Monday, January 21, 2008

On Giving Up (Or Not)

This is a post for anyone who has ever felt like giving up. You’re a teacher, you’re training for a marathon, you’re playing bass in a band on the brink, you’re writing novel after novel yet hitting wall after wall. No matter your passion, you will likely reach a day where you feel like giving up on the very thing that feeds your soul—perhaps the thing you have come to feel defines you, in certain limited terms at least. But one day your muse has evaporated, you’re too tired to take another step, you take a long look in the mirror and think, “Why am I doing this, really? This is too hard. To hell with it. I don’t want to do this anymore.”

Whenever you feel that way…maybe you’ve run into some tangles at work and you can’t unravel them; maybe you’re covered in Cheerios and spit-up and poop for the 265th day and you feel like little more than a toddler punching bag; maybe you just moved to Georgia and you feel just a bit lost and lonely—a stranger in a strange land.

Whenever you feel that way:

Download this song immediately and listen to it on a loop: “Art” by Louque, from the So Long album.

Keep running. Your time’s coming.

How many days like those have I had? Too many to count. Specific to writing, in my case, because writing is the thing I must do, and when that little train isn’t chugging along on the track I want, it’s a painful thing indeed. But after I simmer down and tune out the needling voices saying discouraging things in my ear, I return to the center and start again. I have to. It is my first love—the one thing that makes me still feel like me whenever I start to lose my mental or emotional footing.

So. I’m glad I didn’t give up writing when I sure felt like it a few years ago, because then I’d never have been able to photograph a story I wrote in actual book form sitting on a stack of old rejection letters:

And I'd never have received this amazing message from the awesomely talented Marian Keyes:

"Dear Jess, I LOVED it!!!!!!!!! I've just finished it and so sorry for the delay. I'm humbled that you say you like my books because I think your writing is genius. This is a gorgeous novel, it's so so so funny and sparky, yet very touching. I found it HUGELY entertaining and I loved Leigh and all the characters, you handled her illness with such sensitivity because it would have been easy to tip over into maudlin sentimentality and you didn't. Really, I thought it was great, your voice, I love its irreverence. Congratulations on writing such an enjoyable, uplifting book and I wish you every success and happiness with it

Marian xxxxxxxxxxxxxx"

I think I broke a lightbulb screaming when I read her note. I know every day won't be rainbows and shiny teddy bear farts, but damn does it feel good to look back and think, Thank God I didn't quit.

I'd like to close this post with some gratuitous nephew footage. Because really, what's more hopeful than a giggling baby:


  1. Anonymous10:14 PM

    My God. I love Marian Keyes. I can't blame you for breaking legions of light bulbs after reading that message. As for your message of encouragement, it's very nice to hear--uh, *read*. It's rare for people to find something that they love and are good at and learn to make a career of it. Oh, and I loved the photo of the books on the rejection letters. Nice touch.

  2. Anonymous10:18 PM

    P.S. The baby nephew footage was adorable. Kind of reminded me of this You Tube video: It gets me smiling every time.

  3. I could chew on his big ol' cheeks.

    Yes, thank Gog you didn't quit. Being married to one of you writer-creeps, I know that feeling, that ugly feeling in your gut, rejection letter after rejection letter..... Geez, I need to wash out my brain now.
    You know, now that your book is in "book" form, watch for it on eBay. We were so surprised when we saw Geoff's unedited proof for freakin' sale. And pissed off to no end, I might add. I wish I knew the address of those bastards who steal proofs and sell them. And why in the Hell do people buy them? How much can they be worth? I mean, sure, Stephen King's proof of Carrie would fetch quite a bit, but an unknown like my Geoff?
    Okay, that rant didn't really need to be there, did it? But I can't help but feel affinity with you, seeing as we are in indirectly similar boats.
    Row on, Jess. Row on!
    Word verification: wienuz.

  4. Jess,

    That's just awesome. You're living your dream.

  5. Most excellent fabulousness!!

    (Now how about sending me one of those AREs?)

  6. That is so exciting! I'm thrilled for you!
    And look at that cute little baby - oof, my ovaries.

  7. Holy crap - are you saying it's done and in print?!! Congratulations Jess, this is so effin cool. And I can see that Amazon will start shipping on May 20 so I'm going to pre-order right now (for a 5% discount to boot!). Good job Jess!

  8. Oh, that is just awesome. And how classy and cool is Marian Keyes?! I loved her books, now I love her! What an awesome lady. Congrats to you, and what sweet, sweet success to photograph your book on top of those rejection letters! Take that, suckas!

  9. Wow! She sent you a personal letter? How wonderful is that?

  10. You are so my hero. Marian is a smart cookie for liking your book.

  11. This post made me all warm and gooey like a chocolate chip cookie inside. Not just because of the nephew footage, though that helped.

    Great message, and congrats to you!!

  12. This is a wonderful post and I will download the song as soon as I have an hour to spare. Cute baby too.

  13. Jess, I am so tired of chasing my dream. It's exhausting.


    Nephew boy is a DOLLLL!!!

    And I cannot wait to get my filthy hands on your book!!! And a signed-and-licked copy at that!!!

    Inspire me please! I need me some.

  14. Oh, hey, you can send Therese one of those AREs but please send me an ARC!!! LOL! just teasing, I know it was a finger slip!

  15. thanks for the post. i am having a really bad week - school, diet, etc. and i felt like giving up on all fronts. it is really weird that you posted this - and i haven't been to the site in a week or so b/c i have been so busy. thanks again.

  16. You are such a great cheerleader too! I went to the link to listen to the song and kind of fell in love with Ari Hest (the dude right under Louque)! He's gorgeous - almost as cute the the nephew!

  17. WooHoo! Love the picture of the book sitting on top of rejection letters. That's a real motivator.


    And yes, yes, and hell yes! to your post.

    I can't wait to read your book and to recommend it to the 200 people who ask me each week "What's a great new book that my book club can read?"

    Go you!

  19. Anonymous1:07 PM

    None of the praise is surprising to me. I have no doubt your novel IS genius.

    Thanks for the words of encouragement.

  20. Anonymous9:15 PM

    I can't wait to read your book!

  21. Jess, I am so thrilled for you - for achieving your dream, for daring to have one.

  22. Jess, I just broke light bulbs reading your blog!!!!!

  23. Jess, I'm glad you didn't give up. Reading your blog is a treat in itself, and I can't imagine how much I'll enjoy your book. Write on, Girl. You got it.


  24. I adore you for this post (and I was a fan to begin with!) Such a great reminder that just because that wonderful dream we've been chasing isn't within reach yet doesn't mean it never will be.

    And if you're looking for enthusiastic pre-readers for your book (although there's really nothing I can offer compared to Marian Keyes) count me in!

  25. This post? Timely. See, I was thinking about giving up drinking, yet here you are telling me to keep on.

    Yay Jess Riley!!

  26. Congratulations, Jess - well deserved!! I can't wait to get a copy.

  27. i'm so happy for you re. marian's words. that is so so cool!