Quitting with a capital Q: an interview with Cordelia of Cordelia Calls it Quits.

Cordelia Calls it Quits

Cordelia, calling it quits, in the panda hat she’s made famous.

Two Novembers ago, I stumbled onto a blog post that spoke to my soul.

Someone called Cordelia was finding National Novel Writing Month to be a challenge; though she had no trouble plugging along at work she hated at the office, she had a difficult time sitting down to write her novel, even though she loves to write.

This was a dilemma I could relate to.  I clicked through and discovered Cordelia Calls it Quits, a blog that turns the old saying “Quitters never win and winners never quit” on its head. Cordelia’s been on my blogroll ever since.

Cordelia’s philosophy is simple: she’s quitting the things she doesn’t want. Things like debt, a job that’s not right for her, letting other people get on her nerves, and her own tendency to want to be the office wunderkind are all on Cordelia’s list of Quits.

Last Friday, I caught up with Cordelia to g-chat with her about her philosophy, freelancing, and how her life has changed since she started her mission to Quit. Below is the interview, which is divided into three parts with page breaks. Click through, and enjoy.

Editor’s note: The following interview was conducted over the internet and has been edited. Typos have been corrected, and for the sake of clarity, some  sections of the interview have been moved around.

Calling it Quits

AJ: So, let’s talk about your blog. Some of my readers know about your blog, Cordelia Calls it Quits, but some don’t.
Can you describe your blog in one sentence for those who haven’t checked it out yet?

Cordelia: Sure. CCIQ is about my attempts to make my life better by getting rid of the things that don’t matter, in order to make more room for the things that do.

AJ: I’ve been following you for, I think, two years now. I think I found you on the front page of WordPress one day, and I was intrigued by the stapler graphic and the title, so I clicked over and was hooked by your posts and your writing style. But CCIQ had been pretty established by then. When did you start the blog?

Cordelia: My first post was in November 2010, so two years ago now.
(How did THAT happen? It feels like yesterday!)

AJ: Wow. So tell me – back in 2010 what specifically did you want to quit? What I mean by that was what made you say, “That’s it. I’m quitting. And I’m going to record it in blog form”?

Cordelia: Well, the blogging idea had kind of been percolating for several months. I first found “the blogosphere” after reading The Happiness Project, then going to Gretchen Rubin’s blog, from which I suddenly found myself exploring this entire new world online of people who were trying to make big changes in their lives–just like I wanted to. My job was obviously the biggest Quit, the underlying Quit driving the whole blog. That was the one thing that most severely needed to be changed, in order for the rest of my life to get in shape. The decision to actually start my own blog, though? It was honestly one of those, “ah, why not try it?” kind of things. I’d been reading so many other people’s blogs, and I’d been longing to get back into writing, so I figured, what did I have to lose?

AJ: The blogging form has turned out to be a very successful format for you. You’ve got a pretty big base of subscribers, don’t you?

Cordelia: To my amazement, yes! I have about 245 email subscribers and 250 through feedburner.

AJ: That’s awesome!

Cordelia: I just broke the 600 mark on Twitter, which still kind of baffles me, lol. No, actually…just checked and it’s nearing 700 now. (Again, how did THAT happen?)

AJ: Probably they’re all drawn to your mission of quitting the things that don’t matter in life.

Cordelia: I was definitely surprised by how many people that message resonated with. There are so many self-improvement blogs out there, but something about the idea of “quitting” things really draws people.

AJ: You frame quitting as being a very positive, subversively cool thing to do.

Cordelia: “Subversively cool”…I like that. I may steal that. 🙂

Next section: The Quits.


Last night, we watched the worst movie I’ve seen in a while: Brazil.

I had been excited about this film. I like Terry Gilliam,  and I’m a fan of Metropolis and 1984 and Dr. Strangelove. Netflix put all those things together and decided I would love Brazil. But the strongest recommendation came to me a decade ago from a friend, who told me that Brazil was his favorite movie, and that I would love it and absolutely had to see it.

So my husband and I, tired from a long and exciting weekend of training and adjusting to life with our new dog, decided to take some time for ourselves and watch this fabulous movie. I grabbed some ice cream, he grabbed some wine and we sat down with the cat and popped in the DVD.

I haven’t hated a movie this much in a long time.

The plot was predictable, the characters were two-dimensional, the dream sequences went on and on and the humor wasn’t funny. I was furious. But my fury wasn’t so much directed at the things I didn’t like about the film. I was angry that I’d made us sit through the whole thing. We started hating the Brazil halfway into the film, but I didn’t take it out of the DVD player. Instead, I kept waiting for it to get good. It got worse. Much worse. And by the end of the film, I realized I had wasted our evening on a movie we both hated. And that made me angry.

I’ve always had a sort of finish-everything-on-your-plate approach to consuming media. If I start a book, I feel the need to finish it, even if I hate it and I’m supposedly reading it for pleasure. Same thing with movies. But I think I’m done. If I start reading or watching something that I don’t like, I don’t think I should guilt myself into finishing it. This is what Cordelia of Cordelia Calls It Quits would call a “quit.” In fact, this decision not to force myself to watch or read something I’m not enjoying was inspired by one of her own quits.

I’m not saying, by the way, that I’m not going to read and watch things I don’t like. What I am saying is that I ought to be honest about why I’m reading those things. If I’m reading Kafka, am I reading it for pleasure, to expand my horizons, or so I can check off The Metamorphosis on that BBC list of books that my Facebook friends have been passing around? Or am I reading it so that someday, at a cocktail party, I can stand there in my black turtleneck and tweed jacket and drawl, “Oh, that is so Kafka!”

If so, that’s fine. Maybe I’ll even enjoy The Metamorphosis. But I should at least know why I’m reading or watching something.

And I should definitely not screw up our movie nights by forcing us to watch a movie we both hate when we could be watching something with snappy dialogue and well-rounded characters.

See below for a dramatic re-enactment of my viewing of Brazil.

What the movie looked like a few minutes in.

What I looked like a few minutes in.

What the movie looked like near the end.

What I looked like near the end.

I’m done.