Write It Sideways

How Quitting Can Help You Finish Your Writing

A few mornings ago, I got up, plonked myself on the couch, and opened Scrivener in preparation for my daily writing session.

As soon as I saw my manuscript on the screen, I knew I would struggle to get through my average of 500 words. I was tired: the baby had been up all night, I was feeling uninspired, and I happened to be at a tricky point in my story.

But I slogged on, felt the pain of every keystroke, until I’d written the bare minimum word quota of 250. It seemed like so little, but at least I had done something.

With that thought in my head, I went to shut down my writing program. Then something strange happened–something that had been right in front of me the whole time, but I’d never taken notice.

A message popped up on my screen with three options: (1) open a document, (2) create a document, or (3) quit.

Quit.

It hit me like a ton of bricks. For some reason, I have mindlessly been hitting that quit button for months, never stopping to think about what the word means.

My first reaction was, “Wait! I’m not quitting. I just need a break!”

But the button did not say “I’d like to take a break,” or “I’ll pick this up again tomorrow,” or “I just have to answer the phone.” It didn’t even say “close” or “exit” like some other programs.

It said “quit.” And suddenly, I realized I was quitting my story. I had given up, at least for the day. Possibly longer.

Do you know, I reopened that document and kept writing, and I did it because of that one word. In the end, I managed to surpass 500 words, and I was so glad I didn’t give up.

I don’t know about you, but once I get things like this in my head, I don’t forget them. At the end of every writing session, I now ask myself:

Sometimes, it’s those tiny realizations that make us more aware of our writing habits. It’s those tiny realizations that just might help you finish your manuscript.

What mental breakthroughs have helped you continue writing when you’ve wanted to give up?