Monday, May 27, 2013

Writing and Quitting

At first I thought I would start this blog post by writing something like, "Perhaps you've noticed that I haven't posted in a long time."  and then I thought, "Well, isn't that vain, to think that people sit around wondering why you aren't writing in your blog?"  and then I thought, "Well, I'll start it that way anyway, because that is what I want to talk about - the reason I haven't posted in a while."

And here we are.  And if you are thinking it is going to be that kind of announcement, it isn't.  So, deep breath everybody.

When I was young I wanted to be a lot of things when I grew up, I had big dreams and plans and ideas.  One of which was that I would be a famous writer.  I was always writing stories, my favorite style was the "Choose Your Own Ending," and let me tell you, those are more complicated than they look when you are nine and trying to write one on your own.  I also loved to write poetry.  I had notebooks full of all the words I could think of that rhymed.  I called it my "Rhyming Words Dictionary".  I took it all very seriously.

Sometime in middle school a teacher helped me come to the realization that I would never be a writer.  And so that dream died, and I never wrote very much again after that, until my sister convinced me to try a blog, and it was fun, and so now we are here.

Then last November I wrote a 50,000 word novel for National Novel Writing Month, and that was really fun, and I was really proud of myself for meeting that goal, and getting through the craziness of it all.  I found out that as a "winner", I could get five free published copies of my book.  Deadline for that offer: June 1st.  Way back in December I started trying to edit it.  And I hated my story.  I hated it so much it sort of made my stomach hurt to try reading it.  I thought maybe I needed a break from the whole thing, so I breaked.

Until a few weeks ago, when the looming deadline made me start thinking about it again.  And my thoughts went something like this:

Do I want five copies of my book?

Who else would want one? 

The story really isn't that great, and I've never even finished editing it.

Be honest, you've never even read it all the way through yet.

If you can't even read it all the way through, who would?

Why bother?

Who cares?

And then somehow it all got inextricably connected to my blog, and I was disheartened by the whole business of words and I was tired of them and they made me sad.

I had pretty much decided that I was done writing in this blog forever and that I was not going to order the free copies, because I did not want a reminder of my failure lurking around mocking me.

This morning I was lying around, moping and feeling sorry for myself, feeling sad about all the dreams of children that die as they become adults.  I told myself to just grow up, put my big girl socks on and realize that I am who I am, and that there are some things that I just never will be.

I will never be the first astronaut to play the piano in space.

I will never be a teacher in a classroom full of chalkboards.

I will never be a writer.

Then just as my moping was getting really low and sappy, Hallie started vomiting and Hanna spilled her cereal and Heather was screaming, and Devin came storming in the room and said, "Stop thinking sad and depressing thoughts. Get off the couch and do something."

Of course when a wise and wonderful man gives you good advice like that, and your family clearly needs you, you stop thinking sad and depressing thoughts and you get up and do something. I got up and made bacon and eggs for breakfast, did the dishes, got Hanna dressed, took a shower, practiced the piano, put Heather down for a nap, and then somewhere in the middle of all of it my thoughts took a turn.  I began thinking,

Remember when you first started teaching yourself to play the piano, and it sounded really, really terrible but you didn't quit and you practiced for an hour or two every day until it sounded decent, and now practicing is really fun because it sounds like music?

Remember when you were a sophomore in high school, and your friend was a senior and she wanted to play softball before she graduated, but she was afraid to try out, so you tried out with her and somehow miracles happen! and you made the j.v. team even though you were really, really terrible at softball and you had so much fun anyway, and it was one of the best things you did in high school?

Remember when your sister and most of your friends from the soccer team were on the track team to help them stay in shape so you wanted to do it too, because it sounded like fun.  And then you got stress fractures in both legs and couldn't run for the rest of the season, but you didn't want to quit so your coach put you on the discus, even though you were really, really, really terrible and came in dead last, by like, 30 feet, at every meet, but that is also one of the best memories you have of high school because it was so crazy fun?

