Reading this book about knowing when to quit combined with a podcast about how to build your writing habit got me thinking. Do you know when to quit?
I don’t mean you should quit writing. I mean quit doing something that keeps you from writing. Just like our main characters, we have choices. When we choose one thing we don’t choose another thing.
So maybe in order to make writing time, I don’t cook a recipe for dinner that takes an hour. I cook something that will be ready in thirty minutes and use the other thirty for writing. Or I quit washing my hair every day; I get some dry shampoo and use that 20-40 minutes to write instead. You might decide to quit doom scrolling on social media or playing Wordle, or any number of things that you don’t really care about and use that time to write your novel.
There’s another way to look at quitting in the context of writing. Sometimes we do things that “seem” like we are writing, but we are not writing. Like doing extra research, all the time. Don’t get me wrong, I love research and I think it is important, but quit trying to get the setting perfect before you let yourself begin writing the story. Write, and if you get to something you don’t know, put a “TK” in the text and keep going. Highlight it or put a comment, whatever you need to do to come back to it later. In my own writing, I will put something in all caps like AAA, so that when I am editing later, I see it.
If your main conflict isn’t working, or you need a new inciting incident, quit the one that is holding you back and create a new one. Quit the outline that no longer works or the subplot that seems cliche and make something better.
Knowing when to quit one thing and pivot to another is the part of the art of attaining big goals. You can’t do all the things—choose the ones you want to do and do those!
Sometimes when you quit something that isn’t working, you give yourself the gift of time and freedom to choose something that does work.