Quitting Time

I’ve always been a stubborn person, in a negative sort of way.  I may have the annoying habit of trying to please other people and make sure they both like me and approve of me, but the very second someone tells me that I  can’t do something is also the very second that I become determined to do it, come hell or high water.

Last night, my husband and I decided to go out to dinner, and I suggested our favorite Italian restaurant.  My husband said he thought it would be too crowded, since when we were there last year on the Saturday before Valentine’s Day, it was packed.  (I even wrote a post about it: Valentine Love)  True to form, I then suggested calling and asking if they had room for two more.  We did, and the manager assured us that although they were busy, he would be able to “work us in.” So off we went.

When we arrived, every table was taken and lots of people were waiting to be seated.  Undeterred, we snagged two empty seats at the bar, ordered a glass of wine and settled in to wait.  As we waited, more and more people poured in, and all of them had a reservation.  Even worse, very few people were actually leaving.  We both knew the sensible thing to do would be give up and hit the nearest pizza parlor, but we didn’t.  “We’ll give it ten more minutes,” we kept telling each other, grimly clutching our empty wine glasses as the crowd of people waiting pressed even closer.  We had both been fighting colds all week, were tired and very hungry, but by golly we were going to get a table.  And over an hour later, we finally did.

DSC00181Sadly, my knack for stubbornly hanging on isn’t limited to dining out.  I spent years trying to get my children’s books published, which is actually the sort of persistence that most writers need.  But the problem was I spent those years submitting my work the exact same way:  sending off the full manuscript to one large publishing house at a time, then waiting weeks or even months before they sent it back and I mailed it off to another one.  My system obviously wasn’t working, but that didn’t mean I was willing to give it up.  Yet the only book I eventually published was sold through an entirely different method:  I heard a book packager was looking for fantasy novels for teens, so I sent them the required book proposal, and they asked me to write the manuscript.

We are so often taught that quitting is a bad thing, that it means giving up on our hopes and dreams, that it almost brands us as some kind of loser.  But I’m beginning to believe that there are times when quitting is actually the best option.  There are times when a relationship is no longer working out, when a job is no longer the right fit, or when we’re just plain going about something the wrong way and we need to stop.

And those are the times when quitting is actually a good thing, because it opens the door to new opportunities. When we walk away from friendships that are no longer healthy, we have time to make new friends who can actually enrich our lives.  Sometimes quitting means we can take new jobs that challenge us, try new ways to achieve our goals, and find new projects to support. And hopefully, even someone as stubborn as me can start figuring out when it’s time to quit.

77 thoughts on “Quitting Time

  1. Dear Ann, Your tenaciousness is a powerful thing. No one is on a set timetable, so it makes good sense to keep working and continue to persevere. Your whole ethos stands firm for that. Your time will come. It has come, of course, through this lovely blog, that has reached and helped so many of us, myself included. Go forth (hopefully with a full stomach) and continue to do such wonderful work! As ever, Your Devoted Reader

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  2. Yes, Anne I am stubborn as well which have been mainly beneficial but I agree, sometimes it’s better to move on. The trick is to know when to keep pushing ahead and when to quit. Trial and error and I suppose that’s the journey which becomes the tapestry of your life.

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    • I agree, it is sometimes hard to know exactly when to continue and when to quit, and I guess we only get better at that through practice. But at least I’m finally figuring out that quitting isn’t always a bad thing! Thanks for the comment!

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  3. Deciding whether or not to continue to wait for a seat in an over-crowded, over-booked restaurant can be tricky. After a certain amount of time, you have to make the mathematical calculation of: time already invested versus the time it would take to go somewhere else (and maybe wait there). Gah! I’d rather just avoid the whole week before and after Valentine’s Day and make dinner at home. Better food and more attentive service. Best yet, you don’t need to dress up. 😄

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    • That is exactly the argument we kept having in our heads. Continue to wait, or go somewhere else and start over? But given the way we felt, the smart thing would have been to go to a nearby place that serves good pizza, order one to go and take it home to enjoy! Sadly, the choice didn’t seem nearly so clear last night!

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    • Oh, I really like that phrase! I’m going to write it down and remember it. Because the quitting that we’re talking about really is just letting go of something that doesn’t work for us anymore, and shouldn’t have any negative connotation at all! Thanks for the idea, Val!

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  4. Yes, sometimes not quitting is like forcing yourself to read a novel to the end, even though it’s dreadful. Or, you can approach things from a different direction. Or, you can allow yourself to ‘float’ and wait for the universe to toss something random your way, which is kinda Zen and the most difficult of all. (I feel I should have ended that last sentence with ‘Grasshopper’ a la Keith Carradine : ) )

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    • You absolutely should have ended it with Grasshopper! But I do take your point, that sometimes its okay to quit even when we don’t have an alternative in mind just yet. There is nothing wrong with just drifting along for a little while, and sometimes it’s exactly what is needed.

