A Purposeful WIP Quits Quitting

I have good news, my friends! As I had planned (and promised to you and myself), I completed the fourth and final revision/rewrite of my novel manuscript last week Friday afternoon. Although it is a feat worth celebrating, I did so for only about a minute before jumping into the next step of the process: Editing. Due to unforeseen circumstances, I have decided go ahead and complete the edit myself, thereby slaying two birds with one stone. (I.e., rather than waiting on someone else’s suggested edits and then needing to review them myself, I will get both the editing done and the changes incorporated into my document in one swift step.)

To that end, I’ve armed myself with several editing and style guides and have spent the better part of this week re-familiarizing myself with the finer points of proper grammar, punctuation, and usage. Having been writing now for many, many years, I do already have a fairly firm grasp of these principles, however, I see only benefits to brushing up on them. For one thing, I suspect the knowledge will not only make me a better writer, but will also prepare me for future edits. Because as much as I want this to be the last step in the transformation of this manuscript into an actual physical book, I know it’s not. Nevertheless, it is another step forward. It’s progress I would not have and could not have achieved if I hadn’t first addressed my penchant for quitting. Because A Purposeful WIP Quits Quitting.

If you’ve been following my novel-writing journey for any length of time, you’ve probably heard me mention a time or two that I am a seasoned quitter. For the first two years that I was working on my manuscript, I started and stopped more times that I’d really care to admit. I’d come up against an obstacle—usually some form of internal resistance—get stuck and then quit. Eventually, I’d come back to the manuscript only to come up against another (or oftentimes, the very same) obstacle and quit again, etc., etc., repeat ad nauseam.

I won’t say that progress is impossible within that kind of stuttered cycle—I did complete some worthwhile pages in that time—but because of my herky-jerky steps, that’s exactly how my novel read. It was choppy and messy. But when I finally got in the habit of writing consistently, the once unrelated sentences and paragraphs began to flow together, forming a cohesive story.

But writing a novel isn’t the only goal for which consistency is key. Personal growth, improved health, deeper faith, closer relationships, even developing a business. All of these things require regular attention, without which usually involves a reversion back to square one. It’s like weight-lifting. Someone who starts a religious three-day-a-week lifting routine will likely begin to reap rewards within a couple weeks or so, building enough muscle to increase the resistance. If they keep at it those muscles will become stronger yet. But if their motivation flags and they stop going to the gym, chances are good they will lose enough of what they gained that should they start again a month or two later, they’re not likely to be able to pick up where they left off.

Sound familiar? If you’ve ever started and subsequently quit on the same goal or project multiple times, you’re not alone. As I said, I’ve been there and I still struggle with this on an almost daily basis. And the craziest thing about it is this goal or pursuit is usually something we really, really want to accomplish. We really want to write the book or lose the weight or spend more time with family. We might dive in head first, feeling super motivated for a time—maybe after reading a particularly inspiring book or blog or listening to a moving podcast—but as easy as the fire is to light, it is just as easily extinguished.

The hard part is figuring out what causes us to lose that initial momentum and quit, because doing so, in and of itself, is scary. It requires being honest with ourselves. It requires digging deep into our unhealthy patterns and taking responsibility for our lives.

So my questions to you today are these:

  1. What is holding you back? What is causing you to quit on yourself and your goals?
  2. What are you going to do about it?

For example, my issue with quitting generally stems from a combination of fear and doubt. And while investigating those deep-seated emotions requires an investment of time and energy—journaling, life coaching, learning positive self-talk, prayer—it is essential to keeping my inner critic at bay. Dropping the ball on one of these practices usually creates a domino effect of stoppage for all, which then causes the urge to quit to pipe up as loud and clear as the voice telling me I’m not good enough.

Maybe for you, the biggest obstacle you face is distractions. If so, what can you do to limit them? Or maybe it’s an issue of time. What can you do to free yourself up a little? If you feel overwhelmed and immensely busy, search your schedule for time wasters or things that you’re doing simply because you always have.

Whatever it is that habitually hinders your growth and provokes your inner quitter, I encourage you to take some time this week to really dig into it. I won’t lie, it will likely be an uncomfortable quest—I’m often annoyed to find that my biggest hurdles are usually related to my mindset—but trust me, if you want to get off that roller coaster of starting and stopping, starting and stopping, and you really want to make progress, this is a step in the right direction.

If you’re feeling brave or you want some accountability, let’s talk. Feel free to share your own experience with quitting in the comments.

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