3 Reasons to Quit Writing, 3 Reasons Not to Quit Writing


  1. It’s hard as hell.

  2. Boy, nobody warned you, did they? You were going to have fun. You had this incredible idea about a wonderful fictional world peopled by amazing characters, with internal and external conflict like the Fall of the Roman Empire. You had words and pages and time on your hands. And you couldn’t stop. . .you couldn’t imagine ever stopping.

    Fast-forward a thousand hours and a hundred pages, and you’re up to your hip-boots in this novel, with no end in sight. Which is not turning out well AT ALL. The sun has gone down, the mosquitoes are coming out, dark is falling. And you’re lost, miles from home without so much as a flashlight, wondering if you’ll hear the mountain lion the split second before it lands on the back of your neck.

    This novel is making your whole life into one long (losing) wrestling match with the Fear of Failure.

    You can wake up from this nightmare, you know. You can have a great dinner with your loved ones, sit by the fire until all hours with a good book, sleep in your own warm bed tonight.

    You can turn off the story and walk away.

  3. It doesn’t pay.

  4. Why can’t the media shut up about J.K. Rowling and her income? Do they not realize how it burns your brain every time you hear her say, “You know, I was poor once, too”? Is it meant to be torment, knowing you also have a vivid imagination, perfectly good writing skills, and a way with the English language—just not the agent and publisher and marketing firm that keeps churning Harry Potter all over the news like foam out of an overloaded washing machine?

    You’re never going to be richer than the Queen of England! Rowling’s got a lock on that market. And now nobody’s got the resources to match steps with her in this age of publishing track records and over-the-top marketing hype—especially not you.

    It’s a losing battle, and you know it. You can stop competing any time.

  5. It’s only a compulsion.

  6. Truthfully, when you do something impossibly difficult even though it’s not your job, you know what you call that? Parenthood. And once you get into that game, you can’t get back out again.

    But that’s not what this is. This is something you picked up because you wanted to, and you can put it down for the same reason. This manuscript will not be traumatized by your neglect. It’s not child abuse to lock it up and forget about it. There’s a whole world out there just waiting for you, a life for you to live.

    You can go seize it.


  1. It’s hard as hell.

  2. Wow, is this not a hobby for wimps. I spent four hours last night trying to line edit my own writing, and by the time I got called to the dinner table I knew my poor, squashy brain would never be the same again. Physical pain. Being a writer sucks.

    But I am so much better of a writer now than I was thirty years ago, when I started this exercise in insanity! I have so much more control over my language, my skills, my imagination. I’ve gotten so much more adept at going into that fictional trance where all the good material lives and so much more efficient at crystalizing it into words.

    All those years of bone-breaking work, and now I get to wake up every morning to magic under my hands.

    It’s a magic worth working like hell for.

  3. It doesn’t pay.

  4. Sure, some writers out there rely on their paychecks to determine the fate of their fiction. You know who’s #1 at that? A self-proclaimed “self-consciously commercial” ex-advertising executive. And you know what J.D. Salinger had to say about that kind of life? “There is a marvelous peace in not publishing.”

    It’s true. The publishing industry has changed drastically. It’s not about craft now, it’s about product, and if you make the mistake of being good enough to earn money for your publisher, the pressures on you to produce copy fast will make mincemeat out of the luxurious submersion in fiction that was once yours.

    The fact that you’re not making money at this is your saving grace—that’s what carves out the space in your life for this extraordinary adventure, rolls back the horizon in all directions so you can see as far as you like, drops the layers down and down into the depths where brilliance and detail and profundity lie. It’s what gives your writing life its wings.

  5. It’s only a compulsion.

  6. You can’t get around it. Fiction is not a nine-to-five job. It is an obsessive compulsion that would reign in your heart whether anyone ever found out about it or not.

    The writing of fiction has nothing to give but itself—and that’s all you need. Amazing people doing wonderful, inexplicable things, following their destinies to incredible concentrations of circumstance and will. And you get to be there with them, not reading it (although that is also deeply satisfying to the soul), but living it. You’re the only one. Everyone else has to wait and read your record of the adventure later.

    If you’ve got the compulsion, you’ve got it.

    Put both hands on your heart and just stand there feeling blessed.

The Art & Craft of Fiction: A Practitioner’s Manual
by Victoria Mixon

15 thoughts on “3 Reasons to Quit Writing, 3 Reasons Not to Quit Writing

  1. Steph says:

    As a classical music composer, I learned many years ago that I would most likely never make a living with my art, that ‘the love of the doing’ had to be my motivation. This was excellent preparation for when I ventured into writing. If a time traveler from the future came to me and told me that I will never be published, I would still write.

    Thank you for this awesome post!

  2. Fabulous post, Victoria. Completely wonderful. Thanks for this!


  3. Hallie says:

    So true, so true! Funny how you find the right inspiration when you need it the most. I needed to read this today. As always, bravo!

  4. This is a wonderful piece. For me, writing is therapeutic. No matter how wretched a day I had, I always have writing to ease away the pain. I always feel more accomplished and better after I have written, even if I am the only one that can presently read my own work.

    Writing is a wonderful escape, and is most assuredly a compulsion I find impossible to resist. This was definitely inspiring. Thank you.

  5. Brilliant post, recognise every word of it.

  6. Victoria says:

    You guys are so great! I wrote this thinking, ‘They’re all going to hate the first part, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to make the second part come through.’ But I should have known who I was writing for. You all know!

    You’re writers!

  7. Lovely as usual! It’s fun to see how things can switch around with a different perspective. I’m not in this for the money, that’s for sure, and I’m glad! 🙂

  8. Cyndi Tefft says:

    Terrific post. After an avalanche of agent rejects, I realized that ‘no’ may have been a blessing in disguise. I don’t want to write under a deadline; I don’t want to restrict my stories to one genre to build brand recognition; I want to let the characters do what they will and surprise me with the results.

    Thanks for the reminder!

  9. Gina says:

    What a wonderful post! Thank you so much for sharing. This was a true joy to read.

  10. Thérèse says:

    This resonates with me. Particularly “[fiction] is an obsessive compulsion that would reign in your heart whether anyone ever found out about it or not.”

    Victoria, thank you for this kernel of encouragement. It is all too easy to forget that it is perfectly okay if the goal is simply to improve at your craft, and learn to live with the compulsion.

  11. Bob Mayer says:

    The writers I know who are successful have on trait in common: they work really hard. They don’t write for the money; they write so they can make money so they can keep writing. Write It Forward!

  12. Maggie says:

    So true. Thanks for this post. It’s great!

  13. What a great article. On the good days I tell myself I write for me. On the bad days I question everything about this craft.

    Would I love to be a best selling author? Duh! yes, but that would require finishing something.
    Does my life depend on it? Never, but I will keep writing because I like writing.

    Hard, doesn’t pay and compulsive. Yep! all of the above.

  14. sarah says:

    just found your site through the top 10 blogs for writers — love this post. looking forward to reading more…

  15. Roland Schultz says:

    Sometimes I think practicing Bleeding would be easier!

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