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Joy Ann Ribar asks: When Is Quitting Time?

Joy Ann Ribar is the author of the Deep Lakes Cozy Mystery series. You can find out more about her on her website, www.joyribar.com, or by clicking here, read her last post here, and buy her books here.

I’ve recently lost people: elderly family members, people in my community. For me, loss creates space for reflection and self-examination. I find myself scrutinizing past mistakes, then chastising or forgiving myself for them.

Viewing my past through the filter of time brings images of my writing life into focus.

Wow – the mistakes I made when I was a green newspaper reporter. My first week, I was thrown into sports reporting with minimal knowledge of the games or terminology.  I knew I wasn’t good. I could tell by the looks on the faces of the coaches I interviewed. I could tell by their answers to my novice questions. I could tell by the number of apologies I offered following my published articles. Sometimes it was hard to show my face at the next game.

What did I do?

I kept showing up. I made more mistakes. I learned about the games, the opponents, the coaches, the players. I read articles by other sports reporters. I improved. More than that; I made the coaches take me seriously. Finally, I gained respect and exercised authority over my stories. I even won an award for my community coverage of school sports. I was bowled over by that award.

After I left journalism, I learned more lessons. Life offered too many careers for me to choose just one or two or three. Naturally, I thought my confidence as a reporter would carry over to my future careers. Wrong.

Paralegal, migrant services facilitator, English educator, aquaponic greenhouse technician: each began the same way. I was nervous. I made mistakes. I felt inadequate. There was so much to learn – will I ever figure it out?  Ten thousand hours of practice later, so the experts purport, and I found my sweet spot.

Then I became a published author. I know a lot of authors like me. Writing wasn’t our first career or even second. We were seasoned in other professions. We logged oodles of hours honing our skills, handled people and materials of our trade with finesse, and developed expertise. 

All of our seasoning should have made us a sturdy lot in this scrappy profession, right? After all of my professional experiences and pitfalls, I wonder why I expected being an author would be easier. I mean, I knew how to write, right? Haven’t we all been writing since first grade, after all?

Wow – my early pieces contained flaws, and now they’re out in the world. I encountered that inner naysayer again. Maybe I should quit writing. The “never” monster haunted my doorstep. I’m never going to earn an income this way. I’m never going to be successful. I’m never going to win an award. I’m never going to make readers happy.

I’ve read countless articles from the pros about how to launch a writing career. Six steps, nine tips, twenty exciting careers.  They make it sound like a walk through the rose garden. If only. If you’ve ever doubted yourself or wondered if being an author is worth the effort, I humbly offer a little advice that I turn to when I get a case of the “nevers”.

First, I ask myself why I write. I write for enjoyment and to entertain others. I write because storytelling is a universal truth and it is a beautiful privilege to be part of the universal fabric.

Second, I ask myself if I quit writing, what will replace that creative pursuit. So far, I can’t think of a replacement. The fact is, I need to be writing. I’m having a long-standing love affair with words.

Third, how can I handle rejection, criticism, and negative reviews? I want readers to like my books, and by extension, I want them to like me.  No author can appeal to everyone.  I remind myself to have the skin of an orange, not a banana.  Both are thick-skinned, but everyone can see the bruises on a banana.  I still might pout for a bit, but then I do some baking therapy, practice a yoga meditation, or maybe even throw axes. Activity beats rumination every time.

I’m thankful to be part of a community of authors who network and sustain one another through celebrations and letdowns. There is solace in sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly with like-minded people. There is power in mingling resources and harnessing ideas that work. Writing can be a lonely pursuit, but it doesn’t have to be.

As I’m gearing up for a three-month book tour beginning in May, the fear of exposure wells up inside of me. Will people show up to see me? Will they be interested in my stories? Gratitude sails in to override my nerves. How great it is to interact with readers and libraries and bookstores! How lucky I am for the privilege! So, when is quitting time? Not today, my friends.

Joy Ribar

Joy Ann Ribar writes the Deep Lakes Cozy Mystery series, inspired by Wisconsin’s four seasons and friendly quirks. You can find out more about her on her website joyribar.com, where you can sign up for her newsletter, or follow her on Facebook, or Instagram.

This Post Has 26 Comments

  1. Colleen Winter
    Colleen Winter

    Great post! And a good reminder that we all have so much to learn in whatever career/path we choose. Hope you have a great tour!

    1. Joy A Ribar Ann A Ribar
      Joy A Ribar Ann A Ribar

      Thank you, Colleen. I appreciate your good wishes.

  2. Laurie Buchanan
    Laurie Buchanan

    Joy — I LOVE what you said:

    “I remind myself to have the skin of an orange, not a banana. Both are thick-skinned, but everyone can see the bruises on a banana.”

