The Virtue of Being a Quitter

Sunny Frazier 2Returning guest blogger Sunny Frazier, whose first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association, explains how knowing when to fold ’em may be a good thing.

Sometimes it takes more courage to quit than to keep the status quo.

There seems to be an American mindset that quitting equates to losing and we don’t like to lose. I just watched the Ken Burns PBS piece on Lewis and Clark—talk about tenacious! They were going to find their way across country come hell or high water (they got a bit of both). They dragged a 16-yr old girl and a baby with them, lost a lot of lives and (spoiler alert) Lewis committed suicide after returning.

We are admonished to remember the Alamo. I remember few came out alive. No quitters there. Remember the Maine? Me neither.

Remember the movie “Groundhog Day?” It seems to me that many people live their lives in perpetual redundancy. I suppose there is a comforting familiarity to the terrain. A bad relationship, a soul-killing job, living in an area you despise—we become convinced these are unbreakable ties that bind. What people forget is that they have the option to say “I quit.”

I didn’t always have that option. When I was working for Uncle Sam, swore to defend my country and put on a uniform, I became government property. It didn’t matter if my superiors were inferior, if I was stuck in a job I hated or sent to a base in the boonies. Short of going AWOL there was no easy way to throw in the towel. When I got honorably discharged I promised myself that I would never again tolerate an intolerable situation. I’d simply state “I quit” and walk away with dignity. I’ve used that card twice with jobs and many times in relationships. No regrets.

You’ve heard people advise “Quit while you’re ahead.” I say quit banging your head. Some walls are just not going to give. You can try to scale over them, go around them, even tunnel under them—or, you can save your energy, sanity and health and just find a route with fewer obstacles.

The optimist blindly believes that when one door closes another door opens. Maybe. Failing that, I’m not adverse to jimmying the lock to check out what’s on the other side. It’s only a misdemeanor.

Where Angels FearI know it’s hard to walk away from some situations. But, how many of us put ourselves in positions where people who are not family depend on us? Are we really not replaceable as the Christmas party planner? Do we have to waste our time with a squabbling board in some petty organization? Is that how we define ourself or have we bought into the definition people saddle on us? Maybe it’s ego that keeps us from moving on.

I have a friend who is fixated on getting one short story published. It’s the same short story and he’s consumed with the notion that it will find a home. He refuses to write anything else until he overcomes this hurdle. It’s a crappy story—trust me, I’ve read many versions. He wants his day of redemption and won’t call it quits. That’s not a career, that’s crazytown.

We all know authors who continually rewrite. We’re suppose to admire their focus and belief in their work. Yes, we’ve heard stories where persistence pays off but only when it actually does pay off. We never hear about the manuscripts that sit in the drawer. Sometimes harassing a novel becomes a goal in itself. There’s no going forward or backward, there’s simply running in place.

So, if you find yourself complaining and feel backed up against a wall, if your life has lost its forward momentum, if nothing excites you when you wake up in the morning, maybe it’s a sign to cut your losses and call it quits.