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  5. When it comes to stubbornness I seem to have the same weakness. The root of the problem can be found in the way we perceive our own decisions. Once taken they take on a power of their own and we adhere to them, as if given by some sort of a divine power.Of course, on closer examination the ‘divine power’ turns out to be nothing but our very own inflated ego. Thanks for a great post, Ann!

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    • I think you are right, Peter! Often it is nothing more than my ego that won’t let me admit I made a mistake, or even an error in judgement, so I just keep on trying to get a positive outcome simply to prove I’m right. And how silly is that?

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    • I’m glad this post helped, Kim! And the dinner, while good, wasn’t worth waiting an hour…that was just stubbornness on our part (started by me, I admit)! I am happy to have a book published, but honestly it would have meant more to me if it was a book that I really wanted to write. I am very impressed that you’ve finished a manuscript in the genre of your choice, and I would be willing to get you’ll get it published, too!

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      • Thanks, Ann. I appreciate your faith in me :). I know what you mean about wanting the book you really want published. I have a character and story – a murder/suspense – that I want so much to write, and I’ve gotten started, but I think I need to get another novel or two under my belt before I can tackle it fully. So yes, I’d LOVE for my romance to get published because I love my characters and their story, but I also appreciate that if it doesn’t, it is hopefully getting me one step closer to the novel I’m dying to write. So, back to you: What IS the book you really wanted to write and why aren’t you writing it?

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        • Go for the murder/suspense! Even if you just keep it in your mind until your actually ready to write it, go for it. As for what book I wanted to write, I did like the three middle grade manuscripts I wrote, but they didn’t sell. I had no desire to write Fantasy for teens reading at the fifth-grade reading level, but that’s what the publisher wanted so that’s what I wrote. At the time, I thought it would lead to getting my other books published, but it didn’t.
          Now that I’m older and no longer have kids at home, I’m finding that I’m not as interested in children’s literature, but I would like to write a mystery for adults. (More the “cozy” genre, not the hard-core detective) I even have a bit of the setting in mind, and the main character. If I’m honest with myself, I think the reason I put it off is because I don’t want to write another book I really like that I can’t sell. But, heck, even just typing that sentence makes me see what a lame excuse it is. So….thanks for the push, I think maybe I will get started on it!

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          • I know what you mean, Ann. When I think of how much work and heart and soul I put into my novel and how it may never get in the hands of a reader, it hurts a little bit. Makes me wonder what the point of it all is. But keep in mind that many, many people who eventually realize their dreams don’t give up and simply keep going. They suffer countless rejection letters, etc. Babe Ruth struck out way more times than he scored homeruns. If it’s something you want to do, do it for the love of it, not the outcome. Just saying…

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  6. Inspiring as always Ann! First – about not giving up – then about considering when it is best to give up. This has touched a special place in my heart and is affirming for a personal reason, and I appreciate that! 🙂 xo

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    • That is a wise proverb, George! And I like thinking of quitting as simply choosing a different path to follow. I don’t know if it’s just American culture or human nature, but so often we link quitting with failure, and that’s not always the case. Sometimes it’s just acknowledging that something isn’t working and it’s time to try something else.

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  7. It’s a tricky one, isn’t it Ann, knowing when to persist and knowing when to turn away? A very wise person many years ago told me not to keep pushing at doors that wouldn’t immediately open. I have to say it turned out to be extremely good advice. I think I found it easy to accept because I’m a bit of an autocrat, and like to do things my way. So, if I have to force a situation it’s an indication that I’m not going to be able to, or that I may not, and therefore it’s easier psychologically and emotionally to move on, to find doors that give way with no resistance. I’m not stubborn or wilful, but I can see that often pays off too; it’s just not suited to my character really.

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    • That’s a good way to look at it. I’m not always stubborn, but for some reason, I have a tendency to really dig my heels in when someone suggests that I can’t do something. I guess some part of me hears them saying, “You’re not good enough to do that,” and my ego gets in the way. But over the years, I’m gradually seeing that I need to be much more flexible, and much more practical. After all, if the door doesn’t open with the first (or even second) push, it’s not going to open on the twentieth push either. And it’s time to find another door that will!

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      • I completely agree with you and Hariod. I’ve been toying with this same idea for months now re: a certain new venture in my life. If the door opens slowly or not at all, or if I seem to have to force it, why bother? Then, there are those who would counter that with, “Nothing worthwhile is easy.” Maybe this is where our gut comes into play. I also like and believe in the idea of walking away when something does not work anymore. It can be a fine line, but ultimately, I am like you Ann and react in the same way when I hear, “No.” Great post. Gives me more to think about. 🙂

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        • Thanks, Karen! It agree, it is a fine line, and I guess sometimes we just have to step back and think, “Why am I pursuing this?” and “Is this really the best way to move forward, or the best place for me to be?” And then listen to our own answers.

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  8. It does seem like change usually ends up being a good thing, but it’s rarely painless. So if you factor in fear of pain, stubbornness, or on a more positive note, patience, it can be hard to make that jump to what might be a good thing.

    A toast to good things!

