Why I Quit Writing

I have always been a quitter. 

I did not receive an allowance growing up. I grew up on a dairy farm. Daily chores were a required part of life. To raise money I could, from time-to-time, make up odd jobs to do for my grandma and ask to get paid.  That is what I had to do in order to quit summer league baseball when I was in fifth grade. I wasn’t very good at it, baseball that is. I never got to play with my classmates and friends as I was a year older than them. I was always on teams with the boys from a grade or two above me, boys bigger and stronger and meaner who fascinated and intimated me at the same time. So in order to quit, I raised money to pay my parents back the fee they had paid for me to play.

I quit the football team my sophomore year at Hope College. But I missed being on a team, missed the friends I had made, and having something to do with my body — having a way both to feel and to punish my body — so I signed back up the following year knowing I would ride the bench the rest of the way. 

I quit my first major, political science, only then to decide later I’d finish it alongside my major in religion, even though it meant sticking around an extra semester.

And then in September 2021 I quit being a pastor. 

I guess those are the four things I can remember quitting. 

The truth is I have never been a “writer.” I have wanted to appear as one. But I’ve never put in the work. I have never been disciplined enough to be a writer. I have written when it was easy, convenient — when creativity struck.

. . .

I quit writing because I was depressed. That’s what my therapist told me a few days ago. Not that I quit writing because I was depressed. But that I was depressed. I then decided on my own maybe that is a reason I haven’t been able to write.

The last few weeks the clouds have been lifting and I’ve thought about writing again. I mean I thought about it before, but now I think about it as if I could do it. I’ve thought about finally getting to those papers still lingering from my summer coursework I have yet to write. I’ve thought about a few of the essays and blog post ideas I’ve wanted to write about. 

But another reason I quit writing is because I’ve had nothing to write about. What used to motivate me feels so far away. It is as if I have been put on raft and pushed out to sea, and now I look back at my former self standing on the distant shore with a deep longing and sadness. The ideas that used to have a grip on my imagination no longer have their hold, and I spend my time lamenting their absence and fighting off their unwelcome intrusion.

I’m shifting and changing. 

That is too gentle of an image. There has been an eruption of things that have been simmering underneath the surface of the soil of my soul for a long time. Maybe all the dust and debris will settle back down, falling generally into place as they once were. Never the same. But close enough. 

Or maybe the winds of change will carry things far away. Bits and pieces of me will be gone forever. Some will settle in new soil far away. What will emerge and grow in place of the old will be different, too. 

It’s all too early to tell.

So I have had nothing to write about. Save that one terribly awful post about Instagram and memory. But hey, it was the one time I had just written something to write something and published it. 

. . .

I haven’t been writing because of the pain. Because of the anger. Because of the deep sadness. 

I have always written from a deeply personal place. The existentialism always there, like the strong current of a flowing river, carrying along the words, the ideas, making sense of my own life as it is lived before God and before others. I cannot write without the affective aspect. Maybe that’s why I know I will never be an academic theologian. I am not a detached writer. I don’t traffic in the abstract. I can’t write with indifference. I write because I feel, and I think about what I feel. There are limitations to this, but also certain gifts. But I feel the limits now. For the things in me I cannot share. Stories to be shared only among close friends, if even. 

I have always used writing as a way to process, to make sense of things. Almost always after the fact. Sometimes well after the fact. And that is just fine. But how to write more honestly, not after things have resolved, the flood waters receded, the home rebuilt, but instead in the midst of it all? 

I am a deeply loyal person, driven by obligation and duty. I rebel against myself, against these characteristics that define me. I rage that I can’t seem to shake them. When visiting home recently, I shared with my mom and youngest brother that I hate these things about me. Obligation, duty, loyalty — these are words that describe the prison in which I have lived. 

Which is to say, writing in the midst of things is hard for me. I feel bound to what I write. What happens if I change my mind? What happens if I have to later recant? Of course, this happens all the time. None of us are static. To be human is to be changed, whether we like it or not. We are creatures after all, bent and broken, shaped and shattered by events and forces external to us. 

So I am bent and broken. Shattered and being shaped (deformed?). By what? By whom? Time will tell. Or maybe it won’t. Maybe all that time will give me is the chance to get some distance, look back, and make up some over-arching narrative that will try to give a meaning, or purpose, to this season of my life. And this version of me will be here to remind that version of me that no, it did not make sense. No, it was just one episode in a series of episodes that all hang alongside each other, each with their own integrity, and to lay over top of them a unifying narrative, to make them make sense, is to do violence to the particularity of each. 

If I learned one thing as a pastor, it is that none of us are consistent.  (I knew this before I became a pastor, don’t worry). We each lack coherence. If all we had to do with one another is point out our inconsistencies — moral, spiritual, political, emotional — it’d be too easy. Much harder to patiently and compassionately sit with others, and with ourselves, in all of the discord and fragmentation. To grasp after intelligibility in the face of unintelligibility is sometimes a Promethean act, sometimes a rebellion against, and a defiance of, our limited and finite creatureliness. 

And so I rage. I cry. I wave the white flag. I rise up again to fight — myself, others, God (if He is there). I drink myself numb. I sober up. I try to love and beg to be loved. I hurt and get hurt. I forgive and plead forgiveness. I grieve. I am scared. And I am trying to write in the midst of it.

4 Replies to “Why I Quit Writing”

  1. I believe that writing while “in the midst” is very cathartic. It gives a voice to our deepest feelings, a place to go with them, & acknowledgment, even if we will never know the ending or all of the endless why’s in our lives. A place to start, a place to process. To feel.
    Beautifully written, Kevin.


  2. I love you Kevin. No matter what you do. You are my nephew. Hang in there. I also have depression and anxiety. If you ever need to talk I am always here for you


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Letter & Liturgy

Christian Reviews of Ideas and Culture

Chris Damian

Catholicism, (homo)eros, and everthing else


"To live, to love is to be failed, to forgive, to have failed, to be forgiven, for ever and ever." Gillian Rose

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