Want More Writing Success? Learn to Be a QUITTER

Image vis Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yuya Sekiguchi.

Image vis Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yuya Sekiguchi.

Ah, the New Year is upon us. Most of our resolutions revolve around grabbing hold with a death-grip and vowing to never let go. When it comes to losing weight, getting out of debt, or discovering if our closets actually have floors? This is a good plan. Yet, when it comes to our careers? Never giving up might keep us from ever succeeding.

Want to know the secret to success? Quitting. Yes, you heard me correctly. And, if you’re a creative professional, it is in your interest to learn to get really good at quitting. Maybe you’ve felt like a loser or a failure, that your dream to make a living with your art was a fool’s errand.

Ignore that junk and understand…

Winners Quit All the Time

I posit this thought; if we ever hope to achieve anything remarkable, we must learn to quit. In fact, I’ll take this another step. I venture to say that most aspiring writers will not succeed simply because they aren’t skilled at quitting.


Learning Discernment

One problem many artists have is we lack discernment. It’s easy to get trapped in all-or-nothing thinking. If we defy family in pursuit of our art and something stops working properly, out of pride often we will persist even when the very thing we are attempting is the largest reason we will fail.

We keep reworking that first novel over and over. We keep querying the first novel and won’t move on until we get an agent. We keep writing in the same genre even though it might not be the best fit for our voice. We keep marketing the first self-published book and don’t move forward and keep writing more books and better books.

Learning to Quit is the Surest Insurance Against Failure

I like to say, “Persistence looks a lot like stupid.” The act of never giving up is noble, but never giving up on the wrong things is a formula to fail. We have to learn to detect the difference between quitting a tactic and quitting a dream.

Original image courtesy of flowcomm, via Flickr Commons

Original image courtesy of flowcomm, via Flickr Commons

If I am trying to climb Mt. Everest, but I am repeatedly failing at climbing the one side, which is a sheer rock face with no way to get a footing, then it is suicide to keep trying the same thing. If, however, I regroup, hike back to the bottom and take another way up the mountain, I am a quitter…but I am NOT a failure.

In fact, in order to “win” I must “quit.”

Learn to Quit from the Best

Most of us are lousy at knowing how and when to quit. This is one of the reasons it is a good idea to surround ourselves with successful people, because successful people are expert quitters. When I started out, I had all the wrong mentors. I had writer pals who quit writing when it was boring or who quit querying after a handful of rejections. They quit attending critique because they got their feelings hurt when people didn’t rave their book was the best thing since kitten calendars.

All this wrong kind of quitting is easy to fall into. Excuses are free, but they cost us everything.

My Life Changed When I Changed the Quitters in My Company

It all started with the DFW Writer’s Workshop. I attended and met people living the life I wanted to have…the life of a professional writer. They were the same as me, and yet very different. When I went to DFW’s conference–which I HIGHLY recommend so sign up NOW for the May conference (I will be there, oh and Donald Maass and Les Edgerton, too)–I found myself being pushed to yet a higher level.

I met and stalked Candy Havens. Candy is an excellent quitter. She wrote her first bad book and didn’t spend the next six years trying to resurrect it. She sought training and experts and moved forward. She quit outside hobbies and friends that took away from her goal of becoming a professional author. Theresa Ragan was rejected by traditional publishers for over twenty years. She finally self-published and has now sold hundreds of thousands of books. NY tried to offer her a contract and she turned them down. 

I turned in a hundred page proposal for Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World in the summer of 2011. But, after NY ignoring it for over two years? I published it myself. We need to always be moving forward, and sometimes pressing on requires letting go. We can’t grab hold of the new if we are hanging on to the old.

If something isn’t working QUIT. Move on! If we have to defend and justify what we are doing there’s something wrong.

Everything is Our Enemy

It’s hard to know when to quit. I’m a loyal person. I’m loyal to a fault and I struggle every day with this lesson. But I’ve recently come to a conclusion. People who reach their dreams don’t get there by doing EVERYTHING. Everything is dead weight. Everything will keep us from focusing. Everything gets us distracted.

Everything is the enemy.

