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I once read, I’ve no idea where, that the quality that most successful people share in common is that they know when to quit.

It seems a brilliant notion to me.  But it is a perilous idea to have in my head.  Everything since has become an exercise of balancing results on the scales of persistence.  When do I give up?

It is not my nature to just give something a try and then move on.

I have stuck with the worst prospects for relationships in my life and am single to this day almost without exception.  I have stood by bad friends who’ve stolen from me, lied to me, betrayed me and ditched me for better offers.  I’m getting better with the friends thing, mostly by getting out of it.  I’ve adopted a policy of making time only for people who make the effort – I want only to be with people who want to be with me.  No sign on the boyfriend front yet – ouch — but I’ve a much better group of friends.

Professionally, I’m wondering how to apply this same idea.

It took ten years to get my first novel, Say Uncle, published.  It took nearly three just to write it.  I had three other jobs at the time and wrote it in long hand — personal computers were just the wet dreams of Jobs and Woz and Bill back in the before times.

Once I was done writing I faced a tough market.  The idea of a book about a single gay man raising a child was not well received by the very conservative publishing world in the 80’s.  It wasn’t a daily effort, but I persisted.  In the end, the book was published.  While it was not a big success, it changed my life and set me on a new course.

It’s fifteen years later now and I wonder, is it time to quit?

I wrote a sequel to the first novel, centered around the idea of gay marriage but that was too much for the still more conservative publishing world of the mid-90’s.  Ironically, Say Uncle was pushed out of print by the memoir of a gay man adopting and raising a child.  My controversial idea had become the banal musings of some journalist.  I have written and published several other books since, though none original to me.  Despite the success of those, I’ve had no other writer for hire offers either.

Still, I have persisted with my writing.  There is now a stack of novels and other works.  I keep trying to get this to work as a career, but it doesn’t seem to want to work for me.  I have thought to walk away.

I worked for a medical professional organization for a time.  I was fired because my work was too good – no kidding, that’s actually what they said.  There was a stint on a little TV show, Game World, working as a script coordinator.  It was cancelled because the new guy in charge of the network didn’t think of it.  You could tell he cancelled it for his ego because he replaced it, not with another show, but with infomercials.  Each time one of these doors closed, writing came back to me as the thing to do.

Yet my writing career is a bit like the chase sequence in a Scooby Doo cartoon.  You know those scenes where the characters run randomly in and out of the many doors lining a long hallway? Like that.

1.  The villain chases the gang into the hallway and everyone disappears behind a different door.

The offer of the Queer as Folk novelization series arrived the day I cashed my last unemployment check from the doctor’s group and came with the promise of work on the show.  The production of Say Uncle as a movie brought a period of financial independence and presented itself following the cancellation of Game World.

2. Velma and Shaggy run out of doors on opposite sides of the hallway than the ones they entered.

Then QAF “decided to go another way”.

3. Shag and Scoob emerge from the same door.

The studio that was going to make the movie was bought just as we were ready to go into production.

4. The villain backs into Shag and Scooby and everyone runs into the nearest door.

Most recently, the spectacular success of the Star books that I developed as a series with Pamela Anderson was destroyed without explanation by Ms. Anderson.  She has not offered any reason or returned a phone call or even made any effort to find out if I’m okay after ending the project just before it made me any money and leaving me destitute.

5. Daphne and Freddie collide with Velma, Shag and Scoob.

So here I am again, in a heap in the middle of the hallway.  I keep writing and persisting, but I’m faced with that little habit of the successful? Should I quit? And if I do, what to do now?

I know the ending of everything is the beginning of everything else.  I think the real talent is knowing and recognizing when the end has actually come.  Am I there? Or am I just waiting in the hallway for the next door to open.  Will it be another villain or the hero this time?

What’s next?

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