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How to Know When It’s Time to Give Up

by Cathleen Armstrong

I met her the second day of the ACFW Conference when I sat down next to her at the lunch table.

“How’s your conference going?” I smiled at her as I opened my napkin.

This is conference-speak for, “How are you?” The usual answer is, “Great! How about you?” Not this lady.

“Not so good. In fact, I wonder why I even came.”

By the time the table filled and the iced-tea had been passed, I knew her story. She had worked so hard to finish the first three chapters of her first novel and brought them to show agents and publishers, sure she’d be returning home with contract in hand. It hadn’t happened.

“They couldn’t have been less interested! One did say I could benefit from some classes on craft, the others just said I’d have to finish it before they’d look at it. I don’t even want to finish it now. I just want to give up.”

Even if most of us can agree that three chapters into your first novel is a bit early to throw in the towel, we all, I think, have wondered at some point if it’s not useless to continue. Is there a time to just give up? And if so, when? Here are some thoughts:

When your own agenda gets in the way, give up the agenda.
My new friend had come with a plan–get an agent and find a publisher. And it nearly derailed her dream of being a writer. Skip the agenda and write.

When your self-imposed timeline runs out, give up the timeline.
I’ve heard it before: “If I don’t get a contract this time, I’m done.” Who said you’re done? Do you have something more important you have to do? Skip the timeline and write.

When your perfect manuscript gets some constructive criticism by an industry professional, give up perfection.
This one can be hard to give up. No one likes being told their baby has funny ears. But maybe, just maybe, your masterpiece could be made even more wonderful! So, skip the attitude and write–or rewrite.

When your friend gets the agent, or the contract, or the starred review, give up comparisons.
You’re happy for her; you really are. But you know how much longer and harder you’ve been working, and you just wish things came as easy for you as they seem to come for her. I know. But it’s time to skip the comparisons and write.

There are, indeed, a number of things to give up. And the best time to give them up is now. But if you noticed, none of them are writing. Someone outside yourself put that longing to write in your heart, and it’s not up to you to decide to give it up because it’s not following your schedule. Remember: God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. Romans 11:29

Cathleen ArmstrongThough Cathleen Armstrong lives in Southern California, her roots go deep into Southwest where her series, A Place to Call Home, is set. She loves to write about people of faith living out successes and failures in the small fictional town of Last Chance, New Mexico.

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11 Responses to How to Know When It’s Time to Give Up

  1. I wish I’d read this when I first started writing 22 years ago! It would have saved me a little heartache and a lot of attitude! Thanks, Cathleen!

  2. Cathleen, I had the same feelings after one day of the first conference I attended. The major difference was that I was probably greener than this person…I didn’t have a clue, and I hoped the conference would provide it. I persevered, though, and I hope this lady did, too. God will tell us when to give up, just as He told us when to start.
    Thanks for sharing excellent advice.

  3. Great advice, Cathleen. God’s timing is perfect. You’ve nudged me to begin praying—right now—for all the writers who’ll attend the ACFW Conference this summer here in Nashville. For them to come equipped not only with books ready to pitch, but with hearts attuned to God’s will for their writing journey, whatever that may be. Because as someone I met during the 2003 ACFW Conference in Houston once told me (waving to you, Robin Lee Hatcher), “There’s nothing better that being centered in the middle of God’s will for your life, and nothing more frustrating and disheartening to be striving outside of it.”

  4. Well-said, Cathleen. Writing can be such a tough business. And Richard, so glad you persisted!

  5. Emily Conrad says:

    I love this! There’s so much to give up that’ll result in a bigger, stronger, happier pursuit of the dream God planted 🙂

  6. Christina K says:

    Great advice! Thank you!

  7. Great post!
    This reminds me (as I am so oft reminded when a rejection comes in)of what I was told by Author Ane Mulligan – a few years back – Joy, You’re trying to rush the process. Stop – take a breath – ENJOY THE JOURNEY – what apt words coming from a gal who told me that during her own Waiting Room Experience – she’s now a multi-pubbed author with a HUGE following. I’ve since had opportunity many times to share that advice – She was SO RIGHT – The things God has given me ON THE JOURNEY would have most likely been ignored had I gotten published at the time Ane shared that with me. THANK YOU, ANE MULLIGAN and ACFW!

  8. Thanks for this great post, Cathleen. If I’ve learned one thing during my writing journey, it’s that writing is more about what God wants to do in me that it is about my writing.

    Many Blessings,

    MaryAnn
    http://www.maryanndiorio.com

  9. Natalie Watkins says:

    This is wonderful! I love how you phrased it. Yes, there may be many things we have to give up, but writing shouldn’t be one of them. I’m learning that I have so much to learn on this journey, and if I ever do get published, my novels will be so much better because of all I’ve learned along the way. Thank you!

  10. The only thing I can add to this wonderful post and the comments is, if you CAN give up writing, then maybe you should. ‘Cause it’s going to get a lot harder.

    Most of us can’t quit writing though, as attested to by the encouraging comments above. And those who persevere, and who learn the craft, good things await! But all in God’s timing.

  11. Thank you!!!! I so need this help jump-start my writing again. Your “give up ___” ‘s are priceless for my personal battles with control and perfection and judging (self or others) in general, as well as with my writing.