The Importance of Giving Up (and Moving On!)



Sometimes, it’s wiser to admit defeat: I can’t always finish everything I start. That’s what today’s post is about – the importance of giving up. Which author said a writer must finish every story he starts? Was it Neil Gaiman? Well, whoever said it, I beg to differ. I can’t force-feed myself a project, nor would I recommend it. I have to be absolutely on-fire to finish something.

Once in a blue moon, it’s oddly comforting to scroll through my folder of “Abandoned Projects” and remember all the stories I got maybe 4 chapters into writing before deciding that I totally. Don’t. Care. Tales of heartbroken mermaids and odd young debutantes who mingle with fairies, and a woman who really sees ghosts but is forced to reckon with a sexy, Victorian-style spiritist (a.k.a. charlatan) are left hanging by thin threads, locked in corners that I’ve written them into. And really, I couldn’t care less. When the passion’s gone, there’s no use continuing, regardless of how “good” I thought the concept was, or how far I got.

The neat thing, however, is that if I open these files, I’ll often recognize names, or possibly character traits or places that I ended up using in my now-published (or contracted…or soon-to-be contracted…) works. And that’s when it hits me: these aren’t “failed” or “abandoned” projects. They were practice, exercises. Not everything I write is going to turn into a novel – why should it? But neither is the experience useless if it doesn’t. Looking back at some attempted beginnings, I realize they served their purposes. They inspired me in a different direction. They taught me what works and what doesn’t, what I don’t like to write versus what I do. And sometimes, they bring an important character into my life, if not for that project, then for another.

After completing my fifth novel, I had a mini-crisis over what to write next. I wasn’t ready to leave my latest universe, so I enthusiastically started outlining a sequel. It lost steam, however, as I realized I had nothing else original to say; I was only trying to prolong my time with the characters whom I dearly loved, yet whose story was perfectly sufficient by the end of the last MS. So, I had to first admit that. And then I dragged and dropped the sequel plans into “Abandoned.”

Though that defeat left a sour taste in my mouth, I attempted to rewrite another sequel that had been previously rejected as it stood. I loved the new 10+ pages I stayed up ’til 3 AM producing, was proud of the writing, and had a clear view of the characters. But that, also, quickly faded from my interest. I have too many new, more marketable ideas to pursue. What to do? Should I stick with these sequels in the name of loyalty, completion and finishing whatever I start? …Nah. *Drag & drop.* Get ’em outta my way. I’ve got fresher fruit to harvest, bigger fish to fry.

Since allowing myself to let the old stuff go, I’ve been bombarded with new inspiration: new characters, new loves, new journeys and adventures. I’ve finally begun penning another outline – a viable one, this time – and won’t stop until the pages of my little pink notebook are full. So today, I am thankful I gave up on what wasn’t working, so that I can now move on to what is!

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