Friday, June 1, 2012

Go Ahead, Quit! It's Not Taboo.

Super Square-1
I admit it.  I gave up.

Now, defeat is not really my thing, but sometimes it's just better to tuck your tail between your legs and move on.

To be specific, I gave up on a puzzle.  Yeah, that's the one.

It's not that there was anything wrong with this particular puzzle.  In fact, based on my love for twisty puzzles, like the Rubik's Cube, there's every reason why I should have stuck with it.

But I couldn't.  This one simply wasn't right for me.

Perhaps it was because I could not adapt and apply the same techniques I was already familiar with.  I don't know, but it felt completely foreign to me.  So with scores of other puzzles under my belt, this one stands alone.  Unsolved.  Abandoned.

But why should I dwell on it?  Does it really diminish the value of the other cubes I have solved? Does it really diminish how I perceive myself as The Puzzling Mind?

Who cares?

Our society puts too much emphasis on 'winning' anyway.  Right, Charlie Sheen?

Sometimes 'winning' is just realizing when you've reached your limit.  Or realizing when you are not progressing any further.

Sometimes quitting is the right thing to do.  The smart thing to do.

Take this story I have been working on for six months.  It's been written, edited, and rewritten countless times.  I turn it over in my head and struggle with why it's not working.  I cannot seem to get it right.  I can't get this particular story  done.

Nothing feels right.

The voice doesn't sound like me.  The characters feel uneasy.  The story resolves itself, but not profoundly.  In short, it's a mess.  But something has me clinging to this failure.

Why can't I let it go?  Is it really so wrong to shelf a story?

Well, I'm going to do something taboo!  

I quit.

There, I said it.  I quit.  I'm going to quit this story.

And look, I'm still here!

Society may scorn me, but I don't need its approval, or its permission.  I quit, because if I stay hung up on this futile story, I will never move on to others.  I'm going to accept defeat with this piece and simply move on.  I'm going to learn from this.  This particular story isn't right for me.  And I'm not going to dwell on it.

This feels great!  What a relief!  Life is too short to worry about what people may think.  Get over it!  If you're a writer, write.  If you're a puzzler, solve puzzles.  Not everything is going to work.  Not everything is going to feel quite right.  That's part of the process.

I give you permission.  If it doesn't feel right, give up.  Quit.

Are you hung up on something for the wrong reasons?  Please share your experience in the comments.


  1. I think trying and failing, whether it's putting something aside for now or dumping it and moving on, is an essential part of the process. I have stacks of 'almost-nearly' manuscripts. They didn't quite work, but I still learnt heaps from them.

    Moody Writing
    The Funnily Enough

    1. As long as you learn from them, they can be like compost and feed your other work. Now this puzzle, well, it may just end up in a landfill ;-)

    2. Good for you! I think there's a lot to be said about mindful quitting. And there is definitely nothing wrong with putting a story in the trunk--who knows, maybe you'll pull it out in a year or two and find new inspiration.

      I'm a proud quitter. I quit teaching high school to pursue a career teaching college, and that is the best choice I have ever made in my professional life.

      Great post!

    3. Lori, I think you just suggested a better title for my post. I love that phrase, 'mindful quitting'. Much better than 'reckless quitting' ;-)