I’m a quitter.
It’s not altogether a bad thing. There are things I’ve persevered through. I taught myself to draw traditionally and digitally from the time I was 7 years old, I was a theater kid for 4 years (and was the lead in a high school production that I hope was never filmed), and I earned a bachelor’s degree under less-than-ideal circumstances.
But for every achievement under my belt, there are several dozen ideas or undertakings I’ve abandoned. They include: at least 3 or 4 graphic novels, a screenplay, an entire multimedia narrative world, a podcast, a Patreon page, 3-4 different journal ideas, just to name a few.
I’ll even be honest with you—I’ve been considering writing a novel.
When was I planning on doing that?
After I get home from work? But before I start the preparation process for the GRE and the LSAT? Or after I complete my nightly blog project that I’ve committed to until next July? Before I feed and care for my dogs? But after I make sure to see my wife more than once a week?
Considering the fact that I consider sleep a vital part of staying alive, I had to consider the fact that maybe—just maybe—I had a problem with committing to too many things (and committing weakly enough that I would only finish 10% of my projects).
When Quitting Is Good
Now, I do believe that quitting the right things is good for me. For example, I decided to quit comics (or put them on the back burner) because there was something more important to me that I wanted to pursue. It was a difficult but measured choice to say “no” to one thing so I could say “yes” to something better.
But there’s a difference between that and deciding to spend three months writing a graphic novel script that I no longer want to draw. Or do anything with. If I’m being honest, I’ve quit a lot more things due to “not thinking through my commitments” rather than making a deliberate decision.
I’ve been reading Grit by Angela Duckworth. It’s a trendy pop-psychology book on the shelves right now (and I’m a sucker for those things). More importantly, though, it’s a book about practical ways to make ourselves more “gritty”people who are more likely to overcome obstacles, finish their projects, see ambitions through to the end.
In Grit, Duckworth shares evidence that people who stick with a pursuit for longer than a year (like, say, playing two consecutive seasons of tennis) were more likely to be gritty people—but were also more likely to develop the skills and mindset required for persevering even further in their craft.
In other words, people who were gritty made themselves grittier by sticking with things longer.
(It’s a bit of a chicken-and-the-egg situation—she spends a chunk of the book discussing whether grit is what makes people persevere longer, or if people persevere because they’re naturally gritty).
The Hard Thing Rule
While she admits that the jury is out on whether extracurricular activities are vital for the growth and development of our character, she believes in the “work at it for a year or more” idea enough that she’s raised her daughters under it.
Her household has a three-part rule called the Hard Thing Rule:
- Everyone has to do a “hard thing,” or anything that requires daily, deliberate practice.
You can quit only once you reach a natural stopping point (tuition for next year is due, the season is over, etc.)
- You have to choose the Hard Thing for yourself.
In the interest of self-improvement, I’ve decided to hold myself to the Hard Thing Rule, but with one addition: I cannot commit to any new endeavor unless I’m willing to stick with it for longer than a year. In other words, I cannot quit Modern Diarist unless I’ve reached a natural stopping point—which in this case would mean the end of June (or once I’ve reached a large milestone, like 100 blogs or something).
And I cannot say yes to anything other than Modern Diarist until this blog challenge is well and truly done.
So there it is: the Hard Thing Rule. A limit imposed on myself for the sake of helping me expand my limits. Are you interested in doing the same? Let me know what your “Hard Thing” is in the comments!