Stop Quitting: An Oxymoron

My sister-in-law Linda started a business transforming reclaimed wood into home decor. Reklaimed Designs is hard work, but Linda loves it. Last week I told her, “I could never do what you do. I’m not artsy at all.”

This morning I remembered something.

I took years of oil painting lessons when I was young. As a little girl I was constantly drawing. When my 3rd grade teacher’s wife had a baby, our class used my picture for a congratulations poster. Framed paintings—Julie Christianson, 1981—still hang in my grandparents’ home. But today I see myself as someone with zero artistic skill.

Young Julie—living her best life—under the pig painting she reproduced from a print.

In my dining room sits an old piano that used to belong to my other grandparents (who also had framed paintings of mine). They gave the piano to my family, then I took lessons for years. I composed songs—both lyrics and music—for two decades. Now the piano is out of tune, and I can’t finish songs I once played with my eyes closed.

Even more than paint and piano, though, singing brought me joy. Whether it was choir class, school musicals or concerts, this girl was all in. I won awards and a college scholarship (accompanying myself on the piano). I performed at festivals, for weddings, and with a cover band. Wrote funny songs as gifts for my family. Solos. Duets. Background vocalist on a demo tape. I couldn’t get enough.

Now I don’t even sing in the shower.

Young Julie—sporting questionable makeup and costume—for her lead role in The Boyfriend. Spoiler alert: I didn’t have a boyfriend.

When I was ten I wanted to be a teacher like my father. I also wanted to be an author like Judy Blume. But teaching seemed more practical, so I got my credential and taught high school English. For 16 years I tried to be the best teacher possible. Then I took a leave of absence. And eventually resigned.

Do you see the pattern?

I didn’t until this morning.

Now my mind is blown.

But you left teaching to be an author, Julie. You were following a dream! 

Sure I was.

You know what, though? The first project I completed was a memoir about training for a marathon for my 40th birthday.

So you were a runner?

Nope. I just couldn’t decide what to write. Young Adult? Women’s Fiction? Instead of choosing, I took the road less traveled.

Literally.

Within two years, I’d run three marathons, four half-marathons, and could lace up my shoes for a 10-miler on any given morning.

You get where this is going, right?

I don’t run anymore. Ever.

Holy crap, y’all.

I’m a quitter.

(Damn, I hate thinking that.)

So okay, the word “quitter” might be too harsh. It’s not terrible to embrace new experiences, soak them up, then shift to fresh pursuits.

Maybe instead of a quitter, I’m a trier.

Trier’s a label I can get behind.

Either way, though, I fear what this revelation means for my writing.

I spent the last nine years working with words; revising, polishing and querying. I share blog posts encouraging others not to give up.

I have publishers for Letters for Scarlet and Lily by Any Other Name, plus three other manuscripts waiting for my next move.

Oh! And my kids left for college, which leaves me extra time for authorship! Yet here I sit at my computer, the words elusive. I’m frozen. A fraud.

Fellow writers say they HAVE to write, but I’ve already admitted that’s not true for me. Writing is my dream, but the reality’s hard.

Marketing. Reviews. Sales. These come with the publishing territory, and they bring with them the risk of disappointment. Rejection. Heartbreak. There’s always more to achieve, bigger numbers to chase. Others who are better. Stronger. Faster.

Ah, but comparison is not merely the thief of joy; it’s the swiftest route to misery.

(And I’m not a perfectionist, anyway. I’m a good-enough-ist. Bonafide.)

Maybe that’s what scares me most: that I’ve achieved good-enough, so I’m already withdrawing, softening the blow, making excuses.

I miss my kids. When they’re home for the holidays, I will prioritize them. And did I mention I got a new job? Actually, two jobs. Maybe three. And I still have to walk the dogs!

The pile o’ rationalizations casts a longer shadow than that pig in my oil painting. It’s self-sabotage, no?

Yes.

But this doesn’t make it untrue.

I do miss my kids. They will be home soon. I have taken on two new jobs. Maybe three.

