Thursday, July 02, 2009

I (would like to but can't) QUIT.

Sorry. So sorry. I've been "absent" lately. Not physically (who's ever physically absent in the world of the internet? Wow, that's kind of a depressing thought. Now you never have an excuse for not being there. Heavy.) Anyway, no. I've been mentally absent. Or preoccupied. Or whatever you want to call it.

So let's call it what it was. Crisis-ing. Yes, sad to say: I was in a panic, a tizzy, a "state" about the state of my career. I.e. that thing I do when I'm not raising my two beautiful children. Over time, it's begun looking like a hobby instead of a career and that's part of the problem. I want to excel and be brilliant and be "all over it" but I also want balance and time to watch the flowers grow (I include my daughters in that category) and time to smell the coffee, not to mention brew it. But the crisis wasn't about balance, it was about whether I'd "lost 'it'" or not.

I suppose this happens to all creative people every now and then. (Let me clarify something before going on: I think most everyone is creative, although there was that accountant I had so many years ago that maybe wasn't, but I use the word to refer to people who rely on their creativity to make a living and/or a reputation.) Anyway, I hit some sort of wall a month or so back. An internal wall. Something. I just felt like I was going nowhere. Had no more good ideas. Dried up. The economy wasn't helping of course, but that "high" I was on a while back in which I actually claimed that the slow economy was "okay" because it gave me time to get my life in order, well, let's just say that was over. And it wasn't just the lack of jobs, it was the lack of some spark in if my reserve of gunpowder had been depleted. It was a really frightening feeling. Like my soul had changed or something.

Simultaneously, my mom, who is 77, was taking a class at NYU about modern Russia, in which she had to write two papers on the subject of her choosing. Mom is a professor by trade, still teaches at Pace University, but these assignments threw her. She too hit some sort of wall simultaneously. Teaching writing was one thing, but researching and writing on an unknown topic was something else. She began to doubt, to waffle, to wonder...she began to feel "old."

So here we were an ocean and three decades apart feeling over and done with, spent, and extremely unsure. My mom took the first leap. She decided to stick with her course, write her paper no matter how long it took, no matter how out of shape her brain felt for this specific task. She dug in and just did it. She wrote and rewrote and rewrote until she got it right. And she did get it right. And her professor's comments reflected that. Her conclusion at 77? "I'm going to do this every year. When I finish this course I'm starting another one." Ah, so that's how it's done?

For my part, I started to design something on my own. The going was slow...but it helped to shift the doubt ever so slightly out of the wallow it had created in the pit of my stomach. But the real kicker was a job that finally came alone. And it was a good one, a perfect chance to prove myself wrong. So I followed my mother's example. Dug in. Did it. Re-did it. Kept at it. You might say you don't have a choice when someone's paying you...but you sort of do. You can do it well. Or you can do it not well. Give your all. Or not. This time I did, or at least I tried, and it massaged out the knot of doubt...I'm not calling myself a genius by any means, but at least I don't feel paralyzed anymore. I feel like someone who knows her profession. Who's good at it. Who's not in the least ready to stop. (What was I thinking?) I feel like someone who just got through a bad patch. What's that line from the Speedo ad a gazillion years ago? "What doesn't kill you just makes you stronger"? Yep. Close enough.


So. As they say, "Quitting is not an option." It just isn't. True for my mom at 77. True for me at 40-something. And true for my daughter who is struggling through her first two weeks away at summer camp. She wanted to go. I paid (and paid and paid). Now she's there. First night: "I wanna come home!" (Sob. Sob. Wail. Wail.) "Come get me, puh-leeeeeeeze."

As much as it felt kind of rotten to say it, it also felt kind of right: "I'm sorry honey, I can't. You'll have to stick it out." And she will. And she is. And I'll bring her home this weekend. She'll be happy, in her comfort zone again...but little does she know that this is just the beginning. Of humps and hills and mountains to climb, icky stuff to get through with a stiff upper lip, experiences that ask you not to give up. Being unable to quit...and, in the end, being glad you didn't.


  1. Not sure if this was a Champ or a Moore post, but I would like to share with whoever was behind it, why I read your site.

    12 years ago, I was 25, living in Portland, no plans for a career. I was an occasional temp at Wieden, cause I thought their ads were cool. Janet was one of the few, nice enough to engage with me, the help.

    She asked what I wanted to do with myself, other than answer an ad agency's phones. I told her I didn't know. She asked me why I didn't consider pursuing a job in advertising, as a creative. I told her I was worried I wouldn't come up with enough ideas.

    She replied, "you sound like a creative to me."

    I went to ad school. Put a book together. And now work for an agency back in Portland (not Weiden).

    I am reminded of that conversation everyday when I don't think I can come up with anymore ideas.

    And yet, here we are.

    Sounds like you guys are still got it. The self-doubt. The mad creativity. And the paychecks to back it all up.


  2. Hi. Lefty. It's me Charlotte. I left that post. But probably any of us could have, cause you're right and Janet was right: doubt pretty much defines what we do. I'm always scared. Always unsure. Always afraid that "this time" is the time I won't get it right. It never seems to stop. I hope that if it had been me instead of Janet, I would have encouraged you just the same. Sounds like you've more or less landed where you wanted to. I'm happy for you. Just one thing before I sign off: sometime the paycheck backs it all up; sometimes it doesn't. Sigh. It's the way of the world.

  3. ...and sometimes the paycheck gets stuck in Sweden and we never see the damn thing. This is Janet, fresh off reading your (great) blog Lefty. And I'm glad as well you ended up where you wanted to be. And stayed in it. This thing we do, I don't know, it somehow gets easier and somehow odder. Middle aged people trying to instill love, honor, faith in some products we (me, I mean me) wouldn't touch ourselves. Diving in anyway, because it's what we do and what we get paid for. Falling in love with an idea we think would serve the client so well only to have them shit upon it. Shat? Yes, yesterday there was shat. As years roll by you get used to it. But I still keep forgetting my armor.