November 9, 2010
It was with some amusement that I read Erica Orloff's blog post today about not letting go and standing up, persisting, etc. Because my thoughts were focused on quitting (Erica and I often do this mind meld thing, go figure).
Oh, not quitting writing. Or, even, necessarily, quitting writing fiction, which I've discussed many times before. But because I've been writing fiction practically nonstop since 1985 or so, I think any time I say I'm going to quit writing fiction, people around me have (quite sensibly) decided I'm full of shit.
In recent years I've filled my life with a lot of activities--band boosters, running, biking, sanchin-ryu karate, weight lifting, guitar--plus all the various attentiveness I need to pay to being a good husband and father, etc. Hell, I even have a social life.
But there's only so much time and energy to go around. I also find, not surprisingly, that my interest and enthusiasm for some of these activities waxes and wanes a bit. Right now, guitar is the one where I think, "Gee, I'm struggling to practice, maybe I should just quit and save Gary some time and myself some money."
After pulling a muscle and/or straining a tendon (yet again) running, I took a month or so off from it and filled the time instead with more sanchin-ryu karate, which seemed a very satisfying situation. I more or less was willing to just say to hell with running, I was never very good at it anyway. Then my youngest son ran in a 5K Saturday (a turkey trot) and I noted the variety of people of all types and physical abilities out running on a pretty cold Saturday morning and thought, "That looks like it would be fun to do. Maybe you should start up running again." So I did, on Sunday. And enjoyed it. And in terms of running, I feel like, at the age of 46 going on 47, there may be a "use it or lose it" aspect to this thing.
There are some activities I can't really envision giving up. Lifting weights; biking; sanchin-ryu karate (most of the time).
At the same time, writing fits in there. I can't imagine not writing. I can imagine not writing fiction. And I was thinking about the current dichotomy of a publishing industry under siege and the development of e-book self-publishing that seems to be far more effective and far-reaching than POD publishing was a decade ago. I mean, my e-books are selling. I'm not getting rich by any means, but there's some pocket money there and I've used it to pay a bill or two and it gets better each month. And frankly, it's not as if I'm getting rich with my traditionally published novels either.
So I wonder, having been dropped by a couple publishers in my lifetime, what I would do if I were dropped by my current publisher or some other crisis occurred. Would I throw in the towel, say, "I surrender."
Or maybe not.
One question I often ask myself when I'm trying to make a decision like this (or coming to grips with the low-end of my enthusiasm curve) is: Is this a decision you'll regret in 10 years, 20 years, 30 years?
Some decisions, of course, are just not yours to make. Others are. But I often think it's helpful to look long-term and think, "Gee, in 20 years are you going to be glad you kept taking guitar lessons because it forced you to stick with it? Or are you going to say, what a waste, I should have just hung it up?"
Some things are worth quitting, though. Some things aren't. But it seems to me that a long-term view often cuts through the BS.