The summer before my senior year of college, I set out on a mission. I wanted a guitar. A red guitar, to be exact. Tired of singing along to tracks all the time, I wanted to learn to make music myself. Sure, I could play piano a bit, and could sing that way when I was at my parents’ house, but a dorm room is not exactly accommodating for a piano. I even got family members in on my quest. I particularly remember my aunt bargaining with me for an Augie sweatshirt if she could convince my parents that I needed this magical red guitar.
Well, for Christmas, guess what.
I was ecstatic. I called her Big Red. I took my little beginning guitar book back to school with me and strummed until the tips of my fingers burned, and then eventually developed super sexy callouses. Sure, I was terrible, but I was having fun, and surely I would get better with practice!
Fast-forward to the following year, when I was neck-deep in my first year of graduate school. Neck-deep might be an understatement. I was drowning. Full time classes during the day, 20ish hours working at an after school program each week, plus hours in the clinic seeing clients between classes and in the evenings, then back home to mountains of reading and papers…and all the time, Big Red waited patiently in her case. I’d take her out from time to time, until my roommate was playing her and one of her strings broke, and neither of us knew how to fix it. Oops.
So I quit.
Big Red moved to Iowa with me after grad school, and after a couple of years of staring at her longingly after getting home from my dayjob at 10pm, my parents bought me guitar lessons for my birthday. I was so excited to learn again. My guitar instructor was a college kid, super talented, and patient. He said I was his best student, though many of his students were ten years old, so I’m not sure how much of a compliment it was. I didn’t learn how to change strings, because they did it for me, but I practiced like a fiend. I even took it on vacation that year.
Except. It was hard. Really hard. And for someone to whom learning new things comes fairly easy, it was frustrating. My fingers didn’t want to twist the way they needed to. They weren’t strong enough to get a good tone. Forget about bar chords. I bought more lessons when mine ran out, but soon the expense and the frustration ran together and I had to give them up. Of course I said I’d continue to play, watch YouTube videos, learn how to change the freaking strings, but I didn’t. Big Red gathered dust. I quit again.
How many times have you been tempted to quit something you love? For any number of reasons? Maybe it’s too hard. Maybe it’s too much of a time commitment. Maybe it’s just not turning out the way you’d hoped it would.
I can’t tell you the number of times writing was like that for me. It started out exciting, full of possibilities, but when the reality set in, it got much more difficult. Scenes that looked beautiful in my head just didn’t translate to paper. No matter how much I worked a page, there were always errors. No matter how many times I rewrote a query, I continued getting rejections. It took a toll. I quit more times than I can tell you. Threw my hands up (usually just metaphorically, but sometimes literally) and said, fine, this is not for me. This will clearly never happen.
I was on the verge of quitting last year. I’d received some nice feedback on my latest MS, but still got passes. It still wasn’t quite there. And I was tired. I had just finished an R&R for an agent, and I decided if it didn’t pan out, I was taking a break for an undetermined amount of time.
Well, if you’ve been paying attention, you know what happened next.
It’s the hardest thing in the world not to give up when things are tough. I’ve been there. I will be there again. But you don’t know what might be waiting over that next hill, beyond that next strike of the pickax. (If you find diamonds, remember I like sparkly things.)
I’m moving in a few weeks, and one of my goals is to set up a music corner in my new house. Eventually I hope to get my mom’s piano down here, and I am determined that I will learn how to restring Big Red and start from scratch learning how to play her. I don’t know how yet, but I will find a way, even if I have to teach myself. It may take longer than I want it to, but if I don’t try, I definitely will never succeed.
So go ahead. Quit. Take a needed break. Step away. But if it’s important, if it’s something you care about and want to do, come back. Quit quitting. My next challenge is cleaned up and waiting for me. What’s yours?
[SIDENOTE: I just wanted to say THANK YOU for the response to my last entry. It was incredibly scary to post that much of myself and my past, and I’m so glad it struck a chord with so many. I can’t tell you the number of comments, private messages, emails, and even texts I received with people saying ME TOO. We gotta stick together. We’re not as alone as it may seem sometimes :)]