Tuesday Toss-Up

Not Giving Up, Even When You’re Giving Up

Kitten, Paws Up
Ok, ok. I givz up!

Last week, we talked about how giving up can be a good thing. But giving up doesn’t always mean giving up. What we must give up is anything that holds us back. What we must never give up is our authentic passion.

Of course, the sticky question can be just what exactly that authentic passion is…because we’re not always clear on that ourselves.

Anyone who embarks on a path that strays outside the norm for those around them (and, indeed, themselves), is likely to encounter a lot of dream-killing action. That action can come from the outside, in the form of subtle and not-so-subtle comments from friends, family (heck, even total strangers *shrug*). Sometimes, the most insidious dream-killing comes from the inside, from our inner critic (who might be the internalized representations of our parents or maybe just alien voices). A writer (actor, inventor, artist, foil-hat designer etc) from a family of the same is likely to be encouraged to tread that path but such an individual from a family of, say, undertakers might run into a little resistance.

While we want to avoid banging our heads into the same wall over and over, like Barry flying repeatedly into the window glass in Bee Movie, we don’t want to just throw our hands up and walk away from the dream that set us on fire in the first place. If we attack our problems as Barry did, ramming them again and again in exactly the same way, we’ll just end up with a cracked skull, which would be counter-productive and probably messy. If we tell ourselves the problem is unsolvable, because the “only” way to solve it has failed, we’ll never break through to our dreams.

Hmmm…there’s some violent metaphors in there…must be all that coffee this morning.

What we have to do is:

  • Stop – Until we take a moment to catch our breath, we can’t look at the situation objectively. Maybe this means taking a short hiatus until we can calm down enough to see things clearly.
  • Figure out what our dream really is – What is it we really want? Maybe whatever it is we’re trying to do is not what we really dream of. If we are writers, what is it about writing we love? Is it the communication of an idea, the sharing? Is it the creation of new worlds? Is it to earn a living (which a totally reasonable dream, by the way…just different from a passion for creating worlds or sharing information). Maybe we don’t need to write in a particular genre or form, even if that’s what we originally thought we’d do.
  • Assess what has and hasn’t worked in the past – We have to take stock, even make a list, of all the things we’ve tried that haven’t worked. First of all, we need to know what not to try again (at least, not without some modifications). Second of all, there is always something we can learn from our failures. In fact, those failures can make us so much stronger than if we’d never failed at all (Kristen Lamb relates an amazing experiment about strength arising from adversity in a recent post. Go read it. Yes, right now.)
  • Formulate a new plan – This doesn’t have to very formal, in my opinion. It can be helpful to brainstorm and make a list of totally off-the-wall new things to try. Keep the inner critic locked in the basement while you do this. Sure, a lot of the things you come up with may not work but you probably won’t find the best solution unless you give yourself free rein to try anything.
  • Attack – Try again. Just don’t keep trying the same thing over and over.
  • Lather, rinse, repeat – Just when you find something that works, everything changes. You may have solved the problem or achieved the dream but there’s always a new problem and dreams evolve. Once Thomas Edison figured out how to create a practical, commercially viable light bulb, he moved on to making the bulb longer burning.
Cat Catches Bird, Almost
Victory at last…well, almost.

 Giving up on what isn’t working for us, the dream-killing messages from within and without, the idea that we should never fail or what’s strangling our creativity will free us up to pursue our dreams. And our dreams, our authentic passion, is what we should never give up.

What about you? How have you held onto your dreams or gotten past roadblocks. How have your dreams changed over time?


Image Attribution (In Order of Appearance):
paws up! by notemily, on Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Image from Bee Movie (fair use)
LEAPFROG by steelheadwill, on Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

We’re saying goodbye to the Life List Club. It’s been an exceptional experience and I’m profoundly grateful to have been part of it. Thank you to all of our readers and to the wonderful writers. Mosey on over and join the final conversation.


19 thoughts on “Not Giving Up, Even When You’re Giving Up

  1. Excellent post, and motivational for all matters in life; it doesn’t just apply to writers. This is one thing I’m holding on to my life: if something isn’t making me happy anymore, it’s time to move on.

    As a self-published author there is a lot of time used for marketing and networking which can squeeze out the original passion we had for writing. Great article on remembering the basics…the real love.


    I’m going to share the article and head over to Kristen’s site.

  2. @Carolyn: Definitely applies to all matters of life. It’s so easy to loose sight of what we really dream. Thank you!

    @Caleb: Adaptability is not something that comes easily to me but I know it’s important and I’m striving always to improve it.

  3. Growing up I had a few Dreams, a handful of different Careers. As I got older they changed and evolved into different things or potential journeys I might pursue. Two of those Dreams I have held onto from Childhood, but right now I don’t have all the right materials or know-how for either or I’ve just decided to do something different.

    A career as a Writer ‘never’ crossed my mind until 2 years ago or so. It took me forever and a day to learn to read and then to improve my Grammar. All that changed after I got into High School and I’ve been a much better Writer since.

    The steps I am currently taking to possibly fulfill the goal of getting a book published is finishing a novel that I have been working on for over 5 years or so. This NaNoWriMo I hope to finally finish this book and see it published.

    I don’t know how well it will do, how popular it will be or otherwise, but I DO know the sense of joy, happiness, giddiness and fulfillment I will ‘feel’ when I see a published copy of my Novel in my hand. That ‘alone’ will be worth all the hard-work and effort. That alone will be worth all the hardships I’ve earned in my life.

    Course I also support my Dream as a Writer with my blog. 🙂 So I have more than one venue (aside from Role-playing *cough*). I definitely know now one of my big passions, is Writing. It comes so naturally and easily to me.

    A wonderful article. I really enjoyed reading it!

  4. I often go back to the Edison practice, recognize what you’re doing, and try something very different. Gradually what doesn’t work helps to narrow down the range of what could work.

      1. Sometimes I begin my writing sessions by telling myself “I have permission to write it wrong.” I don’t like the word failure because it has a sense of finality to it, but there’s nothing wrong with a setback. It’s often those painful moments of “not succeeding” that lead to our greatest moments of growth, and in some ways they make our successes all the sweeter.

        1. I like that. I recently started playing the cello and had to renew my friendship with failure. I had to give myself permission to hit all the sour notes I was going to hit. It helped me calm down and just enjoy learning.

          1. I think one of the things that always drew me to writing was this idea of “mess up all you need to behind the scenes, and when it’s finished and ready, it steps onto the stage, complete. In contrast with acting in a play or playing an instrument, live performances.” Of course I have the greatest admiration for those who have the strength to perform live.

                  1. Indeed. Aside from writing my never ending quest is to find a solid group of villains to go on adventures with, whether it be a day/weekend trip to some park or seasonal event, or a night in, revisiting some old favorites among live action, cartoon, or anime. Sadly, it’s not always easy to find people who really click, at least, not in person. Fortunately it seems there are a lot of good people online blogging :-).

  5. But it can also be harder. Sometimes I worry that I say something, meaning to be supportive, and helpful, and then afterwards I realize it could also come off as critical or hurtful. It’s hard, wanting to lift people up, while also offering constructive criticism as a form of support, so that they can become even stronger.

      1. I agree. No matter how certain I think I am, I always try to consider other possibilities. And, hopefully, in the long term we create a sense of who we are, prompting someone to think “This is out of character.”

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