Saturday, July 24, 2010

A chance meeting?

I sat on a bench to watch some sailboats and chatted with a man sitting on a nearby bench. I learned that he was born in 1926 in California to a Chinese father (who came here to seek a medical education but was told that even if he completed the course work would not be awarded the degree because he was a foreigner) and American mother (who taught in a one-room schoolhouse in Minnesota). He told me how horrible it was growing up a “half-breed.” He said that he and his siblings were tormented and ridiculed. The wounds might have healed, but it was evident the scars had remained. He told me about his wife, who had died, and his children. He told me how he walks five miles in the morning and rides his scooter in the afternoon. How his grandkids spend most of their time in front of a computer playing games with people all over the world. He marveled at that. At one point he just stopped and looked at me and said: “Why am I telling you all of this.” I just smiled, and he kept going. He talked about the jobs he held and the businesses he owned. He told me how he failed over and over again but just kept going. “You don’t fail unless you quit,” he said. We talked some more and when he left I had to smile. Our meeting was chance, or was it?

I believe that people are put in our lives for a reason. I needed to hear his message: “You don’t fail unless you quit.” I’ve been feeling a little down lately, wondering if I should hang it up and concentrate on other things. I know that we all feel like this from time to time. Truth is, I don’t want to keep trying to get over the wall if there’s no way I’m going to be successful. Maybe there’s another wall for me. I read a book recently in which the author said that it’s all right to quit. That successful people are quitters. They quit what they are not good at to focus on what they are. For example, I might try playing the violin and learn that it’s just not the right instrument for me. So maybe I try the flute and find that I’m more successful playing the flute. I quit the violin to find something that I’m better at. And if it’s not playing the flute, maybe it’s playing a sport or writing. What do you think? Are people successful because they quit those things they were not good at? And when do you know that you aren’t good at something? Are rejections the yardstick by which we measure? I’d love to hear your thoughts on all of this. It’s been rolling around in my brain and I’m trying to make sense of it all.


  1. I wish I had answers for you, Buffy. I've been at this a while now and the thought of not ever being successful, ie, never being published, is like a knife in my heart. And I know that possibility exists even if I am good, even if I'm better than some of what's out there (which I happen to know I am). Unfortunately, this business of getting published is sometimes dependent upon who you know as well as whether your query letter makes it to the right agent at the right time. Are they up to their eyesballs in the genre you just queried them about? If so then no matter how good you look they may have to say no. It's like the fair and those games where you have to toss something in a bottle and the opening is very small. Will you hit it? Maybe. Maybe not. But I do know one thing and that is I just can't stop writing. It's what I do. And quitting is not an option.

  2. Buffy--You are a talented writer! I think something that mshatch said rings true. Getting to know people in the industry is vital. We haven't talked about this, but what conferences have you been to? Being in PA, you are close to the Highlights and Boyds Mills Headquarters. If you haven't been to their workshops they are wonderful ways to meet people in the industry. I've struck up friendships with several editors and authors because of the conference I went to two years ago. Their big conference (they are finishing it up today) has a lot of differnet publishing houses represented. That personal interaction is key...

    You are one talented, driven person, Buffy...It will happen for you!

  3. What an honor for you to have listened to this man's story.

    I've never heard that successful people quit to find something they are good at. It makes sense. I think we are given different passions. Mine has been writing. I wrote for many, many years before I published: while my children grew up, while I finished my degree, and while I found the right story for me to write. When I realized inspirational fiction was what I enjoyed writing things fell into place.

    Your post maybe me think about many things, but mostly writing and taking the time to listen. Thanks!

  4. I always said to myself that I will quit when I don't love what I do anymore. And that is for everything in my life not just writing. It's important, I think, when we get to this crossroad that we don't think of ourselves as failures. We gave it a good round, we loved it, but now we may love to do something else. It may be that time to try other things.

    So, with that said...I think you are very talented, but it doesn't matter what I think. You have to believe it. We have to experience fear to be brave and we have to experience failure to succeed. If you love it, don't give up. It will show and you can learn to be a better writer.

    Good Luck!

  5. Thanks everyone for your comments. I think that for all of us, we do what we do because our lives would not be complete without it. We don't have a choice. We must write. It's who we are and who we hope to be and all that matters to us. Blessings to each of you.

  6. buffy, I just sent you an email regarding the above. Oh, and trust me, I've got lots of pretty rejection letters in my file cabinet not to mention all the emailed ones...

    but that hasn't stopped me yet :)

  7. Only quit if you're not enjoying it. Success is measured by enjoyment not numbers. Love life!

  8. Reading your blog was like reading a page out of my own diary (or a conversation I've had a million times with my boyfriend, mom or friends)! Please know that you aren't the only writer out there wondering if they're meant to be doing what they're doing. I've been writing and trying to get published (even scored an agent for a few years) seriously for about 8 years now and had a few close calls but no cigars.

    Each time a new book starts to gather those rejection letters, I ask myself, "Am I really supposed to be doing this or is this my sign from the universe that this isn't meant to be?" I even quit writing for a while, but then I started to get the itch to write, like something was missing from who I was when I wasn't writing, and I had to go back. Still, every once in a while I get the writing blues and begin to question my path.

    I think the idea behind quitting something you're not good at, is when it's taking you away from the things you ARE good at. Like, if you're devoting all of your time to training to become the next American Idol, when everyone (even your mother) is telling you that you're tone deaf.

    Obviously people enjoy your writing, because we log on every day to read your blogs. So, try to hang on to the fact that no matter what happens in the, you entertain people with your writing through this blog.

    We have no control over what goes on around us...we can't force publishers to take our books and put them on shelves. All we can do is our part, which is to keep writing stuff that we'd like to read. The rest is up to the Powers That Be. Keep writing...if you weren't meant to, then you wouldn't be given anything to write about, right?

  9. Nicole: some great thoughts

    Brittany: I think you're right about the quitting part. Thank you so much for sharing.