Sometimes we need to let go of inefficiencies or false trails, and if we don’t let go, then failure is just a matter of time.

Artists Actually Need More Quitting

Quit your day job. Today. This moment. Now, by quitting, I don’t mean you should throw your laptop in a waste can and take a bat to that copy machine that’s eaten every presentation you’ve tried to photocopy since the day you were hired….though that might be fun.

No, I mean mentally QUIT, then hire yourself to the dream. Screw aspiring. Aspiring is for pansies. It takes guts to be a writer. It takes guts to be any kind of creative professional. Hire yourself to the job you dream about. TODAY.

A couple years ago, I presented at the North Texas RWA Conference and I heard the best term EVER. No aspiring writers, only pre-published writers. If you want to be a professional author, you must quit to win. The day job is no longer the ends, but rather the means. The day job is just venture capital funding the successful art-making business…YOU.

You are a pre-published author…who happens to also be a stay-at-home-mom, a computer programmer, a salesperson, a whatever.

Learn to Quit Being “Everything”

Again, Everything is the enemy. Friends and family will want you to keep being the maid and the taxi and the babysitter and the buddy who can spend all day shoe-shopping. Many of us will try to keep being Everything to everyone and we’ll just try to “fit in” writing, but that is the lie that will kill the dream. We can’t be Everything!

We must learn when to quit and to be firm in quitting. Others have the right to be disappointed, but they’ll get over it. And, if they really love us they will get over it quickly and be happy for our resolve to reach our dreams. If they don’t? They’re dead weight and it’s better to cull them out of our life sooner than later.

Yes, this is hard stuff. Reaching our dreams is simple, but it will never be easy ;).

So what are some of your quitting stories? Did it work? Were you better off? Tell us your quit to win story! Do you need help sticking to your guns? Hey, your family doesn’t get you, but we do! Do you have a problem and you don’t know if you should stick or quit? Put it in the comments section and let us play armchair psychiatrist!

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of January, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less)

December’s Winner is Chris Weston. Please send 5 page synopsis (1250 words) one page query (250 words) or 20 pages of novel (5,000 words) in a WORD document to kristen at wan intl dot com and congratulations.

I hope you guys will check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World and get prepared for 2014!!!!


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  1. What a brilliant piece. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Well, I won’t say I couldn’t, let’s just say I could have, I just didn’t. 🙂
    But I have two half finished novels and a complete novella in the ‘dustbin’ before I finally finished and published my debut novel ‘Fastian,’ because I knew when to quit and how to quit. We have a saying here in Ireland: There is no point in flogging a dead horse. A bit graphic, but it illustrates your point very well, I think.

  2. I look at my kitchen and the piles of laundry would let anyone know that I’ve quit other things. 🙂 Also, in the beginning I thought the article was going in a different direction. Like writing something and walking away from it for a few days. Another great article with food for thought Kristin.

    1. One look at my kitchen…
      I will quit blogging before coffee!

    • Tracey on January 7, 2014 at 11:21 am
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    I recognized myself in some of what you said. 😀 I haven’t done any quitting yet.

    • gary weiner on January 7, 2014 at 11:23 am
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    You have chosen a great topic to discuss. As a minority person I have witnessed and been a  victim of bullying. I gradually determined how to overcome this issue, and it has worked for me. I believe in both genetic and environmental determinants. I recently had an opinion letter published, which I am attaching…nice work!

  3. Some great advice! And it is exactly what I needed to hear right now. Thank you!

  4. Perfect! I sure needed to hear this today. You’re right, sometimes we have to let go of what’s not working and move on. Thanks for the encouragement!

    • Lorraine Roe on January 7, 2014 at 11:39 am
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    Wow! I was actually just meditating and thoughts of what I “needed” to add to my plate came into my head. Then I saw myself pushing them off my plate. Then about 5 minutes later your blog was in my email.
    This is fabulous! Thank you.

