“It’s very easy to quit during the first 10 years. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” –Andre Dubus
Eight and a half years. That’s how long I’ve been working on my memoir, from living the story, to learning how to best write it, to editing, to pitching, to self-publishing, to getting picked up by publishers, to becoming a published author.
Eight and a half years. Sometimes I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve spent that long on a single storyline.
Society values speedy production lines, assets, qualifications, awards, escalating graphs, exploding pie charts, quantity, turnover, more, faster, better, hurry up, you’re getting old, WHAT ARE YOU DOING? YOU’RE FALLING BEHIND!
Do you have enough to show for this time?
When you’re working on something unconventional, something creative and uncertain, it can be disheartening to feel like you’re not producing enough, not getting the numbers, not earning the money. And where is this thing that you’ve been spending all your time on, hmm? It doesn’t exist yet. Will anything tangible come of it?
Perhaps you’re wasting your time?
Art that’s a true expression of your soul comes from a quiet space within that exists in another realm to stats, sales, dates, publishing deals, accolades, or whatever anyone else thinks. It comes from the opposite place to your ego: that nasty little voice of insecurity and comparison; that nasty little voice of arrogance. When your ego is quiet, your honest, vulnerable self will be there in the stillness. And from that place, with heart and integrity, you create slowly over time, building it up brick by brick.
Is it any good? How will you know for sure?
It doesn’t matter.
The wealth, the awards, the assets—all of those things you might have if you’d refocused your efforts? They’re meaningless. But so is your art. It is nothing, it’s unimportant. You will live, you will die, and you’ll be forgotten. Nobody cares. If you do earn big money, it will come and it will go too. You may become popular, but then fans will move on to the next thing. Perhaps your art will change the world, but will it really matter? Or will it simply shift the way things are—good and bad—into a slightly remodelled form?
Does that worry you? Then you’re missing the point.
If your art changed nothing, would you still do it? If not, then why are you doing it to begin with? If the answer is yes, then don’t quit.
Forget the stats, the numbers, the wealth, the prestige, the popularity, the things you imagine to be waiting for you on the other side of ‘success.’ They’re not there, and if they are, they won’t stay long. Instead, work tirelessly to make your soul happy. Keep going until you’re standing before a big, glorious creation made by you, for you. Your baby—made of cells, or paper, or clay, or words. That’s yours.
Be proud. You did it for the simple joy of creating. There is nothing more to life than that.
So don’t quit.
After eight and a half years, my book launches today in the US and Canada. Here it is.
Torre DeRoche is the author of two travel memoirs, Love with a Chance of Drowning (2013) and The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World (due out September 2017). She has written for The Atlantic, The Guardian Travel, The Sydney Morning Herald, Emirates, and two Lonely Planet anthologies.