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  9. Absolutely…been there, done that! For years I held on to something a fifth-grade gym teacher told us: “Winners never quit and quitters never win.” While it’s important to always give our best efforts, sometimes letting go (quitting) and changing direction (new goal) is the only way to win!

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    • I think it is really hard, especially in our culture, to admit that quitting isn’t always failure. Sometimes its just changing tactics and opening the door for new and different opportunities. I’m glad you were able to let those teacher’s words go!

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  10. Thanks for another thought provoking post. I think teaching kids not to give up is a good lesson until they are mature enough to think things out and make good decisions that doesn’t always include taking the easy way out. As stubborn adults, or as I like to refer to myself as one with perseverance, we have to almost do the opposite and realize when to let go and move on. my stubbornness is a little more subtle in that when Inget something in my head, a vision of moving to the mountains for example 😉 I keep working it and working until I make it happen. So I guess that’s good or maybe I’ve just been lucky that my perseverance has not back fired. And BTW kudos to you for sticking it out and getting the meal in the place you wanted. Wine does make the time go by faster, right?

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    • I’m not going to lie, the wine helped! And I agree, kids need to realize the importance of sticking with things, even when the going gets hard. But sometimes we take that a bit too far, especially into our adult lives, and don’t admit it when the time truly comes to quit and try something else. It’s a balancing act, I think, between knowing when to persevere and when to let go. Because being stubborn isn’t always a bad thing, as you point out!

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  11. Well I’m glad you finally got a table in the end Ann, I’ll admit to having many stubborn moments like that too. I also agree however that sometimes when things aren’t working out its okay to change course. I don’t even see it as quitting but rather as choosing a better alternative that aligns with us. Great post.

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  12. And that IS the conundrum. Figuring out the balance of when to ‘quit’ and when to search for a different way to obtain our desires. You write about this complex thought so well here, using your own personal experiences. I appreciate this post. We’re told to ‘hang on’ and ‘don’t give up,’ yet…. perhaps if we left the table and went to a different restaurant, we’d have a much better meal. I think I’m finally learning this lesson as I get older. And it’s opened a number of new doors.

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    • It is a hard lesson to learn! The meal, when we got it, was just fine. But honestly, not worth waiting over an hour before we could even order it. And we could see the situation before us, which was plainly showing that we weren’t going to be seated anytime soon…and yet we waited! It’s that kind of stubbornness that I’m trying to overcome. I do believe that sometimes we need to soldier on, but other times, we need to just realize that what we’re doing simply isn’t working and that it’s time to try something else. And yet that’s a hard thing for me to do. Thanks for your comment…I totally agree!

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  13. Well said.
    There’s a Kenny Rogers song called ‘The Gambler’ that speaks to the whole theory of knowing when to ‘hold’ and knowing when to ‘fold’. Perhaps you know if it. It was one of my mom’s favorite.

    Being strong-willed can work for or against us. I am that way. We just figure things out as we go is all. Best wishes. Hugs 🌷

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  14. This is so true Ann. I read a book called “think like a Freak” by the authors of Freakonomics (they aren’t as flakey as they sound), and they gave a very convincing argument for quitting more often. It sure feels counterintuitive, but as I recognized a stubborn tendency to give up on sunk costs and over confidence in an ability to push through insurmountable obstacles, the idea took root.

    Now I’m a quitter. Don’t know if this will translate into the same successes you’ve had, but I sure enjoy life a lot more.

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  15. Although quitting is such a negative word, we do need to sometimes regroup or we can re-figure some of our decisions and be willing to be flexible, and change direction when necessary. This was a great post about the and I really enjoyed reading it. There is certainly something to be said for persistence and tenacity…. something there is too little of in this world today, I think.

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    • You are so right! You know, the more I think about this, and read the comments which always give good perspectives, I realize that sometimes “quitting” just means trying some other means to achieve our goals. It’s not abandoning the goal, it’s simply acknowledging that what we have been doing doesn’t work, and it’s time to try something else. Thanks for the comment!

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  16. I tend to think that it’s possible to set something aside for the time being (which can open new possibilities) without quitting it, since this leaves open the possibility of coming back to it when the time is right.

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    • That’s a very good point, Sheryl! I hadn’t thought of simply deferring something, rather than quitting altogether, and you’re the first person whose mentioned it in my comment section. But as you say, that leaves the option of coming back to it later, when the timing is better, and I’m sure there are times when that is exactly the right response.

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    • It was published a long time ago, when my kids were still small. It was never in bookstores, available only on-line from an educational publisher. Still, it was a sale, (we needed the money) and I was proud to have it published. Would have been happier if they hadn’t changed the ending and made a few other changes that made no sense, but that’s what I got for selling all the rights.
      I’ve never self-published because wrote children’s books and had no idea how to market them directly to kids. But now I’m thinking of trying an adult mystery, and if so, I’ll probably go the self-publishing route. I know other bloggers who had done that, and the quality of the books is good!
      As for missing the post, hey, that’s a very easy thing to do! No worries there….

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