Max Verstappen beat seven time F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton for his maiden title last Sunday. After 23 races through the year, the championship title came down not only to the last race, but the last lap. It was every bit unprecedented and momentous as one can imagine. And while this battle of titans was playing out, I happened to be in the middle of a crisis. One that most creators will be familiar with.
I was sincerely considering if I was a talent less hack who should give up on being a writer and find something else to do.
I couldn’t figure out what this other thing could be. But after losing almost all my work during the pandemic, and seeing my bank balance deplete to zero over the course of two years, I was scared.
As if written for film, this crisis got personified in to a project I was working on. A last minute gig had appeared on my plate and I had readily agreed. But halfway through, every one of my drafts was being rejected. Nothing I did seemed to click with the producer. So much so that the producer, also beholden to a deadline, told me that if I couldn’t crack it in the next draft, he would have to replace me. He wasn’t being mean when he said this, he was being practical. He was on a deadline and I wasn’t hitting the mark. He also suggested that if I felt I wasn’t up for it, that I resign. From my perspective then, I had two options, give up now, or keep pretending to be a writer and get fired later. If I quit now, I would save the producer some time but I would also be accepting that I can’t do this. If I stayed on, I might still fail and then be told that I can’t do this. I really didn’t know what to do. I didn’t believe in myself enough to think I could crack this and I was already tired.
Then, two more events occurred. My best friend’s mom passed away. I don’t want to get into too much detail, but she had taken good care of me. I didn’t know where to begin with processing this. On top of that, my partner shared her intention to move cities and if possible, countries.
As you can imagine, I was feeling pretty beat. Which is what I imagine Lewis Hamilton felt. He and Max had raced their hearts out all year. And then in the final race, Hamilton had been leading for 57 of the 58 laps. Victory and the record breaking 8th world championship, was in his sight. Then, a different driver’s car crashed. The race was slowed down so the track could be cleared of debris. Before it resumed, the Steward (referee) ruled the restart in an unprecedented manner. While the technicalities of it will be argued to no end; the long and short of it was that this ruling put the advantage squarely in Max’s corner. With a lap to go, he zoomed ahead and won.
After this, Hamilton sat in his car for a while before giving the mandated press interview. When asked what he thought, he simply said, “We did our best, and in the end, that’s all you can do. Congrats to Max.”
I was stunned. The man could have railed about the injustice of it all, or refused to talk. But no, he stood up, accepted defeat and said, “until next time." I don’t know if I could have done that. But I was inspired. Those words stuck with me. We did our best, and that’s all you can do. I decided then that I wasn’t going to quit the project I was on, nor was I going to quit writing. I was going to continue giving it my best and if I lost after that, it would be okay because I would know I had given it my all. Does this mean that I am no longer looking for other work? No. Writing is a volatile industry and I’ve lost my footing due to the pandemic. I am working to ensure various avenues of income so I can continue to write. But I am not going to stop writing.
As for the project, I pulled an all-nighter and gave it my best. In the end, the producer didn’t like my submission but recognized my efforts and promised to pay me for my time. He knew, without me saying anything, that while I hadn’t delivered what he needed, it wasn’t due to the lack of trying. Some stories are not for some writers to tell.
All this to say, don’t quit. If you feel beaten, rest. But then get up and go again. Because if you quit, you will never know how good you could have been.