Thursday, 29 May 2014

Staying versus Quitting: It Can Be a Very Fine Line.

Aristóteles por Luis Alberto Costales.jpg

Image: Aristotle by Luis Alberto Costales

YaY! HooraY! "Staying Strong", my mini memoir of breakdown is ready for review. With one mighty push, I've got it ready for scrutiny before publication.

I'm not a quitter, even though some things take longer to complete than I'd like, and sometimes I wonder whether it's worth the time and energy. Who knows that one? Most of us in one life aspect or another. So I'm a stayer.

On occasion however, staying can be flawed and we need to know when to quit. Not easy I hear you say? I agree. There's a fine line between the two, and making the decision either way is often difficult, especially when you're under pressure.

We all know the scenario of  new writers envisioning fame and fortune. I did. At least, I was hopeful of some fortune. I didn't care for the fame, I'm too introverted for that. We write a book, thinking (knowing) it to be a masterpiece, self-publish it to Amazon and sit back waiting for the rest to be history. Nothing happens. We're shocked, become angry, disillusioned, and give up on writing forever. Yes, it does happen this way.

But how about this. What happens in the staying too long scenario? Let's take a look.

Let's say you wanted to be a full time stay at home writer, but instead you worked in the city. This job was highly paid but demanding and stressful and you hated it. It meant that everyday you had an early start and long commute, and when you arrived home late at the end of a long day you were exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally. You snatched what time you could with your spouse and rarely saw your young children.

Weekends weren't much better. There were sports events and family outings and precious little time for you and your craft. Whenever you had a spare moment you would write. You would write because it kept you sane, because you loved it and you believed you were good at it. You would love to write full time but that would mean serious changes.

Time came when working in the city became unbearable and you made the decision to leave. You self-published your first book, and with great anticipation looked forward to the extra income you expected and needed. It was a success, but your success was short lived. Your next book wasn't as good and you had some bad reviews. You put on a brave face and wrote on, determined to do better.

Below the surface however, cracks began to appear. Writing had become a labour not a love but you continued writing because you had to. You had responsibilities. You had a spouse and family depending on your share. Guilt mounted, you had taken them down this path - they had put their faith in you. They had trusted you.

Now creditors called almost daily but you couldn't tell your loved ones, anyone. That was too embarrassing. And private. Besides, maybe if you re-wrote the last book with a new angle? But you were so tired, you could hardly concentrate. You had to carry on. You weren't a quitter. If you quit now, what else would you do?

Then unexpectedly your spouse's mother passed away. Your spouse who had been your rock now needed you. But you couldn't help. It was all too much. It was the final straw, the extra stress and worry tipped you over the edge. You broke. All your walls came crashing down into panic, anxiety and depression. You collapsed into a shuddering, sobbing mess, useless to yourself and all those around you.

You stayed too long.

And yes, this happens too. This brief story is not in the realms of fantasy. In fact many people find themselves overwhelmed by life. Such overwhelm takes time to build, and this is important. I'm talking about sustained, long-term worry, stress and pressure, not one-off events. Under these circumstances it's vital to take stock and get help to make some decisions.

Decide if you need to quit. It won't be the end of the world if you stop writing or whatever you do, for a short while or even permanently. You've given it a GOOD shot. Stop before you become unwell.

As an indicator of what too much stress is here's the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale to give you an idea. Even though the study was done in the 1960's it is still relevant today. I did the test recently and found I was way over the stress limit during events in "Staying Strong."

Personality plays a significant role in how we cope with life situations and therefore affects our decision making. Check out The Meyers-Briggs Personality Test. Being in the smallest group has had a major influence on my life. Again, this is a recent find but explains much.

Therefore the question of quitting or staying is difficult. Writing one book then giving up because it wasn't a raving success is not giving your talent a good enough shot. I'd say it's more about not having enough staying power. Your talent, if you have it, never had a chance to develop, it never got beyond crawling. Maybe you hurt yourself a few times when trying to walk and decided that was too hard, and gave up too quickly.

In an ideal world we'd all be balanced people, yet the reality is that most of us fit somewhere off-centre. If you're near the extreme end of imbalance, GET HELP. For you, staying may not be the wise option, no matter what. And yes, I know it's hard to judge for yourself, I know you think you can go an extra round. If you've written and written and your career's going nowhere, get help, ask for advice.

There's no shame, no disgrace, no weakness or failure in saying "This is no longer for me." It's far better to be honest and to move on than it to stay knowing this is no longer your path. I say "Well done" for the knowing.

Whew! I wonder whether extroverts have this issue??

Have another great weekend folks :) Time for lunch for me. See you next week.


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