Today, I want to quit
The honest confessions of a self-employed writer
Today, I want to quit. Everywhere I go, people do not chant my name. I’m not stopped in the streets by strangers or hounded by fans waiting outside my door, desperate for an autograph. What am I doing wrong?
It’s been nearly nine months since I ventured out on my own as a writer, and I have very few fan clubs dedicated to me. None, to be exact. And what I’m wondering, what keeps me up at night, is — well — where the hell is the papparazzi?!
My book isn’t flying off shelves, very few reporters seem to know my phone number, and the Times still hasn’t gotten back to me about that Op-Ed piece submitted two years ago.
Today, I want to go back. To how things were before. Before I quit my job. Before I committed self-esteem suicide, endeavoring to become a full-time author. Before I risked my family’s security on a crazy bet that could cost us everything.
In moments of sheer panic, when everything is in question, I wonder if all this insecurity and frustration is worth the cost of losing what I left. Couldn’t I just go back? Back to a steady job, one that paid the bills and let me off the hook for creating art? Couldn’t I just blend back in to the status quo?
Why must I be a walking cliche — a writer wrestling with his own inner demons? Dear God, even I’m sick of hearing my own whiny voice. First world problems, indeed.
Today, I don’t want to write a single word. Why would I? Everything I say comes out wrong. Every word feels awkward and contrived, every sentence an abomination, twisted and tangled, nowhere near the genius I thought was in me. Even if I did write, nobody would read what I had to say.
If someone did happen to read something of mine, no doubt they’d leave a one-star review, the bane of any author’s existence. Not a two- or three-star pity review, like a good friend gives, but one puny star. This is my deepest-held fear: that at any moment, I will be found the fake I truly am. And I don’t think I could handle that, so it’s safer to just not write.
Today, I will procrastinate. I’ll check email sixty-seven times and spend hours on Facebook, “building my platform.” I’ll hit REFRESH on my latest blog post enough times to cause carpel tunnel, hoping to see a new comment. And I will be disappointed.
I’ll bide my time before the clock runs out—before I go home and face my wife, lying when asked what I did all day. Somehow, a confession of “wasting time” just doesn’t sound as noble as “research.”
I will read news sites and scan Amazon, looking for useless crap to buy and envying the success of other writers—anything to distract myself from the pain of pursuing a calling.
Quite “accidentally,” I will stumble upon my own book webpage and, of course, have to check for new reviews.
And then I’ll contemplate quitting all over again.
Today, I seek affirmation. Randomly, I pick up the phone and call a few friends to whine, half expecting a pep talk or maybe a sigh of pity mixed with admiration.
But no such talk ever comes. The closest I get is from a friend who says:
“I know you think you should be done paying your dues by now, but maybe you’re just starting.”
I make a note to never call that friend again.
Today, I am all alone. Gertrude Stein never struggled like this. There were no moments of doubt for Dostoevsky or Hemingway. Surely, Emily Dickinson never consider quitting, and the idea of giving up never entered the minds of Joyce or Faulkner or even Shakepeare.
They were pros; only amateurs consider such things.
There are no days like this for my fellow writers living the dream while I squander my gift on an existential crisis. Those masters of the craft, those who’ve gone down in the annals of history as heroes of literature, surely never had a day like this.
It couldn’t be that this civil war of motivation is one all great writers face. I must be the only one.