get the newsletter

shine along

June 9, 2010

Road Trip Wednesday: Get Over It. Go Out With Somebody Else.

Kate Hart

Hi. My name is Kate and I am a quitter.

Today's Road Trip prompt is supposed to be about how you know an idea or a project just isn't going to work out. But seeing as I've just started my second WIP, after revising the first one for months, I don't have a lot to say about giving up on a manuscript.  I do, however, have plenty to say on the joys of knowing when to quit on a bigger idea.

When you get married in college
and change your last name, you
get to sit by your hubby at
graduation. True story.
So this is me, graduating from college. Which reminds me-- I never answered my 1 truth and six lies. The truth was #3: I had the highest GPA in my major. In both majors, history and Spanish. I graduated summa cum laude. I rocked my comprehensive exams. I killed at college.

I say this not to brag, but so you'll understand why I thought grad school was my logical next step. I'm good at academia. It made sense to stay there. Just one problem... I had no idea what I wanted to study. Somehow I managed to talk myself into Latin American Studies, applied to a bunch of schools, and accepted an offer at Vanderbilt.

Hiking to stave off
crippling depression. Also
true story.
So this is me, living in Nashville the next year. SO FREAKING MISERABLE. Because guess what? I like Spanish but had zero interest in learning Portuguese. The class that was presented as "hands on career training" was just more "how to do research." Vanderbilt is an enormous campus in the heart of a big city, while I purposely chose an undergrad that was a small campus in a relatively small town. My undergrad was described by a national paper as a "gay friendly hippie utopia." Vanderbilt is... not that.

My friends were scattered all over the globe, my family was far away, and the five or six people in my department were nice enough, but not exactly my speed. I developed a tic in one eye that still recurs when I'm stressed. I cried. A lot.

Miserable doesn't begin to cover it.

What's the point of this pity party? I succeeded in college by never giving up. No matter what, I muscled through (except for pottery, but that's not important, shh). Quitting was not allowed. So it was damn near impossible to give myself permission to quit grad school.

But I did it. And it's one of the best decisions I ever made.

Through the whole process-- applications, finding a house, moving-- I had ignored this feeling I get in my stomach. Have you ever seen a dog or a horse dig in its feet when it's being led? That's what it feels like: like my stomach doesn't want to accompany the rest of my body on whatever bad plan my brain has decided. I got it when we looked at a house recently, and it turned out someone was squatting on the property. I got it when we drove our 15-year-old Jeep to the Texas coast, and it broke down on the way home. I got it when my now-husband dated other people in high school (which was very confusing, btw, considering I was 17 at the time and not looking for matrimony).

I also get its opposite-- a feeling of pieces locking into place when things are moving in the right direction, like my internal organs are part of a puzzle. I had it about getting married, even though we were "too young." I had it about buying our house. I had it both times I got pregnant-- I knew before I took the test that it would be positive (and let me tell you, I took 18 months worth of tests with the first baby. "Knowing" I was pregnant was a dangerous feeling).

I have that feeling about writing.

It feels dangerous to say that, considering a) I'm in the middle of querying with nothing to show for my efforts so far, and b) I'm insanely superstitious. I know this MS might not be "the one," and that not everyone will have "the one." I think we can all agree that between grad school and publishing, grad school is the safer bet.

Get over it.
Go out with somebody else.
But since we left Nashville, I've started and dropped out of two more graduate programs, one in Higher Education Leadership and one in Non-Profit Management. I was smarter about it. I didn't uproot my entire life to try them out, and I took an intro class to get a feel for the department-- because that made it easier to follow my gut when it said, "No. This isn't where you belong."


However, that means I have to listen when it says, "Yes, this is where you belong," even when rejections suggest I'm wrong. Just because it's right doesn't mean it will be easy (as author Elana Johnson proved yesterday). I don't regret my grad school "failures," because they've allowed me to recognize that feeling and decide when to muscle my way through-- and when to get over it and try something new.

Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

We'd love for you to participate!


  1. such a great post. and such an interesting take on the topic, one I really want to write about now, because I, too, am a historic quitter. mostly with jobs. oh, the jobs. so many jobs.

    just not writing.

    <3 you

  2. OMG I am a quitter too. Epic job leaver. It drove my mom crazy every tiem I'd call and say, "So I quit my job again."

    The thing is, if I wasn't feeling it, why bother sticking around. That's pretty much my personal philosophy, why be miserable when you can find something that makes you happy.