  5. Reblogged this on A Writer's Wings and commented:
    I read this blog post and I just had to share. It’s something I really needed to hear right now, and I thought maybe others might need to as well. Who knew being a quitter could be a good thing. 🙂

  6. I needed this reminder, Kristen. I think we get caught up in “but you don’t realize that I spent 14 months on that manuscript!” or “I’ve been declaring that I’m a horror author for two years, and now I’m supposed to quit that and I admit I want to write romance?!” We worry what others will think of us, and perhaps even what we think of ourselves.

    What I ultimately think is I’m going to be a published writer. So I need to quit stupid and work smart. Thanks!

    • Julie on January 7, 2014 at 11:42 am
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    I love this post! So true.

  7. Most excellent. In goals of all sorts, sometimes we get a false start. When that happens, the only way to recover is to regroup and go for it again with a new perspective.

    Artistic people can be amazingly stubborn. That’s both a good trait and a deleterious one, depending on the circumstances.

  8. I love this post. It sounds a lot like a sign hanging on the outside of my cubicle at work. It is the definition of insanity: “Doing the same thing day after day and expecting different results!”

  9. Several years ago, I gave up a nursing career that I hated in order to write. Last year my husband told me to get a job so I took the exams for getting into insurance. I did well, but on the first day on the job, I determined that selling insurance was just not who I was. I am not a nurse. I am not an insurance salesperson. Making a living at writing may be tough, but that’s who I am.

    I can’t tell you how many books I quit before I finally finished my first novel. Like you, I also was rejected by the publishing circuits so I quit the search and published my first book myself. I have not been disappointed with that decision. I am certain that I will continue down the self-publishing patch.

    At the beginning of the year, I determined that I would finish as many projects as possible this year. By finishing, I mean that some I have scheduled, some I have delegated (I’ve delegated my daughter’s messes to her to clean up and her laundry for her to do.), and some I am simply deleting.

    I think that it all has to do with what your goals in life are. My goals have always revolved around making my life as a writer. When I was in nursing, I always had writing plots going on in my head. (Not safe for the patients under my care, I think.) The reason I went into insurance was because I wanted monetary freedom so I could afford to write. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what I should be doing. I need to do what helps me achieve my goals and I need to quit doing the rest.

    I am writer, hear me roar!

    • Dellah on January 7, 2014 at 11:54 am
    • Reply

    As in love as I am with my first story idea and its characters, I’m really considering putting them on the back-burner to work on a different idea that I think I can execute much better. It breaks my heart and those who know my character advise that I just keep working… but maybe in the future I’ll be better equipped to handle that story, maybe its just too complex for me right now.

  10. Oooh, this is a good one. I’m still in the process of it, because Quitting can be a process, and not an event. I’m quitting the writing process I thought I should have. I’ve proven to myself time and again that no matter how much I try to twist my brain into fitting a writing process different from what my process actually *is,* all I end up with is a damn headache!

    So the most recent book I wrote, I made an effort to note my writing process by revisiting my day-to-day work with it once a month. It’s *much* sloppier than I wanted it to be, but when I got a good overall look at it, I realized that my writing process has been consistent for *years* – I’ve written books the same way *in spite of myself.* So now I’m working *with* myself instead of against myself. Astounding, the change I’m already feeling!

    What a timely post!

  11. Oh, what a great post, Kristen! Thank you for this advice. <3

    • Aften on January 7, 2014 at 12:08 pm
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    HOLY CRAP! You just blew my indo and freed my fears! I literally want to drop to my knees and start chanting at this article in reverence. I have yet to know my slot in writing, but I like it too much to not quit on loser projects. Woo Hoo! Out to find my winner!

    1. LOL. I have some classes that will be up on WANA International by tomorrow that might help you. Just keep reading and writing and you will get there. Nothing wrong with changing tactics ;).

  12. Fabulous! So very needed this reminder. I just quit my genre a few months ago because it wasn’t working for me – am diving into a new one – and VERY excited, and feel at home already. Thanks!

  13. Thought provoking. Thanks!

  14. This is literally exactly what I needed to read. Brilliant! Thank you!

  15. Reblogged this on Goalful Chels and commented:
    Brilliant. Inspiring. Exactly what I need to do.

  16. This is a wonderful blog … I only learned this lesson in my mid 30’s, and would have been a lot better off if I hadn’t spent so much time trying to succeed at things I wasn’t very good at. My first big “quit” leaving a job managing people who were doing the work I wanted to be doing. Once I learned to say “no,” I had a lot more time and energy to devote to succeeding at the things I loved and was good at.

