about writing and life and God

When is it time to quit, or stick?

on September 17, 2012

I love September here in England. I love the mellow golden sunshine and the way it heats up beautifully by midday. I love the leaves on the trees turning colour to russet and orange. I love the smell of wood smoke as people start to clear gardens.

  But I look at my own garden with horror.

This past year it has got out of hand. (I’ve chosen the worst bit to photograph, honest! And it was pretty when the flowers were out, and that tangle of bushes includes some prolific and delicious raspberries…)

Arthritis in my knee prevented me from doing the usual bout of weeding before the rains came, and everything – especially the weeds – shot up, like Jack’s beanstalk.

So far the only good thing I can say about it is there’s been no visit from the Giant!

I used to consider myself someone who loved gardening. But when your knee hurts too much to kneel and weed, and it gives way when you try to push a spade or fork into the soil, I begin to wonder about courtyards and pots… And a patch of scrub for the cats to play panther in!

Seth Godin has written a wonderful book, The Dip. He says the successful folk in this world are the ones who know what and when to give up, pull out, quit; the ones who recognise the dead-ends that are draining their energy and stopping them succeeding at the things they’re meant to be doing. The knack is knowing the difference between those dead-ends and a DIP: the low-point that needs to be worked through.

I can recognise the difference when I’m dieting. There are plenty of dips there, but if I want to succeed (and I do!), then I need to stick at it. Writing a book also strings dips along with good writing progress. If you want to have a book at the end of the process you have to stick. That’s why I’m fighting through my natural laziness to produce a rough first draft of the new novel that I can then do something with.

Sometimes the only basis for deciding is how you will feel about yourself if you quit. If it’s genuine relief – that whew! and physical easing of tension in the shoulders – then it’s good to quit. (I’ll probably be writing about this in one of the Dementia Diaries, dealing with when is it time for a loved one to have other carers or move to a residential care facility.)

But if it nags. Doesn’t feel right….

My garden nags at me. The cats love the wildness of it. The birds enjoy the seed heads. I hate the mess! But I’m trying to sell the house and move somewhere smaller. I don’t therefore have a long-term commitment to this garden. It’s not a dip I could fight through with a view to a lovely garden next year. But neither is it a cul de sac, a would-be drain of time and energy. It’s somewhere in between!

The solution, I suppose, is to hire someone to come in and do a pre-winter tidy-up. Just enough to salve my conscience! Right. Where’s that phone book?



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