How do you know if you should quit your current writing project or keep at it? Learn why quitting the “wrong things” may be the only way to achieve your wildest writing goals.
I think I know why you’re here... You have this unquenchable desire.
You want to write something truly amazing—something with the power to change hearts, minds, and maybe even lives.
Sound like you?
Good. Keep reading and I’ll tell you why quitting the “wrong things” may be the only way to achieve your wildest writing goals.
And then, I’m going to give you a good reason to never quit writing. But first, let me explain the concept of “the Writer’s Dip.”
What is the Writer’s Dip?
It has many names. One of my favorite writers, Seth Godin, calls it The Dip.
The Dip is when writing becomes hard, and you want to quit.
Think of this as a mini-dissertation on The Dip, crafted specifically for writers.
Writer’s are especially prone to the Dip (and some of us face it every time we sit down to write). As Thomas Mann said:
"A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people."
It’s a feeling of “overwhelming adversity,” and it only happens when you dedicate yourself to something (like writing a book), and only after you’ve put some serious effort into it.
The Dip is that sinking feeling that everything could go wrong when you most want it to go right.
Awful feeling, isn’t it?
Why I Love the Dip Anyway
Writing is hard. Maybe one of the hardest things anyone can do. True creative effort takes every last ounce of mental energy you have available. Every minute you write, you use 100% of your mental resources. It’s a full burn, and it’s not easy to keep up.
Which means most people will never accomplish what I want to accomplish. Most people will never finish a book, let alone finish several drafts, run through the rejection process, and get published.
And that’s a damn good thing...
... because only people who truly, deeply, and painfully care about writing will overcome the writer’s dip.
Adversity sharpens us. It’s what preserves the value of what we do, and it’s what makes finishing a writing project so rewarding. In a sense, none of us would write if it were easy.
That’s why we need the Dip. And, that’s why we need to quit the wrong things.
The Value of Quitting
Why do “great people” seek out the Dip?
Because they know that nobody else around them will be able to manage it. Adversity is your friend, because it’s the enemy of your enemy (other people who don’t have the passion to write, like you do).
How many people have you heard in your life say, “I’ve always wanted to write a book?”
I used to roll my eyes when I heard that. Now, it makes me feel good. I can embrace the hardship of my passion.
But not all hardships are valuable. Some things just ain’t worth it.
What Should You Quit?
“I quit,” may be the two most powerful words for writers…
...but only if you know where to put them. As Seth Godin says, “Winners quit fast, quit often, and quit without guilt.”
Because they figure out, very quickly, if they’re focused on the wrong thing.
Quitting is good. It lets you free up what huge amounts of time to become obsessed with a writing project that matters, with a plot you find intriguing, or with characters you’re addicted to.
A “Guilt-Free” Way to Quit Anything
- Do you care about this story?
- Are you in love with this character?
- Does that story arc actually matter to you?
- Does this scene make you feel a strong emotion?
- And for every distracted writer out there—is that TV show/Twitter feed/game more important to you than finishing your most important writing project ever?
Say yes to any of these, and keep going.
Say no, and quit. Your time is too valuable. You don’t want to write mediocre—so why work on something that might be anything less.
If a story is not something you are absolutely in love with…
...or some part of a project drags you down…
...you will never see the best fruit that your imagination has to offer.
You will be stunted, for as long as you refuse to quit. The sooner you let go of the wrong things, the better.
When Should You Keep Going?
Let’s say you just quit a project. Great. What’s your next step?
Your next move is to find that thing that you can absolutely, irrevocably devote yourself to.
You quit writing that book? Good. Now go start the one you’ve always wanted to write.
Did you cut out a boring character? Awesome. Now you can make your protagonist devastatingly interesting.
Do not jump, and jump, and jump… I’ve been there. It may take you some effort to figure out what you most want to work on, but if you never finish a project, you’re cutting off your growth at the head.
One more quote from The Dip:
”A woodpecker can tap twenty times on a thousand trees and get nowhere, but stay busy. Or he can tap twenty-thousand times on one tree and get dinner.”
Can You Write it Better than Anyone Else?
Make sure that nobody else can tell this story with more passion than you.
Make sure you are “recklessly” in love with your story...
- Every scene
- Every character
- Every emotional beat
... because you are about to go through the Dip. And the Dip is going to burn you.
You will NOT survive adversity—you will thrive in it. You will become a master of this painful domain.
Writers who use the Dip attain new levels of mastery. They come out the other side with tools to hammer out any problem, and a new connection with their characters that makes their stories glow with passion.
If it doesn’t matter to you, then leave it. Right now.
Adversity is your friend. It holds back the hordes of half-passionate people who still dream about “someday, maybe.”
You, on the other hand, will thrive in the Dip, because you will be writing on the most important thing you’ve ever written.
Imagine how great it’s going to be when you finish...
What kind of stories make you want to be a better writer? What niche will you never stop writing in?
Tell us in the comments below!
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