I can check published-author off my bucket list, then shift to those fresh pursuits.

Or.

I could keep showing up to my writing desk. Stick with the hard. Put myself out there. Try. Fail. Hurt. Try again.

“Good-enough.” 

It’s a very tempting whisper…

If I want my voice heard, though, I have to stop quitting.

11 thoughts on “Stop Quitting: An Oxymoron

  1. I like the trier part over the quitter part … and having been an achiever in so many areas makes you quite well rounded dear friend.

  2. I didn’t realize how interesting you are! For an overachieving writer, you’re sure quiet about it! Maybe part of you is dreaming about going back and tinkering with paints and showering – I mean singing? Maybe you miss it a bit? You’re obviously excellent at providing the world with beautiful distractions so please don’t stop ❤️

  3. Laurel Janssen Byrne

    My fellow trier, I would love so much to go for a run with you, because I don’t enjoy it anymore either. Marathon, check. And maybe we can go sing karaoke together. Or maybe we can do a Pinot’s Palate night and make some new bathroom art together. Wait…nope…I’m busy this week, NOT writing (painful) and prepping for my Safety Tree ladies who DO write (example: this blog post) to join me for some holiday cheer.
    You’re the writerest writer around!

  4. Please keep writing. And those are not empty words.

  5. Diane

    You know a plethora of words just as I do; fraud would never be a word that would describe you. In light of the current situation in which we are living, your state of mind is completely understandable. Keep up the great work, don’t despair or give up, you are on the right track.

  6. Aparna

    Hi Julie,
    I don’t think you are a quitter at all my awesome author friend. I call myself a “fence straddler” – I love science, I love to write, I love to sing and play music, I love to run, I LOVE LOVE LOVE my kids. So I keep trying all of the things I love to varying degrees. My blog site sat empty for six months, because I’ve been putting my all into my teaching and my kids right now. The piano – which is tuned, sat empty for a month, but I sat down yesterday and belted out Imagine while my son was doing his homework. Same thing with the guitar, I practiced yesterday for the first time in weeks. Running? I too started running races later in life – around 35. This year, I ran a 10 miler, then hurt my knee. It got better, and I slowly started ramping up again and BAM, I hurt my back. Yes, that is 47 for you! So you and I are similar, not quitters, but fence straddlers, lovers of music, art, exercise, and lovers of LOVE. But there is only so much time in the day, and did I mention I like to read? That is why other things end up by the wayside (caught up in another world). Thank you for writing this piece, it clearly spoke to me. Let’s run a race together next year! Fence straddlers UNITE.

  7. Mike

    This was wonderful Julie! I now know for certain that I am a trier. I get “good enough” at something and I get bored and move on. I used to love working with wood (even though not at all good enough) and these days the case to my saw has cobwebs on it. Did I quit? Or do I just want a taste of everything? I prefer the latter.

  8. Kristi

    You have accomplished so many things, that other people won’t even try.

    Fraud? Absolutely not.

    Breaks are okay, and allow us to recharge.

    Enjoy those kids.

  9. Eric S Christianson

    It’s not the quitting you should be focusing on, it’s the fact that you are a success in every endeavor you try. Love you.

  10. Vanessa Pinto Johnson

    You are a true renaissance woman. That is different than quiter OR trier. You are multi-talented (I remember you in the boyfriend and was there for the glorious jazz hand days) and you have excelled at much. But I think evertything one does informs the rest – and enriches it. Music is a language. Writing has to have depth and perspective, based on observation – like painting. Raising and teaching children informs your writing of them. I love this post but I disagre with the premise You are on your path and every expression, especially ones you have spent time and effort becoming skilled in, add to and inform the others. I see them all as connected. Your voice contains them all no matter what form. Love – one of your early fans and fellow believer. VJ

  11. You have written so many captwords- but this is you’re best writing- and now you have an idea for your next book- this would be Such an engaging story. But don’t give it a title until it’s finsihed- will it be The Quitter, The Trier or ….

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