Updated: May 22
And it felt great. Mine was a gradual forfeit, but when my efforts finally dissipated into nothingness, it granted me a euphoric liberty. In other words, if you stop doing the thing you no longer enjoy, it feels pretty good. Giving yourself permission to let go of something that has long ceased to provide fulfillment is a wonderful feeling.
For me, my sweet release was both literally and figuratively stepping down from the stage as standup comedy performer. Waiting to go on past midnight for a sparse crowd of mainly other comics at open mic nights had taken its toll. Even when I appeared on showcases, I couldn’t wait to leave and go home. This isn’t to say I didn’t value spending time with fellow comedians, nor does it imply that I loathed the actual performing aspect—the process had simply deteriorated into something I dreaded. The lows outweighed the highs. Toward the end, I was growing as a comic, evolving into finding my unique voice. I was proud of the material and presence I had developed and was continuing to improve upon. I can look back and say I was pretty darn good. So, if I was onto something, why stop?
The grind is what it is. Everyone pays dues. You scratch and claw for stage time. You write and you write and you write. It something every comic has to do and it takes a looooooooong time. Years. No, seriously, many years, decades maybe. This commitment to securing a full-time comedic profession requires complete and utter devotion. Love of the craft is a prerequisite. I’ve written in more detail about this in a previous blog entry, but I’ll go ahead and give you a spoiler: my love of standup went cold fairly early on. The winds of disinterest had extinguished the flame yet I soldiered on because it was the thing I did; it was how I identified myself.
Personal obligation to yourself is not the best reason when it’s something you dislike, plus it wasn’t like anyone was asking me to do it. So, I got to hang my jersey from the rafters on my time on my own terms. The comedy world does not weep at my absence, but I learned a ton from doing it for as long as I did. The siren song of “other interests” left me spellbound and I was easily drifted away from comedy clubs and bars with comedy nights. These alluring pursuits were things I had shelved for no other reason than that whole personal obligation thing. The main two comedy dream-wreckers? Art and writing, my first two loves I abandoned in the first place.
What happens if I get bored with illustrating or creative writing? What happens if I never “make it”? Both are superb outlets for the imagination and artists of any kind will produce artwork in its many forms regardless. Ideas manifest from within and it feels like if you don’t expel them, the concepts, premises, and daydreams will bubble up and explode in an awkward scene at work, school, or an otherwise festive family gathering. Or worst of all, an unsolicited pitch to an unsuspecting hapless friend, co-worker, or complete stranger.
It’s been a year and I’m only at what I consider to be the halfway point of my manuscript. It was such a relief quitting comedy, so I fear that forfeiture’s invitation may grace my cortex once more in the future. A future where it seems that I’ll never finish or my novel will never sell. Or that the love of the process won’t be enough and that simply getting published, DIY or not, won’t satisfy me as I once thought it might. Quitting is easy and fun and a removal of a huge weight off of one’s shoulders. How can a writer compete with this? Sure, creative types will find ways to distribute their ideas and lead pretentious conversations in many a Starbucks about how much of a genius they are. What does it mean if nothing actually gets done?
There are authors who have been in the game for many, many years and haven’t made the bigtime. You invest your very spirit into a piece of fiction (never mind any visual art pieces I referred to earlier). So much time, money, and effort (only one of those things will you have a generous supply of) will pour into a project and for it to be repeatedly rejected is absolutely devastating. It’s the biz, but pro or amateur, it sucks. There will a point in every writer’s journey where it makes more sense to stop.
I kept at it with comedy in large part because I wanted to give time for my garden to grow. It sprouted a bit, but I wasn’t yielding any fruitful results. At a certain point, you have to look in the mirror and come to terms that maybe this isn’t for you. Writing is a fun and relatively easy habit, especially for solitary types. But you could also take up fencing, knit a sweater, learn a foreign language. You could, gasp, learn how your car works or study the stock market. Something possibly more practical. That said, the longer in the tooth you get, the options reveal themselves to be resume or die.
I don’t want anyone who happens to read this to think I advocate failure or abandonment of all hope. I don’t intend to be that dreary, I mainly just want people who aren’t getting fulfillment in something to just chill for a while. I wasn’t setting the world on fire with comedy so I stopped and I freaking love it. I recommend quitting only if it means giving something else a go. Quitting isn’t permanent. I could darken the doorstep of a comedy club open mic night at any point if I so chose, but that would mean leaving the house. Until then, I’ll keep punching the keys of my keyboard and commit as much as I can into completing my book. I’ll continue writing until I don’t want to anymore. And when I get another story idea, I’ll quit quitting.