This is where I present to you an inspirational post about persistence and being strong in the face of defeat.
Only it isn’t.
I don’t want to talk about holding on today. I kind of want to address the concept of letting go. There are plenty of people (inspirational speakers and salesmen, mostly) out there saying, “Don’t give up! You can do it! All it takes is a little blood, sweat, and tears. Hit a bump in the road? Try harder, try another way, try again. The only way to fail is if you quit!”
If the fight is worthy, I agree, you can’t fail if you keep trying, and I will wholeheartedly support anyone fighting that fight however I can. But what if it’s not worthy?
I watched a number of completely unrelated events happen over the last few months. An aspiring writer reached out to me in the hopes of being talked into writing a book. An independent publishing house went under. Several established writers who, up until now, have been making decent money from their book royalties, have called it quits because their sales have dropped and they simply can’t make ends meet anymore.
All of these things brought home to me the concept of passion and reality, and the hard fact that sometimes, they don’t align they way we would like them to. Sometimes, holding on, trying, fighting, hurts more than letting go. Sometimes the struggle isn’t worth it–it’s not what your heart wants, or what your life can handle. Sometimes, the universe sends a pretty in-your-face message that you’re on the wrong path.
About ten years ago, I wrote a series of novellas about three soulmate warriors meeting again and again across time. These stories are personal to me, and likely will never be published, but one concept carries through each story–the warriors’ oath and motto:
Take a second here to really think about what this says. Fight to live: fight for what matters when it matters. Don’t rush headlong into a battle you don’t need to be in. Consider what it is you’re fighting for, and if it’s worth your life. And when that battle comes, give it all you have. Or live to fight: step back when the odds are overwhelmingly against you. Take care of yourself, so you can take care of others. Remove yourself from a war you can’t win and gather your strength so you can come back and fight another day. It’s not giving up. It’s a conscious strategy to pursue another course of action.
The bottom line is, both choices are correct. It just depends on your circumstances. The bottom line is, do what you have to do, what is right for you.
In the matter of the aspiring writer: They pursued the idea of writing as a misguided attempt to gain status. It wasn’t what they wanted to do, or were qualified to do, but someone in their life happened to say, “You should write a book!” and they figured, why not? Not the best reason to tackle such a huge undertaking.
I mourn for the fallen publishing house, as well as all the authors signed with them. It’s a blow to the industry, and underscores the difficult state of the market for everyone involved. Being a writer has never been easy, or lucrative. Only a handful of the lucky ones make it financially to the point where they can comfortably support themselves on royalties alone. Now the same seems to be true for publishers as well.
The writers who were forced to quit break my heart. Writing shouldn’t be about making money, and I truly believe it wasn’t for any of them. Their mistake was following their passion blindly, without a backup plan. Sales and royalties are never guaranteed. It doesn’t matter how many good months or years you have, there’s always a risk that next month it’ll all go down the drain. Some day, I hope these writers will come back to what they love. But for the moment, they need to do whatever it takes to put food on the table.
The things we love can hurt the most. Because when you love something, you give it your all. You stay up all night to write just one more chapter. You skip lunch to post that new poem. You give your last dollar for an edit or cover, with pay day still a week and a half away. You put relationships on hold, alienate yourself from family and friends, and you tell yourself it’s only for now. It’ll get better soon. Things will take off and then you’ll relax. Then you’ll do damage control and fix what broke in the interim.
But what if that time never comes? What if your current struggle isn’t temporary, but rather the basis of what it takes just to do this?
You can’t forever live for a tomorrow that may never come. If it’s not worth it now, it won’t be then–if “then” ever happens.
Fight to live, or live to fight.
I may not be making it big, I may be small beans in the publishing world, but for now, my struggles are still worth the joy I get from putting words to paper. For now, I choose to fight.
Until next time!
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