“What if you couldn’t write?” my teen daughter recently asked me. “What if your hands refused to type and no doctor could explain why? What if voice recognition software didn’t exist and whenever you tried to have someone take dictation for you, your words came out in a jumble? What if your stories were forever stuck in your head? How would you feel?”
“Like I was in hell,” I said.
“This is dance class for me now.”
Ballet has been her whole world since she was nine. She had a barre in her bedroom. She hummed the major numbers from the Nutcracker starting in early September. She came home after a grueling six hours of class and rehearsal only to pirouette around the living room. She aimed for the next tier of her dance company five seconds after being promoted.
Senior Company by age fifteen. That was the plan.
Her body had other ideas.
Just before her fourteenth birthday, nagging knee pain worsened and made pointe work impossible. Thus started a year-long ordeal that included a knife-happy orthopedic surgeon, one unnecessary surgery, three physical therapists, cortisone shots, MRIs, a bone scan, blood tests, two awful misdiagnoses including one where she was told that ignoring the pain might result in the loss of her legs, a medical massage therapist, two chiropractors, a nutritionist, a psychologist, and a Pilates instructor.
Everyone had a theory for why she hurt. No one could fix her.
She remained determined to beat what ailed her. She wore ice packs on the way to the studio, always arriving an hour early to stretch before taking lower level classes to build up her strength.
Before her injury she never did modifications, never sat out, and never made a peep about pain. Now teachers began to guess which joint was the complainer du jour when she approached them. Before every combination, every jump, she had to consider the potential consequences. Pain waxed and waned, but never stayed away long enough for her to progress.
If pain drags on long enough, eventually we must question whether to press on or find a new dream.
My daughter’s body made the choice for her, but it took a year for her heart to accept she is not meant to be a dancer.
For better or worse, writers rarely face such a metaphorical fork in the road. Instead, our options branch out around us like spokes in a wheel. For example, if fifty agents reject a manuscript, we can:
- Keep querying
- Rewrite the query and/or manuscript
- Take classes/get an MFA to improve craft
- Find new beta readers
- Hire an impartial editor
- Set the manuscript aside and start another
- Give up entirely
This last option is the one I want to discuss today, because every writer I know has considered it at some point. Let’s face it, writing itself causes a certain amount of mental and emotional anguish, and the publishing world can make an American Ninja Warriors course look like child’s play. Most healthy and sane humans would not wish this upon themselves.
At what point, then, is it in your best interest to say “I’m done” and mean it? [Read more…]