Remember when the next year your legs were fine so you thought you could run, but it turns out that you are really, really slow, but again you didn't want to quit so you ran in every race your coach put you in, and you came in not only last, but were lapped in every single race?  But you kept going to every practice and your coach gave you a varsity letter because you were also manager of the team. And it still makes you laugh to think of how you told the girls as they passed you, "You're doing so great!" knowing that your dad was shaking his head at you in the stands, thinking you were crazy, but you knew you were just having fun?

Remember when you wanted to make a blanket for Hallie, piecing all of it by hand because you didn't have a sewing machine but you kept taking all of the stitches out because they weren't perfect and you hated that, and your mom finally asked you if you wanted your baby to have a quilt, or if you wanted to spend the rest of your life taking out stitches?  And so you finished the quilt and now your much grown baby still sleeps with it almost every night, and you have fun making blankets all the time, even though they still aren't perfect?

Remember when you agreed to run a relay of 84 some miles with friends, and your portion ended up being 11 miles long, and you were really, really slow and felt bad that you were dragging your super fast friends down, but you just kept going and going and it was one of the best days and most fun you've had, ever?

Remember when you read that interview with Brandon Sanderson and he said that his first five novels were basically only good as kindling for a fire, but that with the sixth one everything came together and he thinks that every author has to write five awful novels before they can find their "good" one, and how since he's pretty much a genius maybe you should just relax about it all, because who cares?  And wasn't it fun writing it anyway?

That's when I decided.  Sometimes it feels good to stop worrying about being great or perfect or the best and simply have fun.  That is why I will keep writing in this blog, whenever I feel words bubble up inside of me. They may not be the most poetic words, or the most grammatically correct.  You may roll your eyes at my weirdness, but that's ok.  Because this blog is fun for me and I like it.  I'm going to get those free copies and give them to... my mailman?  Or my girls when they grow up, and I'll tell them that there were many things their mom never got to be in life.

But most of all, she was never a quitter.

I apologize for all of the sentences that start with "and" in this post.  But I'm leaving it that way, because it was fun to write it that way, see.


  1. First--We LOVE the blankets you made us and as far as we're concerned they are perfect :). Second--extra, extra glad you did the 84 mile relay with us and just remember that was the day you ran more than the runner (me). Also, just saying, I would totally read your book and love it.

  2. 'And' can be a great writing tool.
    And I think you are awesome. And your blog makes me happy. And I want to be more like you.

  3. Amy- you rock! I've always thought so highly of you. I love how real and honest you are. I think you live a wonderful life, with a fabulous perspective. Thanks for sharing your perspective and words of wisdom. Your girls are lucky to have a mom like you!

  4. Ames, I have had a similar crisis lately (different creative outlet) -- I was just telling Nick about it today. We should talk. See you soon!

  5. Just so you know... I loved your book. And, I am shocked that a teacher of all people went about convincing you not to be a writer. That should definitely not be a teacher's job!

  6. Yeah. Who is this teacher that is going around telling kids they can't be writers and crushing dreams? Not cool! I'm proud of you for not being a quitter. And I would be really sad if you never wrote in here again. You have almost maybe possibly convinced me that I should submit my book for free copies. Maybe if it were finished. :(

  7. I love reading your blog, and this one made me cry. I don't want to be a quitter either, and you inspire me. Pick your mountains and climb them - one step at a time.

  8. I am so glad you aren't quitting your blog. I love your blog. And I understand that it is a bummer to actually get a physical copy of your book and not have it be as edited as you would like, but that is still super cool that you get copies!!! I really need to read your book now that I am reading again! I am sorry that I haven't yet.

    I am glad you are not a quitter. For one thing, the world would have fewer amazing cookies if you had quit baking.

    I love you. (Your blankets are amazing.)

  9. Amy, this post hit home with me. I feel like we are kindred spirits! I was on the track team for the same reason you were! I've felt like quitting before and it's tough to pick yourself up and do something. I too have not read your book, even though you were awesome enough to send it to me so I could! I've now lost my train of though of where I was going with this post so on that note, write on my friend!