On Quitting

Photo by Samuel Zeller: https://unsplash.com/@samuelzeller

This December I quit a load of things to make more room for writing fiction.

I finally came to accept that I was spreading myself too thin. I’ve known it for some time, and worked hard through 2016 trying to juggle all my jobs.

At times, I pulled it off, and it seemed amazing that I could do so much. In other cases, I failed and let people down.

And sometimes—more often than I want to admit—my stories fell through the cracks. That made me saddest of all.

My commitments were competing with each other in a way that kept me from meeting my writing goals. For instance, I was spending time organizing events for authors, and not writing. I was recording a podcast, and not writing. I was taking on too many for-hire writing projects and, you guessed it, not writing.

And there are things I am not willing to give up that go into this balancing act, too—time with my girlfriend, for one. My health (directly correlates to productivity).

But there is always room for change and growth. And so, this December, I made a business plan, defined my writing goals, and then set out to find the right balance.

This meant making some hard decisions.

I’ve quit things before—jobs, countries, people, bad habits. But I seem to go through a major quitting streak every three or four years.

  • At 18, I left the United States to attend college in Canada
  • At 21, I left Canada and went to Europe to travel
  • At 24, I returned to the US, to Austin, to become a freelance writer

Now I’m 28, and I find myself at another one of these impasses. A quitting streak is upon me. Right on time, wouldn’t you say?

I can’t quit my day job yet. I still have to pay the bills, and copywriting/content strategy is a good job that I enjoy. The clients I have are smart, passionate people who care about the work they’re doing. But I need more time if this writing fiction thing is going to pan out for me, so I did my best to find the right balance.

As of today, I can officially say that the worst is behind me. I quit a podcast that I was enjoying, the membership side of the Indie Author Society, and also turned down a couple freelance projects (so hard!). And other things I won’t go into detail about because it’s all in the past now.

It was the most difficult quitting streak I’ve ever done because I had to quit things that I genuinely enjoyed doing, but which were holding me back from hitting my word counts.

Usually a quitting streak feels like shedding an old skin, or putting on a new pair of clothes that fit just right.

This quitting streak felt like open heart surgery.

I am decimated now, and while I believe the writing will fill that hole eventually, I am tired and sad and seem to know what the french poets mean by ennui.

That, in itself, is a sign that I’m still not out of the weeds.

But I know it is a natural reaction, and that things will get better again soon (sidenote: revising this 24 hours after it was written, I already feel less anxiety about it). I’ve been through many quitting streaks before. This one is still processing. I’ll pick up speed in a week or so.

This December was hard, but I’ve cleaned the slate and now I’m ready for the next phase.

Here’s to lots of new stories in 2017.


  1. I can really related to this piece. I, too, struggle with the never ending battle of wanting to do everything, and everything exceptionally well. It just doesn’t work out that way in practice. You can be the best at one thing (maybe two), great at a few things, or decent at a lot of things.

    I think this is a kick in my butt to put down all the miscellaneous things and focus on just a couple of things in 2017. After all, we’ve only got so much time on this earth.

    As Thoreau once said… “Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.”

    Also, you forgot to add that you spent a summer in Montana as a river guide, man!

    • Matt says:

      I did forget that! Although, rafting in Montana never felt like quitting, it was more like the hiatus between the spring and fall semester at college. Still, it was always nice to get away… and Paradise Valley is named that for a good reason.

  2. Matt thank you for having the courage to share this. With so many stories of folks boasting of their multi-tasking skills and not getting enough sleep, it’s refreshing to read another way to be successful.

    Although as a fan of yours, I hope the Podcast that was deprioritized it’s not the Podcast I like. 🙂

    • Matt says:

      I appreciate you saying that.

      The podcast I was referring to was the Story Works Round Table, in case you were wondering. There are a couple more episodes with me in them but I won’t be recording any more new sessions as a host with Alida and Kathryn in the new year (possibly as a guest, but that’s TBD).

      But don’t worry! I’ll be blogging a lot on here instead 🙂

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