Why “If you can quit, then quit” pisses me off

Yesterday I ran across a bit of “advice” that I’ve seen bunches of times before (which is why I’m not linking to it) and that never fails to annoy me: “If you can quit (writing, the violin), do.”

This is bullshit. I can count the number of things I can absolutely not quit on one hand, and those are body functions like beating my heart and inflating my lungs. I could quit writing. I could quit learning to draw, or playing the piano, or exercising. I could quit my job (but that would be a bad idea). I could probably even quit reading. I’d be pretty bored, but I could do it.

I suppose it’s supposed to be encouraging. But it pisses me off because it smacks of “writers are special people who were meant to be writers” and a bit of “got to keep the newbie writers down so I don’t lose my bestseller spot”. There are enough stories to go around for everyone.

Do you want to write? Then write. Do you want to write just for fun, not publication? Then have fun. Do you want to write for publication? Then work your ass off–either you’ll fail or you’ll find the necessary passion along the way (and maybe still fail). You don’t have to be 100% committed when you start.

But that doesn’t fit in a tweet.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Why “If you can quit, then quit” pisses me off

  1. I don’t think it’s offered as an existential question. I think it has a little to do with the interest level and not so much a “if you can”, sort of like the idea of quitting an addiction. Could I quit writing? Sure, I’m not writing very much this past year and a half. But I find myself wanting to write. Wanting to outline, research, follow that rabbit down that damn hole one more time. Trying to work out schemes where maybe I could just finish this short story or get a few hundred words on the WIP.

    Saying I could quit writing is like a pack-a-day smoker saying they can quit smoking anytime. Sure, they may make it a day or two, but by the end of the week they’ll really be wanting to smoke again.

    So, if you can quit writing, give it up and never think of it again or have it affect your life, then this might not be the path you’re looking for. On the other hand, if you’ve tried quitting, but kept coming back to it, you’re hooked, me bucko.

    When I took college level calculus for the first time, we spent three weeks learning how to calculate derivatives the hard way. Even had a test where we had to show our work. It was pretty damn hard math. The day after the test the professor said, “Okay, you can forget about that. Nobody does it that way anymore. Here’s the trick to getting to the derivative…” But that day we had 1/4 less people in the class. By doing it the hard way first the professor had weeded out the people who wouldn’t be able to finish the class (when the derivatives got much harder, even with the easy way).

    This is why I’ve come to enthusiastically support NaNoWriMo. If you think you want to be a writer, try it for NaNoWriMo. Even if you don’t “win”, are you still thinking about writing come January 1? Then maybe you’ll want to learn other ways of writing. When people learn I write, and I’m sure this has happened to you as well, you hear about all the other people who want to write. And you know most of them won’t be able to finish a 5000 word story, let alone rewrite it until it works.

    • Really late response here…

      If it were phrased as “If you can quit, then maybe there’s something else you would like better”, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. It’s that it’s phrased as an order. “If you can quit, then we won’t let you in our special writer club.”

      It’s quite possible I’m reading things into it due to past experience. 🙂

  2. Pingback: Writing Roundup | Elizabeth Shack

  3. Pingback: On Advice | All Rights Reserved

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