We all love to turn to inspirational advice when we feel like we just cannot go on down our chosen path. One of the most common such pieces of advice is that quitters never win, and winners never quit. It sounds real great! It pumps you up! It gives you the motivation to plow ahead!
The truth is that inspirational phrases like this are half truths. Yes, quitters never win because they give up before they do so. And yes, winners never have quit because they have won. But there is an important caveat to this old saying that is missing. That caveat is that by not quitting doesn’t mean you will win.
Too often people forget this. They assume that if they just keep trying that they will eventually, and inevitably, succeed. Sadly, that is not the case. Simply trying and continuing to try over and over does not mean success will be achieved.
Now, for the story that makes me say this.
A friend of mine, who I will only call “Bill” to spare him any ridicule or embarrassment, is a writer like I am. Bill, a member of the author’s critique group I belong to, has been at this writing thing for 30+ years, desperately trying to churn out a novel that he can get published. He has been a struggling writer since the days when traditional publishing was the only option available to writers.
Bill has been rejected by, it is safe to say, every literary agent and publishing house in his given genre at least three times. Some more.
According to others in my review group who have been around far longer than I have, Bill has never taken any of the critiques given to him seriously and his writing has improved little over the years. Recently, with the ability to easily self-publish online, Bill has been putting his years of work up for sale and even for free.
His first self-published ebook received so many negative reviews that when he published his second a few months later he had it published under a pen name so that people wouldn’t associate it with his first attempt. When that one was met with equally bad reviews, he published his third under yet another name. That book has not received good marks either.
Bill is a prime example of the caveat to the “winners never quit” inspirational saying. Sometimes, we are just doing the wrong thing and the only way to win is to quit and try something else. It’s funny because Bill is a great technical writer. But Bill doesn’t want to write “technical” books (think the XYZ for Dummies series). Bill wants to write novels. But Bill is not succeeding at the later. And it is looking like he, seriously, might never.
He’s never given up though. The problem is that the road called failure is littered with similar corpses as that of Bill’s because they believe that if they just push on over that next hill success will come to them.
I do so hope that I don’t end up like Bill. If I fail at writing novels, I pray that God will grant me the wisdom to admit defeat and move on.