Knowing when to give up

August 2 by

Knowing when to give up

Last night, I had a terrible itch on the underside of my knee.

I didn’t realize it consciously; it was more that I woke up all groggy and irritated, and realized I had been fussing with it all night.

I had tossed and turned, my slumbering brain fighting not to let my fingernails scratch at my skin while I slept.

I live in Tennessee. It’s hot, humid, and the world’s favorite place for mosquitoes (says me, not anyone official.) It’s par for the course to be eaten alive after spending the last week of summer outdoors, relishing the last moments of free time with the kids.

But last night, I didn’t realize to take Benadryl or rub some calamine lotion on before bed. I pretty much found out after the fact.

Long after it was too late to get any decent sleep.

I got up, dragged myself down the hall, got my son off to school, and collapsed back onto the couch. I tried to be productive, but nope.

Total no-go.

Realizing my brain was useless without a couple more hours of rest, I trudged back to bed, threw the channel to some Supernatural reruns on TNT, and tried to get settled.

The annoying little pain behind my knee smarted again. Soon as I got comfy, of course.

I tried to be still and pretend I’d drift off to sleep anyway, but my logical side eventually took over and told my lazier side that no, if it kept me up all night, it wasn’t going to be any better now. I’d have to suck it up, climb out of the warm blankets, and venture down the hall to get something to put on it.

I swore. A lot. You don’t need the details.

I got my unhappy butt up and went to the bathroom for anti-itch lotion, and plopped my leg up onto the counter for a look in the good light.

And guess what?


It wasn’t a bug bite.

No tick.

No sting.

No “skeeter.”

It was a tiny, razor-sharp shard of glass.


I have no idea where it came from, and no idea what it was doing embedded in my knee. I got the tweezers and uprooted the nasty beastie from between the tender layers of my skin. Tossed it safely, went back to bed, and slept like a log.


So, my point?

Sometimes, ignoring the itch is a good thing. Sometimes, the pain is temporary and will go away on its own if you continue business as usual.

Sometimes, you do what you know The Rules say to do, and move right along on your fake-merry way.

When a story’s not working, you show up at the page anyway.

When a writing group doesn’t like your latest chapter, you grit your teeth and weigh their advice.

When you feel like you’ve flaked on a great idea, there’s guilt, but you keep coming back to it and poking, month after month.

Those are itches.

Sometimes, you just go with it — even when it’s unpleasant. It’s responsible to try to surmount your obstacles without being a quitter.


But every once in a while, you also have to look at it in the good light.

One out of every ten times or twenty, it may actually be something you just need to listen to yourself about. Something to grab hold of and toss instead of trying to repair or ignore it.

Those things that are actually glass are never going to feel better until you bite the bullet and remove them completely.

Does that one character just keep tangling up your plot in weird ways?

Maybe she doesn’t belong in this manuscript, even though she’s your favorite. Omit her.

Do you feel only guilt, and never excitement, when you think back on that one thing you meant to finish six months ago?

Maybe your passion for it is kaput, and your time would be more meaningfully spent on what you love now, in THIS moment.

Do you wish you wrote short stories instead of the novels you’re sick of querying out to agents?

Screw it. Write one. See how you feel.

Hanging around toxic people out of habit?

Stop it.


I’m not saying you need to listen to every discouraging thought you tell yourself. We writers are good at talking inner smack. Hard work and dry spells are part of the writing journey, and if you quit everything you start, you’ll never make it a foot forward toward your goals.

But sometimes, just every once in a while, do remember to stop and look under the good light.

Let the creative itches heal. Don’t scratch. Stop picking at it!

But if you see something that truly doesn’t belong in you anymore?

Be brave. Admit it. Acknowledge it.

And then get your glass outta there.



Knowing when to give up - Inkwell Basics

(Image credit: John Lewis)










Tracy Lucas

About Tracy Lucas

Tracy Lucas is a writer, editor, and the co-owner of Inkwell Basics. She owns Four Square Creative and Smash Cake Press, and she blogs about writing and publishing at her personal website. She has written and sold more than one hundred and fifty pieces for print, web, radio, and stage.

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