Okay, bear with me; I’m not being defeatist, I’m simply presenting it as an option, and it does have to be considered at some stage so it might as well be now.
Exploring the reasons you may want to decide to give up your dreams of becoming a published writer will be a painful process, but the fact that you are even reading this means it has probably crossed your mind a thousand times already.
The key to making this choice lies in your own circumstances, so you must take into account all the factors involved before deciding you will no longer pursue your writing ambitions. It is very individual; for instance, one writer may find that their passion for spending every spare moment producing a masterpiece is actively affecting their time spent with close family to the point of actually breaking relationships; whereas another writer may find that the creative process can be balanced very successfully and incorporated into other commitments without any adverse affects, so actually enhancing the writing experience.
You need to very closely examine your own unique set of circumstances to establish the impact your ambitions are having on yourself and those around you. If the answer is that you rarely have time to be an emotionally adequate parent because your focus is never really with your children, then you perhaps need to consider your priorities. Of course, if this applies to you, you will immediately argue that you are setting your children a fine example of following your dreams, and that is definitely a legitimate argument. But without getting embroiled in a parenting debate here, it is about priorities. Make sure yours are in the order you are happy with.
Another reason for giving up is to accept your work is not good enough. Okay, I know you are now looking shocked and upset by the mere suggestion that your fictional debut doesn’t cut the mustard, but hey; an awful lot of people believe they have a talent that doesn’t actually exist; you only have to watch the endless talent shows on a Saturday night to realise that there are many deluded people out there. Now, I’m not suggesting you are remotely deluded, but have you given your work the kind of tough appraisal that a publisher would give it? I know you showed your first draft to your mother and she loved it, but a publisher doesn’t feel duty bound to tell you that you are an undiscovered genius. Unfortunately for you, publishers don’t believe that the sun shines from your every orifice, unless your mother is actually a publisher. Then you could be onto a winner.
So, bite your tongue at my horrible suggestion that your writing may not be all that amazing, and take a long, hard, objective look at what you have written. It is very hard to be objective; in fact, many writers will be overly critical of their own work, but it is important to take this step and be as brutally honest as you can. How wonderful, after taking that step back, to be able to conclude that, actually, your book is pretty awesome. Then, you keep up the battle to realise your dream, safe in the knowledge that your little piece of literature is as good as what’s out there already and deserves a spot on the best-seller list.
Tenacity is a quality you will need in serious quantity, along with a thick skin and an almost bottomless bin to cope with all the rejection letters you will probably receive, but true talent really does tend to shine in the end and someone somewhere will eventually recognise yours. The well documented story of J K Rowling’s path from despair to success should be enough to reassure you when you feel disillusioned.
But if, in the cold light of day, and maybe with the help of an honest friend, you realise that your standard of writing is slightly below par and not something you would be able to improve much on, consider seriously whether you want to compete against the best of the best in the publishing marketplace, or whether you really should be just a hobby writer.
That’s not to say you can’t learn more about your art and improve through practice, but sometimes there is a case for admitting defeat, particularly if it is affecting your mental well-being. Realising you may not be as good at something as you thought you were is an extremely harsh conclusion to arrive at, and if you handle this self-knowledge badly you could set yourself on a downward spiral of depression true to form for we creative types. Wisely, you may consider carrying on with your writing as a much-loved hobby and as a way to express your creative juices. This is absolutely the best way to fulfil your writing ambitions without the pressure to become the next Stephen King or Barbara Taylor Bradford.
I’m not telling you to realise your limitations here; as a creative human being you have no limitations; but maybe the key could be diversification. If you have accepted your fiction writing may lack the edge that you were hoping for, try writing a non-fiction book where you can stick to facts, and you may find that’s where your talent lies; or look at setting up a website where you can opine on whatever you feel like and nobody will expect perfection; or even make a little income sending letters and photos to magazines which pay for contributions.
There are channels where you WILL be published, so if you feel your writing is not quite where it should be, explore these other channels, have some fun with your creative output and you will find that the more pies you stick your finger in, the more opportunities will present themselves.