“On Giving Up: be swift, be bold, be shameless”
Voula Tsoflias 2018
I searched the entire Internet for an inspiring quote about Giving Up, but I couldn’t find one, so I invented my own. There are millions of quotes about not giving up, most saying some variation of: never give up; never never give up; or never never ever give up. It appears that the world has little time for giver uppers, unless it’s giving up a bad habit. Personally I believe it’s a highly undervalued skill. Knowing when to stop is crucial in our crazy fast paced world. You can’t do everything, right? You have to choose, agreed? And sometimes you might be wrong. So give up: swiftly and boldly, decisively and proudly. The never give up brigade seem to think it’s shameful, but they have a joyless “eat everything on your plate” type mindset. Who would want to think like that in our post modern world?
Here’s a personal example of giving up. If you’ve been paying attention, (and haven’t given up), you will know that I embarked on an experiment to emulate Charles Dickens by publishing Halo, my novel in progress, one chapter at a time. Now, without shame or apology, I can tell you that what started as an interesting experiment has all got too much for me. As I complete chapter three, my first two chapters have both, once more, undergone a significant transformation. Although that’s exactly as I expect given my rather messy writing process, I don’t think an audience is necessary, for my sake or theirs.
How the dickens did Dickens do it? Did he really just sit down, write a chapter, publish it, then write the next one? Is there evidence of that? Did he not have charts of chapters and plots and and character sketches and timelines, like modern writers? Did he not have the 19th century equivalent of Excel to manage all his spreadsheets?
Did he actually just write a whole novel in the usual way: sometimes planning and plotting, sometimes going freestyle to see how it all turns out, then finding a way of piecing it all together so it fits and works? Which involves going back and changing chapters? Then, having completed the novel, did he simply publish one chapter after another and pretend it was all spontaneous and off the cuff?
I recall reading that one famous writer, Joyce Carol Oates I believe, doesn’t write the first sentence/page till the book is finished. What do you say to that Charles Cleversticks Dickens?
So, for anyone waiting anxiously for the next chapter of my novel, I have to disappoint you. Swiftly, boldly, and shamelessly, I am giving up, to return to the relative calm of writing Halo without the hellish pressure of having to declare a chapter complete and finished and then publishing it. And then having to write the rest of the book without changing a word, leave alone renaming a character (as I did), installing a new plot line (as I did), changing point of view (as I did) and re-ordering the entire flow (as I did).
Clearly, I am no Dickens, but that’s not exactly a shock realisation. Thanks to those of you who have read earlier chapters; I hope you’ll now have the patience to wait till the novel is fully written.
Finally, on the topic of giving up, it’s not just me who thinks it’s a good thing. The late great Doris Lessing advised giving up reading books that you don’t enjoy. Life’s too short and there are so many books she said. That’s one of the many reasons why she’s my literary heroine. So that’s at least two of us in the giver upper brigade. I couldn’t be in better company.
Blogging in 2019: A series of posts on “Resetting my brain in a year of grief: a personal case study” – If you would like to receive posts directly to your inbox sign up to my website. Which I’d love you to do…..