Sometimes I have a problem. I refuse to give up on something. I will stubbornly refuse to back away from it, and will keep going on at it, despite knowing deep inside that doing so is futile.
In some ways, this is an admirable quality. Tenacity.
In some ways, this is a self-destructive quality. Futility.
Take writing, for example. There inevitably comes that moment when, having had a great idea, a concept so wonderful that it screams to be written down and become the next big thing – bigger than anything that came before. Even better, it’s a labour of love – something you feel so passionate about that you know, you know, that it’s going to be wonderful when you finish it. It’ll be your masterpiece, and everyone will be as in love with it as you are.
And so you set down to write.
The page looks blankly at you. Where, where to begin? Eventually, past all the distractions, you manage a word or two. Then you delete them, because you don’t like them. They’re not the way you want them to be - they don’t reflect you at your best. So you sit and stare at the screen again.
Some time later, you’ve managed to eke out a page or two. And it was torturous. You sweated for every damn letter that came out. Only each one is harder and harder to get out. In your head, it’s so simple – you can see exactly how it should be to be beautiful, to be perfect, to live to its full potential. But stubbornly, it sits there. It refuses to do what you want.
And, oh, it could be so perfect. It could be wonderful. It has so much potential. It just needs to be a little flexible – it needs to reach out to you, to help you. But no! Denied! It sits there, inanimate and uncaring. It does nothing, no matter how much you want it to. And you get frustrated. You get angry. It dominates your day. It’s always on your mind. “If only, if only…”
Like a fool, you go back to it, time and again, trying harder and harder. Each time, you end up more and more frustrated. Each page makes you suffer, and still you keep going, because it’ll all be worth it in the end.
Or will it?
True, history is littered with labours of love. There are a thousand phrases – “nothing good came easy”. But this is you. Or, in this case, me.
The cost to me, and to those around me has to be taken into account. Can I keep pouring myself into something like this, something which stubbornly sits there? Let me give it another analogy. Imagine this book as a relationship.
You love this person. You love them deeply. So much so that you would do anything for them – and you have. Over and again. You’ve sacrificed your vision, your beliefs, your principles, your pride for them. You have done everything for them. Lived for them, breathed for them. You’ve changed your thoughts, your actions, your behaviours for them. You want them to be happy. You have lived only for them.
You spend your money on them. You take them out, make extravagent romantic gestures. You live to serve them. Sure, you argue every now and then, but who doesn’t? You sit down with them, and try to address the problems calmly and rationally. You make plans for the future. You sort everything out for them.
And they, in turn, do nothing. They refuse to listen, they take no responsibility. They shrug and ignore you and all you’ve done. They make no effort themselves. You’ve seen this in a thousand Agony Aunt pages, and the advice is always the same. You can only do so much to help a person, before you have to cut your losses and live your life.
So, why persist with this labour of love? Stubborn pride, perhaps? A sign of weakness to walk away from it? “I couldn’t hack it, so I quit.” There’s a real stigma attached to it. But taking emotion aside from it, look objectively.
You’re in a relationship with this book (please feel free to substitute the word project, person, job, etc), and you’re the only one doing anything to make it work. It’s affecting your thoughts, your emotions, possibly even your health. What you used to enjoy, what you used to love is causing you pain and suffering. Is that right?
Are you getting anything in return? Chances are, no. I have scowled and cursed at the screen before. Something I once felt so good about, and I grew to dread it. Dread looking at that page, and trying, trying to find the right words.
The advantage with a book is that you can turn away from it. It might be hard, but you can step away from it, put it on the shelf, and possibly return to it at a much later date. In the meantime, you can turn to other subjects, and find something a little more fun and rewarding to put your efforts into (still writing, though!)
(And to step back to the relationship analogy, that’s a bit different. There comes a make or break point, where the only thing that can get things back on track is for the other person to change their ways and make a huge effort to make things work again. If only books could do the same thing!)
Why this subject? Because I’ve got that problem with a book. Something which I really want to write. A subject I’m passionate about, and want to put on paper everything that’s in my head. But the damned thing doesn’t want to flow! I’ve worked and worked on it, tried to get it to life, tried to bring out its potential. I’ve changed my vision for it, compromised on parts for it, sacrificed for it, done it all. And it just sits there, sullenly ignoring me.
So, I’m going to leave it for a while. I’ve done all I can with my tenacious spirit for the while. I’m going to let it rest, and fight against it no more. Instead, I shall head for a nice sunny break, clear my head, rest and relax, and look for something a little more fun instead. A little more rewarding.
Like a cocktail. Cheers!