It’s Okay to Quit!
If you are an artist or writer, you have probably quit plenty of projects. What started out as a world changing idea might have dwindled away into nothingness before your very eyes. Next thing you know, you are flinging that canvas in the dumpster or shoving your manuscript in the bottom drawer, possibly to never see sunlight again.
A big part of my childhood was being taught the importance of sticking with something. Actually, not just something – EVERYTHING. I was not ever allowed to just quit an activity or even a friendship just simply because I didn’t enjoy it anymore. At least not without endless lectures on how crucial it was to not quit.
I remember when I was three or four, I took a gymnastics class for the first time. Gymnastics looked so awesome when other people did it. Well, for me, the key words turned out to be “other people”. All I remember, is that on the very first day, we had to run down the mat and let this teacher literally flip us through the air. That was a bit much for me and it scared me half to death. I did not want to go back after that first day.
Maybe it was the teacher because my daughter takes gymnastics now and her instructors took their time working up to things like that. She was never flipped on her first day. My parents let me stop but I continued to hear them grumble about me quitting for what seemed like forever. I thought that was unfair because it wasn’t like I was quitting simply because I didn’t like my gymnastics leotard or something. I didn’t want to go back because I was downright scared. Since they were so disappointed in me, I never ventured an activity on my own again for many years for fear of not liking it and wanting to stop.
Even so, I continued to be drilled in my schoolwork or friendships or even just meal time about how important it was to finish. It made it difficult for me to want to ever try anything new. What if I didn’t like it? The thought filled me with dread! Then I had two choices. Either stick with something I hated and feel that agony or quit and get lectured about it.
Another example was when I started TaeKwonDo at age seven. I went to watch a friend of mine in his class and wanted to try it. And did. I actually stuck with it for over three years until I made first degree black belt.
But then, we moved and the martial arts studios that were available near our new place were awful. The teachers in them only cared about making TaeKwonDo into an excuse to pick on people. Classmates were constantly ganging up on me and others right there in class. And the teacher was totally fine with it. Quitting felt like the right thing to do to me. I had stuck with the sport for over three years. I had made it to black belt. My time felt complete and that I had done a pretty darn good job! My family didn’t agree and forced me to continue taking classes with more lectures on how one should not quit.
I can understand how quitting every single thing certainly doesn’t teach you any kind of endurance. Never finishing anything will get you nowhere. But pushing through, banging, hammering into place, especially when something is clearly not working…well, in my opinion, that gets you nowhere too. But we are so ingrained to NOT QUIT (unless you’re talking about smoking or drugs) because we associate it with failure. Well, I’m here to tell you that it is okay. It’s PERFECTLY okay! And not just in art and writing, but life too. But I’m going to focus on art and writing in this article because that’s what I like to talk about most. I have quit plenty of projects. But I have also finished a whole lot more than I’ve quit.
Here’s where it’s okay to quit your latest project.
It Just Doesn’t Feel Right
There are times that you may have started a piece and it just isn’t working out. It might be the colors, or words if you are a writer. It might be anything or it might be nothing at all. Or maybe you’re blocked. If you think it’s that last one, then put it aside for for awhile and come back to it in a few days. I have put projects away for years before I came back ready to work on them. If you still can’t get the feeling, then maybe it’s time to move on. And it’s totally okay. You tried but this particular thing isn’t thrilling you to your fingertips. If you quit, then you can move onto the project that does!
Okay, if you are working so badly on a painting or a book that you are rapidly losing weight from skipping all your meals, then please, I beg of you, QUIT. If your cat or (gasp) your kid, is also losing weight for the same reason, then you had better quit now before the authorities do it for you. That project will be there tomorrow, I promise. However, if you fall into this category at all, I would suggest taking a much longer vacation than just a day.
You’re Totally Miserable (or even worse, you just don’t care)
Imagine this: you wake up from a great night’s sleep. You had the best dreams ever and are so rested that you go brush your teeth, get dressed and eat breakfast singing like you’re in a Broadway musical. The sunshine even gets out of your way because it can’t even begin to compete with you!
You turn to your latest project…
And a million rocks just clunked you down below the dirt itself.
You hate it, you want to throw things at it, you can’t believe you even attempted such a project! If this has been going on for several days, you definitely should think about quitting. If you look at it and feel absolutely nothing at all and there is absolutely nothing in the entire world that could persuade you to feel otherwise, then you should also think about quitting. Why put your time and energy into anything that makes you feel like this? Not worth it.
As I was writing these reasons not to quit, I started thinking of reasons why you should keep going.
Here are some bad reasons to stop.
- You had a bad dream that tubes of angry paint were taking over the Earth.
- You don’t like the way you look in a painting smock.
- Your next door neighbor told you that watercolors are for babies.
- Strangers aren’t falling at your feet in awe of your genius.
- You’re not rich within a month of seriously doing art or writing.
- You’re not related to Michelangelo or Leonardo da Vinci or J.R.R Tolkien.
- You have a weird aversion to the color orange.
If you want to quit your projects for any of the reasons above then it sounds like you don’t love your craft. At all. In that case, despite these being bad reasons to quit, if you find that this is all you need to throw in the towel, maybe you should still quit. You don’t need to be related to da Vinci in order to be a great artist. (Though, it probably wouldn’t hurt. :D)
And speaking of Leonardo da Vinci, he was a big quitter. It seemed like he tried everything – music, poetry, architecture, engineering, etc…but we don’t think he’s a failure, do we?