Sometimes, Even Quitters Don’t Quit

If there’s one thing I’m great at, it’s procrastinating. If there’s another thing I’m great at, it’s quitting.

I sound like a real winner, don’t I?

What I mean is, if I’m not COMPLETELY motivated and HIGHLY passionate about something, chances are, I’ll quit.

For example, when I was in junior high, I started playing volleyball. I liked the idea of sports, and my older sister played volleyball, so I figured I was supposed to play it, too. And I liked it. And I was AWESOME at it.

Until the ninth grade.

In ninth grade, I was made captain of the JV volleyball team. I had a killer jump-serve. I could spike the ball from both sides of the net and, at 5’10”, I could block pretty much anything. They wanted to move me up to varsity.

But I said no.

Because, to be honest, I didn’t really like volleyball all that much. When we went to tournaments, I secretly hoped we would lose so that we could go home. I hated practice. I didn’t even like some of the girls on the team. And the SHORTS, people. The shorts. (We didn’t wear those horrid Spandex atrocities, mind you. Ours were FLUFFY and made of what appeared to be polyester combined with hay.)

(One of these days, I’ll dig up a picture for you.)

So instead of accepting the promotion to varsity, I quit and joined the marching band, and lo, I was very happy with my decision. Because as it turned out, I also rocked at clarinet, and I enjoyed the shiny buttons on my band suit. Much better than Fluffy Hay Shorts.

The clarinet was awesomesauce. It even got me a college scholarship.

When I moved to Spain, I left ol’ Clarence at home. (Yes, I named my clarinet Clarence. Now you know the deepest, darkest secret of my life.) And I realized: I was relieved to have a break from playing. It was nice not to worry about practicing, being the best, defeating the stage fright whenever I performed.

So when I got back to the States, I put an ad in the paper, met a woman in a Steinmart parking lot, and sold Clarence for cold hard cash.

“Hmm,” I thought. “I’ve done sports. I’ve done music. What should I do next? Other than set out on a quest to find ALL THE UNICORNS, natch. Maybe I could write some stuff? I like to write stuff. I think I’ll write some stuff. Yeah. Writing. That sounds easy enough.”

And so I stumbled upon the world of Fiction Writing. Things went something like this:

I wrote a book. I queried that book. I was rejected, rejected, rejected.

Then, I was accepted! I signed with Agent Alanna. All my dreams were about to come true. We revised the book. We submitted the book. I was rejected, rejected, rejected, REJECTED.

Two more rounds of rejections.

We gave up.

Two years after the first round of submissions, I self-published the book because I am not willing to quit.

I wrote a whole other book, revised it eleventy billion times, then shelved it because it wasn’t good enough. I started working on a new book that was really singing one heck of a Siren Song because I am not willing to quit. 

I lost my agent, considered giving up altogether, then started querying all over again because I am not willing to quit. 

Yes, sometimes I am discouraged. Sometimes I think it’s all for nothing, that I’ll spend my entire life writing books that don’t really go anywhere.

But here’s the thing.

I love it so much that even I, Quitter Extraordinaire, can’t quit. Not even when I have to trash 20,000 words and rewrite an entire ending. Not even when I spend a year on a book I end up hating. Not even when every single editor in the country says, “No.”

Why?

Because I can’t help myself. It’s a part of who I am. I can’t stop writing any more than I can stop growing hair on my head.

And so I keep on pushing through, hoping that eventually my dreams will come true. And who knows, maybe one day I’ll be on some game show where I have to jump-serve while playing a C-scale, and maybe I’ll win a million dollars, and then even the things I quit will have paid off.

Maybe I’ll find those unicorns.

You never know.

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16 thoughts on “Sometimes, Even Quitters Don’t Quit

  1. StoriesAndSweetPotatoes says:

    I love this post. I feel like I did that too…went through sports, music (flute), academia, writing and now what’s next? Well I’ll figure it out when I get there. Love the image at the top. So funny.

  2. Alexandra Shostak says:

    DUDE I quit the clarinet, too. I was always *second* chair out of like thirteen people–frustrating as crap for a perfectionist like me. I played it from 5th to 8th grade, and then traded it in for the infinitely cooler guitar. Which I still play.

    I quit piano, too, and the funny thing is, I like to play the piano more NOW, and to learn songs BY MYSELF, than I did when I had a teacher.

    Love this post! Maybe someday we should make a clarinet-quitter band. 😉

    1. Anne Riley says:

      You would have hated me, because I was first chair for a loooong time. I never took piano but now I wish I had! And YES, clarinet quitter band FTW!

  3. Léna Roy says:

    You are awesomesauce! Love this post – thank you for your sweet reminder that it is about the journey of living a passionate life and not about the end product.

  4. Angela M says:

    Sometimes I like to think of it more as ‘making better choices’ than quitting 😉 The Clearing sounds fantastic. I think my daughter would love it!

  5. Ansley says:

    Ha….the reason I have never tried to write anything longer than a poem? Because I’m a quitter and I obviously don’t love it like you do. But, it’s ok…because I have awesome friends (like you) who let me read their stuff and have a tiny glimpse into the writing world.

    And, for the record, I’m really glad you quit volleyball to go for the band. ‘Cause we had some fun times on that band bus, we did. (And in the chair Eric left in the bed of his truck for months on end)

  6. Jessica Love says:

    Oh man, I’m the same way. It’s like…whenever it comes to taking myself to the next level I decide that it’s just too much work. This has been the ONE THING I haven’t abandoned, and that says a lot to me.

    Yay unicorns!

    1. Anne Riley says:

      They TOTALLY are. They found a tiny dragon already, right? Who’s to say tiny unicorns aren’t next?

  7. Dean from Australia says:

    I have always gravitated towards people who are dogged and determined and you, Annie, are no exception.

    You said a couple of things to me last year when I was considering quitting the greatest endeavour of all and they really resonated with me. Much in the same way this post does now.

    Bless you eh?

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