Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Stayed in bed all morning just to pass the time
There’s something wrong here, there can be no denying

One of us is changing

Or maybe we
just stopped trying

And it’s too late, baby, now it’s too late
Though we really did try to make it
Something inside has died

And I can’t hide and I just can’t fake it

– Carole King (music) & Toni Stern (lyrics)

Have you ever had a work in progress that just fizzled? Never got off the ground? Or maybe it was a forced break up? That old Carole King song really resonates when you end a relationship. And maybe when you end a writing project, too.

Here are 10 questions to consider when you are thinking of breaking up with a writing project (or a person).

1. Have you lost that lovin’ feelin’? Just like in love, maybe you don’t look forward to spending time together anymore. In fact, you may flat out hate their looks. No matter how you try, you just don’t feel it anymore. You dread seeing them. You avoid working on it.

2. Do you compare him/her/it to others? In the case of writing, maybe you are drawn to other things you’re working on. Maybe you look at everyone’s else’s writing and think it’s better. You are envious, maybe even jealous!

3. Do you constantly micromanage or criticize? You can’t turn off the inner critic we all have. You’re never happy with anything you write. It’s all bad. You’re never satisfied.

4. Did you find a new love? This is a toughie (in both relationships and writing). Before you choose to end it for this reason, consider all the advantages and history of what you have—is it really worth giving it up for the new person/project? Maybe you can have both? (Just to be clear, for me this would only be an option for writing; but, if it works for you in your relationships, as long as no one is getting hurt (see question 10) then who am I to judge?)

5. (Closely related to question 4.) Have you reconnected with old relationships/projects? Everyone and everything looks better than what you’re currently working on. Maybe it’s your old projects or maybe it’s friends and the distraction of online social networking. Here’s the thing: you want to cheat!

6. Do you find that he/she/it is no longer __________________ (fill in the blank: meaningful, life-altering, funny, cute, enchanting, serious, or…) enough? Maybe it’s just not ringing true to where you started from. You are BORED. And maybe your writing is BORING either you or others.

7. Are your friends are sick and tired of hearing you talk about it? I mean really sick. You can’t stop talking about it. And not in a good way. Pick, pick, pick.

8. Do you still feel good about it, yes or no? Or is it taking its toll? It’s all about them. You’re working way too hard for way too little reward. Maybe it’s not paying enough and you really need money? Your life has become absolutely consumed. Maybe it’s not worth it!

These next two questions are more serious. “Deal breakers,” as Dr. Phil calls them. Were you dumped? Or are you being abused? Just like in a relationship, sometimes we don’t really have a choice in whether or not we end a project.

9. Did you just flat out get dumped? The worst. A rejection letter. Maybe a lot of them. You didn’t get a job. They like someone more, or maybe even worse, you just aren’t the right person/project. The good news? It may be trite, but it’s true: we can’t control what others say or feel about us, but we can control how we react. Thank the person/publication, and file it away. Get back in the saddle. Send another query. Network more. Seek more feedback. Re-write.

10. Are you beyond stressed out? Is your health suffering? Are you in danger? Or being abused? Maybe what you’re working on is causing serious (real relationship) problems in your life, and it’s just not worth it. This could be in the form of an editor, co-writer, or client you’re working for/with. Or maybe someone you care about could be hurt by what you’re writing—like a family member if you’re writing a memoir. Or, worse, you’re personally threatened by a source or some dangerous information/material (we aren’t all cut out to be Karen Silkwood or Julian Assange).

If you answered yes to even one of these questions, you should consider: Is it time to break up with your current project? Or maybe at least a trial separation? And definitely, if you answered yes to questions 9 or 10, an immediate break up is in order!

On Thursday, come back to read “Making Up with Mr. (Re)Write.” And tomorrow, it’s my second Wednesday is Word Day. And yes, you can count on it having something to do with LOVE.

Happy Valentine’s Week!