Monday, April 16, 2018

N is for Never Giving Up #AtoZChallenge

I suddenly have the song "I Want it That Way" stuck in my head. It could be thanks to Brooklyn99. Or it could be because I typed the word "never" and my brain leapt at the chance to torture me for a few hours. Regardless, neither of those things have anything to do with this post, but I had to get them off my chest.

The truth is, I want to talk about giving up because I'm a quitter. I'm the first one to abandon a ship when it starts to sink. I've quit more things in my life than anyone my age should reasonably have begun. I quit music, sports, friendships, schools, cities, name it, I've quit it.

There's one thing I haven't quit, though: writing.

I was in second grade when I first told someone I was going to be an author when I grew up. That same year, I began writing my first "novel." It was atrocious and I don't think it was longer than five pages, but I never stopped.

At one point, I counted 17 novels-in-progress on my computer. This was in middle school.

By the end of high school, I had more than 300 poems in a folder. I didn't think this was a lot, until one of my peers told me how prolific she was at poetry: she had written 100 of them!

In college, I majored in creative writing and journalism. I wrote at least one article for the newspaper per week, in addition to stories and poems for class, in addition to a 250-page novel and a 100-page partial novel. Which frankly isn't that much.

In grad school, I wrote and edited novels and articles.

Since then, I have drafted and edited two full novels, published dozens of personal essays, and written maybe 100 or so blog posts.

I say all this for two reasons:

  1. To brag. And for you to tell me I'm great. I crave approval at all times, from all people, on all fronts.
  2. Because it's shocking. That I, who have quit so many things, have not quit writing? That blows my mind.
There's something about writing, the act itself of typing and the emotional relief of sharing, that has sunk its way into my soul and will not release me. 

For the months of October and November, 2016, I didn't write. I was off my medication and I sank into a depressive state so thick, so cloying, that I could not produce a single creative work. I was stagnant, and stifled.

The day I wrote for the first time, toward the end of November, I remember my heart beating faster, my palms clammy, and a smile on my face. It was the first smile that wasn't caused because of a funny joke on Brooklyn99 or a book I was reading or a friend cheering me up. It was real, genuine happiness exhibiting itself through my facial features.

I have always written. I hope I always will write. 

I think when I started writing this post, I was going to talk about how important it is, if you want a career as a writer, to never give up. Through rejections from agents, editors, readers, reviewers, if you want to make it, you have to keep on keepin' on. Just lower your head and charge forward like a freaking bull. 

And that's true. It's 100 percent true and valid. 

But I'm a little moody today. I'm in Manhattan, where there's a flash flood warning, and even though it's almost 10 a.m. we've barely achieved 7 a.m. light outside. I have a window cracked and the sounds of the city are filtering in, the men grumbling outside as they take away the trash, the cars swishing through puddles, the rain falling on the fire escape. I'm feeling introspective and thoughtful.

So if you take anything away from this post, let it be this: find what drives you, what moves you, what makes you smile when nothing is going your way. And cling to it. Never give it up.

If that thing is writing: awesome. 

If writing is your career and the thing that makes you grin like a toddler eating his first cookie is, like, bicycling or synchronized swimming or mushroom-collecting, hold onto that. Cherish it. Never give it up.

There's just so much stress in this life. So much that's hard. So many, many reasons to throw our hands in the air and say, "I can't. I can't do it anymore. I give up."

I was there last week. I was distraught, emotional, depressed. And through this blackest of moods, a tiny ray of sunlight filtered in, telling me: "If you give up on life, you don't get to write anymore."

My dreams are vast and ambitious, but the thing that drives me? It's love of writing. It's passion for the craft. It's desire to tell stories. 

What is the thing that drives you?

Never give it up.

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