I can only relate my experience in abandoning photography some 35 years ago. I had begun the question the merits of my personal photography after 12 years of diligent work, wondering if I was doing anything of real significance. I knew it was nothing technical as I was confident in my ability in all the technical aspects. I knew it had nothing to do with equipment. I knew I could do well in the local camera club contests. But I found little of significance in 12 years of photography other than the rare unique stand along image. So I drifted away and a year later sold everything in my darkroom and all my equipment except for a Canon F-1 and a 50mm lens.
For about 15 years I only did family happy snaps. Now I did them well from my prior experience but had no motivation to do anything else.
Then, about 20 years ago, I had developed an interest and was exploring our local history and culture. I did some photos. And, I took my first real photo class, an advanced one about developing your own vision. The instructor hammered me constantly about developing a series and editing it like I was doing an exhibition. Finally, I heeded his advice. I began to see some meaning in what I was doing. Somewhere along that way, I bought my first rangefinder, a ContaxG. It was more convenient but certainly was no watershed moment.
That original series expanded and morphed over the years. I added and deleted photos so the series always remained a compact size and not a collection of not critically edited photos. Along the way, that series and several offshoots led me to realize that a cohesive series had more power than the sum of the individual photos. That original series has spawned a number of other related series. Some are based on small segments of that original from 20 years ago. Some are geographically different such as the Mississippi Delta culture instead of Central Florida. It has been in Cuba for the last 6-7 years. But they have all been similar enough that I could do things like an exhibit showing the commonality of the culture of the my local Negro community with that of Cuba by using photos from both.
Years ago, I concluded that the key was you not only needed to work on cohesive series which was tightly edited. More importantly, one needed to love the subject matter even more than photography. I see that in almost all of the work of the masters.