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Never Give Up

an end of year meditation

In my last Substack newsletter I said I wouldn’t post anything until the new year. But in reading through some of my articles from last year, this one seemed relevant and important to share again.

I posted the article below in January of 2022. I was feeling depressed and trying to motivate myself to complete a story I’d started. As a distraction, I decided to vent in my journal, and you will hear that anger and frustration. Reading the entry now, the voice strikes me as a bit harsh, but sometimes the drill sergeant is necessary to get things moving, and it worked. Eventually, I finished the story, but at the time, I thought I’d never write anything engaging ever again.

Quitting a project is good, if it benefits you in some way. For example, I used to paint pictures almost exclusively until I realized I wanted to write more. All my life I’d both written and painted, but writing began to feel inevitable, and while I didn’t quit painting altogether, I pulled back from it enough to grow into this next phase of my artistic journey. Never give up means never give up the things that mean the most to you. But sometimes priorities change. People evolve, usually after certain experiences, or simply over the passage of time. Some interests may take a back seat. Others will always have the front seat, like writing will for me. But whatever your goals are for 2024, decide ahead of time that you will honor them for as long as they serve you well.

And when they don’t, let them go with love in order to grow.

I hope this journal entry will be helpful, maybe even cathartic or inspirational. I tweaked it slightly to reflect how I feel this year, but basically it’s the same. If you are on a different path than mine, replace “writing and/or art” with your chosen goal. Good luck!

Journal entry from January 9, 2022 (with tweaks to reflect the me of 2023)

Never Give Up Means Never

Never give up.

Never giving up means never.

Like when you feel so depressed and think you’re no good, no one, nothing. Or when someone (or that annoying voice in your head) tells you your writing stinks, doesn’t offer helpful criticism, just says you stink. Or says your writing is boring. Or that your ideas aren’t good.

Never give up.

Never giving up means writing through pain. Pain in your heart. Pain in your mind. Pain in your art. The pain of research. The pain of getting words on the page. The pain of writing through sickness, on holidays, when everyone else is at the beach. The pain of writing when you’re tired. When you’re hungry. When your bills need paying. Pain is secondary to writing. Pain is not an excuse. Pain is only a feeling.

Feelings: when it comes to art, don’t count. They count in the art, and should be added in abundance into the art, but they are never an excuse not to “art.” Happiness: write through it. Teariness: write through it. Depression: write through it. Boredom: write through it. Anger, fear, anxiety, loneliness, grief, embarrassment—write, write, write.

Writing needs to become a habit so that you never give up. So that it’s like air and you can’t live without it. So that your days begin and end with writing.

Many days I moped for hours, wishing I could be a great writer. Wishing that the words would come.

Those were wasted days.

Writing only gets better with the doing of it. Make it your habit. Make it your business to sit down and write every day. Or at least every other day. Or on weekends, or at night. And…

Never give up.

Three small words with great meaning and longevity. Never means never. Until you are dead. Until death takes the power away from your fingers, your mind, your heart.

These thoughts are morbid. Who cares? This is the way it must be. Always, words on a page. READ.

When sunset reddens my window, I think about the words I would use to describe it. And this is good. But what’s better is grabbing a piece of paper and scribbling how it looks—maybe a watermelon, dripping towards the horizon. I don’t know. But I reached for the words. I made an effort.

Ah, effort. One of my favorite words, and yet also a much hated word. Effort. It requires effort to create anything. Artists sometimes leave that part out of their bios—HOW MUCH FREAKING EFFORT IT TOOK TO CREATE THAT THING!

How many times do you think an artist rips up a drawing? Or if they are precious about their work, maybe they save their manuscript in a drawer, but the drawer should be full. Effort. All the time, effort. Practice. Practice writing. Reach for those proverbial stars. It’s all about the REACHING!

Stretch your mind. Stretch your words. Try new ones or a new arrangement of them. How does this sound? Is this better?


It’s the KEY to unlocking potential. Effort. Practice.


What is it? How do you know what kind of potential you have?

You don’t.

Most of the time you are blind to your potential. You are blind for many reasons, but one might be perfectionism.

You are a perfectionist, you might not see your potential, and so everything you create looks misshapen.

Forget that. Forget perfect. It’s evil. It’s not half as nurturing as finishing an imperfect piece of art.

Create. Finish. Move on to the next piece.

Effort. Practice. Create. Finish.

This is how you create art. This is how you live an artistic life.

Until next time, wishing you health, prosperity, love, peace, and joy in 2024!


Yule cake baked by Jan M. Alexander
Every Christmas I bake a Yule cake, which takes me all day. At dessert time, it's gone in minutes, but it's worth the effort because it brings so much joy!

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