    1. Joy A Ribar Ann A Ribar
      Joy A Ribar Ann A Ribar

      Thank you, Laurie. I’m not sure how that came to mind, but I’ll thank the Muse for that one.

  3. Sherrill Joseph
    Sherrill Joseph

    Joy, I love how you shared your journey through various careers and persevered to attain your own successes. Thanks. Learning is, indeed, a lifelong pursuit. I for one am glad you’re not quitting writing. You had me worried there for a few minutes!

    1. Joy A Ribar Ann A Ribar
      Joy A Ribar Ann A Ribar

      Thank you for the moral support, Sherrill.

  4. Avatar
    Margaret Mizushima

    Joy, thanks for this wonderful, honest post! You’ve defined what all of us have felt at one time or another. And I wanna learn how to throw axes! 🙂

    1. Joy A Ribar Ann A Ribar
      Joy A Ribar Ann A Ribar

      Thanks, Margaret. Learning to throw axes has a shorter learning curve than writing, if that gives you an incentive!

  5. Anne Louise Bannon
    Anne Louise Bannon

    Thanks for the shot in the arm, Joy. I get the “nevers” far too often and I love the way you combat them. I’ll have to try some of that.

    1. Joy A Ribar Ann A Ribar
      Joy A Ribar Ann A Ribar

      Thanks, Anne Louise. You know, it’s certainly helpful to know that we’re not alone in having those feelings.

  6. Christine DeSmet
    Christine DeSmet

    Love this post! It’s healthy to look at quitting something so you make time for something else you love. We writers think about quitting a lot and that’s healthy because it spurs us to make changes in the way we write, or spurs us to pull back on obligations to make room for writing more comfortably. I also love your post because it’s a great ice breaker at a writer’s meeting. “What would we do if we weren’t writers or writing?” Good luck with your tour!

    1. Joy A Ribar Ann A Ribar
      Joy A Ribar Ann A Ribar

      Thank you so much, Christine, for your foods for thought. I like the idea of an ice breaker using that question.

  7. Avatar
    saralynrichard

    What a warm and open-hearted sharing of your experiences this is! I”m reminded of the time I was strong-armed into teaching journalism when I had no training or background in the subject. I scrambled to read everything I could get my hands on during the summer prior to the start of school. And when I met with the newspaper editors I cringed when the Editor-in-chief asked me, “Just how much do you know about journalism?” A shaky start, but I learned, baby, and within a year we had award-winning newspapers and students who were graduated and went into the field. So, when is quitting time? For me, it’s never!

    1. Joy A Ribar Ann A Ribar
      Joy A Ribar Ann A Ribar

      Thanks for the encouraging words, Saralyn.

  8. GP Gottlieb
    GP Gottlieb

    That’s really it, isn’t it….just never quitting!

    1. Valerie Biel
      Valerie Biel

      I agree! It’s never quitting time.

    2. Joy A Ribar Ann A Ribar
      Joy A Ribar Ann A Ribar

      GP, I think so. I’m almost afraid to stop. I think we’re partly defined by that label “author”, even though we’re so many other things.

  9. Carl Vonderau
    Carl Vonderau

    Nice post about the fears and insecurities we all have. I have made so many mistakes in my writing career. It helps to ignore those embarrassments, but I can’t. I just keep going and treat every book as if it will be my last. You are right about asking what you would do if you didn’t write. My question would be, can I do anything as meaningful?

    1. Joy A Ribar Ann A Ribar
      Joy A Ribar Ann A Ribar

      Carl, your question certainly gets to the heart of it, doesn’t it? Ah yes, but it’s a blessing and a curse at times.

  10. Avatar
    Avanti Centrae

    I love that you throw axes to blow off steam. Maybe try writing thrillers if you want a break from cozies! But just keep on writing!

    1. Joy A Ribar Ann A Ribar
      Joy A Ribar Ann A Ribar

      Thanks, Avanti. I’m always looking for new ways to spark creativity or kill frustration! A thriller — perhaps.

  11. tracey64p
    tracey64p

    I’m so glad to hear, “Quitting time is not today!” Boy that never monster is busy. I’d like to throw an axe or two at her head. Next time you’re in town, can we do that together? I’ve always wanted to. Thanks for the boost, Joy!

  12. Joy A Ribar Ann A Ribar
    Joy A Ribar Ann A Ribar

    Thank you, Tracey. Yes, we should find a place to toss axes. Very therapeutic. I’ll be around this summer.

  13. Avatar
    kkyoung8257c103b6

    You’ll do great Joy! Go get ’em!

    1. Joy A Ribar Ann A Ribar
      Joy A Ribar Ann A Ribar

      Thanks so much, Kelly! I’m getting geared up for a busy summer. but an exciting one.

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