  3. Lovely lovely post. I get that tick in my eye, too :) and also the gut feeling. That's actually how I navigate my stories: does it feel right? I'm in awe that you were brave enough to quit grad school. I think the pressure to succeed would have made me too afraid to leave even if I hated it -- but that's a whole other can of worms. Quitting can be a very good thing.

  4. Is it sad that I knew "Wayne's World" was in some way attached to this post?

    A gun rack.... Wow....

  5. I'm just like you--I excelled at academic. In fact, I'm in my second graduate program now. The first one I got so that I could financially support my love of writing. Great post! :)

  6. This is an insanely awesome post. Because I've never allowed myself to be a quitter (hello, so much outside expectation and pressure) and yet it felt so good and so right to quit my grad degree, too. And every other idea that took me away from the thing I really wanted to do. I think we were separated at birth.

    Also, can I date you?

  7. I used to be a huge quitter until someone said to me, "You don't like to finish things, do you?" It shocked me, and I hated it. So I went to the other extreme, where now I don't know when to quit. I think you've got a great way to balance quitting vs. muscling through, and I'm insanely jealous. Maybe I should practice.

    Great post!

  8. I'm a grad school dropout too! And I have those same exact gut feelings...things fit or things are soooo wrong. And I KNEW when I was pregnant too. Though, I didn't know it was 2 at once, but that is totally beside the point :)

  9. I agree, this is an insanely awesome post! It's a great thing when you know when to quit and when to keep going.

  10. I get that feeling about writing too :)
    I like where you took this topic!

  11. I love this take on the topic! I can't even quit reading a book. (Well, I did this year. But it sits there on my bookshelf, staring, taunting me.) It really is a brave thing to know what's best, and to listen to that feeling. Do you think this is something one might cultivate? Perhaps a garden of bravery? Is it perennial? I'm going to work on that.

  12. This post inspires me.

    I'm dead afraid of failures. With writing, it isn't as much of a problem, because I know it can take years and years and you can never fail if you keep trying. With school and other roads where there ARE measures of failure, however, I'm terrified of failing.

    I need to trust my gut feelings more. Definitely. Thank you so much for this post!

  13. Awesome awesome awesome post. Although if you HAD learned Portuguese we could have super sekrit convos.

    We may be able to anyway, the two are somewhat similar. O que voce acha?

  14. I loved this post, very inspiring to read!

  15. Yup, yup, yup. Know when to quit. I had a similar experience with college. I was salutatorian and everyone expected me to go to [Ivy League school in my state], but I didn't want to, because I wanted to stay near home. I really wanted to go to the wonderful, big, diverse school the next city over, but because it's the local university, a lot of people thought it wasn't good enough. So I compromised with myself (because of other people's expectations - not even mine or my parents, teachers and classmates... bleh!) by going to a university that posed as 'the next big [Ivy League school in my state]'.

    I was absolutely miserable there. 3 weeks into classes I knew it wasn't right for me, applied to the local university, and transferred for spring semester. I was so much happier there, and I learned a very important lesson: follow your gut, no matter what anyone else says.

  16. For some reason, that "know when to hold 'em/know when to fold 'em" song just popped into my head. (Sad.) But I think that for the superintense among us, quitting can be the hardest thing. I declared a second major last year, mostly because I didn't know anyone else who had only one major and I felt like a slacker. Earlier this year I said "screw this," dropped the second major, and graduated early. I felt so guilty about it for like two weeks, but now I realize it was the BEST DECISION EVER.

    Awesome post. Quitting FTW.

  17. Hopped over here from Corrine Jackson's blog. So, you listened to your gut. Love it. And no, it's not always easy and yes some peeps will think your crazy. *shrug* who cares. Keep going. You sound like you have all your ducks in a line just wanting to grow.

  18. hey kate, seriously, when are we going to meet and be besties? I'm a reluctant grad school FINISHER (b.a. english/spanish, m.a. english) and my hubby is a history professor. and we love the black crowes. and we love rushmore. goodness gracious!

  19. This goes far beyond being great writing advice. This is great life advice.

    The studying stuff particularly strikes a chord with me. I wish I could have read this post when I was about to start my honours year at university. I wasn't brave enough to admit I wasn't ready yet.


All content copyright Kate Hart 2016

Template copyright @ 2016, Blogger Templates Designed By Templateism | Distributed By Blogger Templates20