing to let go of a story or a novel that you’ve put so much work into, but if you can’t move forward is it worth the effort. In advertising, we drop ideas pretty quickly. We don’t have time to mull over ideas. Clients want results now. So you get used to an idea you love just falling apart. It happens all the time. Some worlds or projects just don’t work.

When to Quit

The best time to quit is when it drains you far more than it should. When you look at that project with absolute distain. When you can’t move the plot forward. When you hate every aspect of your favorite thing: writing. When it just feels right. There’s no right or wrong answer to quitting a project. Maybe you’ve worked on it for ten years and feel like it’s gotten nowhere so you’ve decided to take more than a Friends style break.

Make a Plan to Move Forward

When quitting a project, it might be easy just to slump in your chair and give up on everything, but what you need to do is plan your next step. First ask why you quit the project. Was it too draining? Were the characters uninspired? Then take the next step to work on that. Create a writing schedule for your next work. Go get inspired with photographs or movies. Find another creative outlet until your brain loves words again.

But First Take Care of Yourself

person reading book on brown wooden chair
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I can tell you all day long about new ideas and jumping from one project to the next, but I must stop and talk about self care. For years, a lot of my abandoned projects were because I didn’t take care of myself. It wasn’t that the story wasn’t good, it was because my brain just couldn’t handle where it was at.

Don’t forget to take your meds. Go for a walk. Eat that delicious thing you’ve been craving for weeks. Take care of your mind and body before jumping back into your writing. Just like any other activity, if you’re burned out, there’s no way you can create the magic you want.

You Can Always Go Back

Never delete that abandoned project! I’ve quit projects just because they stopped sparking any inkling of joy just to pick them up years later. Or I’ve used parts of old projects to create new inspired works. Quitting a project doesn’t mean burn all the evidence (unless it emotionally had hurt you enough you needed too), it just means moving on to the next big thing.

In the end, don’t worry if you quit a project or fail to get anywhere with a writing prompt (or even NaNo). The biggest things to know is you keep trying. Every word you put down is better than the last. Your newest project will be better because you’re in a better headspace.

Quitting a project isn’t giving up, it’s moving on.

Let me know in the comments below if you’ve ever quit a project! I’d love to know. I’ve quit too many to count at this point, but I keep pressing on.

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