When and why might the dream of being a writer dies and you decide to call it quits?
For some authors their dream dies when they can no longer write. Like when they are dead. Or when health issues prevent them from writing, despite their desire to continue on. Sometimes real world events in their lives do not allow them the time and/or energy to write. But for some writers, it is a conscious decision to lay down the pen.
For traditionally published authors the end may come when they can no longer sell their books to publishers. When new contracts are not offered. You’re only as good as your last book, so if sales disappoint, new contracts may not be offered and self-publishing may be too daunting or simply unappealing to continue writing. Since writing is a side-hustle for most authors, moving on frees time for other endeavors, even if it means leaving the dream behind.
Much the same dynamics may end the career of self-publishing authors as well. Though in this case, it would be the readers who are either not finding or not buying their book or books in any appreciable numbers. Disappointing sales may lead an author to decide that writing and self-publishing is simply not worth their time, effort, and in many cases, their money.
In both these cases, authors may still have stories to write, but they, or their publisher, don’t see a market for more stories. Books cost money to be produced. Most lose money, so they can’t be published by companies or writers willy-nilly.
On the other hand, a lack of new story ideas may cause both traditional and self-published authors to put down their pen. The spring of their inspiration runs dry leaving them with nothing new or interesting to write. Now this could simply be a case of “writer’s block” that will pass, but only time will tell. In any event, a writer is left waiting for an inspiration that may never ever come.
Another reason for quitting is that an author finds that the pleasure of writing is gone. Writing no longer gives them the satisfaction and joy it once did. It has become a chore, even, [yikes!] a job. And given that for most authors writing is a very low paying job, an author may decide that writing needs to be more than a job to be worthwhile, especially if they don’t have a book contract to fulfill. Or thousands of fans clamoring for the next book.
Or perhaps the writer finds that the need to write – that strange passion – that drove them to spend oh, so many hours pursuing something so iffy as writing stories has been sated. Looking at what they’ve written, they may decide that it’s sufficient. Enough is enough, there is no need to write more. They have nothing left to prove. They have a the hill they’re willing to die on. A legacy that they are willing to be remembered for.
Most likely, when an author draws a line under their dream of being a writer and lays down their pen, it is for more than one reason, it’s a mixture of many different reasons and emotions as well – sadness and relief, regret and pride, and hopefully, a sense of moving on.
I have some experience in endings.
I have been an artist all my life, and indeed for half a dozen years, a very successful starving artist, starving being the operative word. But even when I decided to take down my shingle and stop selling my paintings I continued to paint. However, as the years went by, less and less so. I had taken to painting from imagination rather than photos or life, having no interest – or perhaps not enough talent – to paint from life, so when my wellspring of imagination no longer produced new ideas, I could either just revisit old ideas, or stop painting. I didn’t want to paint the same thing over and over again, so I pretty much stopped, save for painting my book covers, which is more of a chore than a joy. Aiding and abetting this decision was the fact that I had painted something like 2,000 paintings of various sizes, styles, and in mediums over the last 30 years and still have maybe 1,500 of them in a closet under the stairs. I have my hill to die on.
That said, I would like to paint again. I hope to return to painting. But for that to happen I will have to come up with something new to paint, or a new way to paint. But if I don’t, so be it.
I sense the same thing may be happening in my writing as well. Ideas are increasingly hard to come by. I was delighted to be able to assemble a new novel out of several discarded ones this past winter. But while parts of it were fun to write, other parts were more of a chore than I would like – and while I would like to think the story is my best, being my latest, I don’t think it is my favorite, which is discouraging. In short, I fear that my well of inspiration is slowly drying up, just as it did with painting. Still, I have written and self-published 10 novels, 3 novellas, with another novel written and ready to be published. So, if or when it comes time to put down the pen, I have that hill to die on for my books as well. But hopefully not just yet.
So how about you? Do you envision a day when you will no longer be able or want to write? How do you think the end will come to you? Will you die in harness, or call it quits for any of the reasons above, or others I haven’ thought of?