  17. Interesting. I just made my statement of intention for 2014, which is “Anything not in alignment with manifesting my goals and dreams will be lovingly released.”. I have reached a point where what is important to me has to take priority. I have proven that I have the talent, the drive, and the ability. All there is left to do is release all the junk that has been keeping me back.

    I had written more but am inspired to use this topic for a blog post of my own. Thank you, Kristen! I will definitely reference this blog post in my own.

    • Jonathan Orenstein on January 7, 2014 at 12:57 pm
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    What a great twist on a New Year’s resolution, Kristen! I’m working on quitting my day job, quitting my first manuscript, and your words motivated me enough that I think I could run through a wall! But I’ll quit before I hit anything solid.

    I’ve had trouble finding my voice after the umpteenth revision of my story. I’ve looked high and low for that voice that wrote these words in the first place, but for the life of me I don’t know where it went. Your article reminded me of a great quote from the movie, The Zero Effect starring Bill Pullman and Ben Stiller:

    “Now, a few words on looking for things. When you go looking for something specific, your chances of finding it are very bad. Because of all the things in the world, you’re only looking for one of them. When you go looking for anything at all, your chances of finding it are very good. Because of all the things in the world, you’re sure to find some of them.”

    So thank you, Kristen – I’m going to quit looking for that voice and find another that might get me moving again!

  18. I quit my day job as an educational assistant to pursue writing full-time. I am close to finishing the third book in my series (first/fast draft) and returning to the first book to edit and rewrite. I’m thankful for my supportive husband who makes enough money that we don’t have to worry about my missing income. He wants me to take 2-5 years to focus just on writing. If at the end I’m still not ready to publish, we’ll revisit the idea of me getting a paying job.
    I will finish the first book by March and have it edited or beta read (don’t know which is most essential first) so that I can further perfect it and pitch it to agents at a conference this summer. I’m already scribbling ideas for the next project. I haven’t even looked at the book I tried to sell to publishers in 2003 because I know it is subpar, thanks to craft classes, writing books and WANACon.

      • jrosebooks on January 7, 2014 at 2:05 pm
      • Reply

      Probably everybody has different opinions on this. From what I’ve discovered, I would find someone you trust to be a beta reader after you’ve gone through and done some editing on your own. And then go through another set of edits and once you feel content with it, then it’s time to invest in an external editor. I had a trusted friend beta-read who provided an unbiased, healthy balance between constructive criticism and positive feedback. After integrating what I learned from his read, then more of my own editing, I plan on sending to another beta reader before hiring an editor. Hope that helps. I’m really excited for you after reading your comment! 🙂

      1. Thanks. It feels like a long time coming. I have two or three beta readers lined up for March, but I may have to give them a list of what to look for. I will be Googling that soon?

  19. Hi Kristen, I understand what you mean about quitting–about holding onto a dream for a little too long. But how do I know when it is the right time to quit? How long should I hold onto my first book before letting it go? Do I give it a few months, a year or more? Susanne


    1. Is it published? If so? Move on. If not? Move on and write more books. If you are still wanting the first to work, take my Antagonist class and I can help you fix it. Never met a book I couldn’t fix :D.

  20. I love this and it is so true!

    • Holly R. on January 7, 2014 at 1:47 pm
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    This is a particularly hard message for me because I am a perfectionist. It’s hard for me to write a first draft because I want to keep going back and reworking my plotting–instead of moving forward and getting it all down.

    Anyway, my resolution for this year is to keep fighting the perfectionism and learn to move forward and/or quit. If it persistently isn’t working for me, I should either quit or let it lie for a while and come back to it later.

    1. The work doesn’t reward perfectionists, it rewards finishers ;). I tape that to my desk, LOL.

        • Holly R. on January 7, 2014 at 2:02 pm
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        Exactly why I’m fighting it. Finishing is more import that perfection.

        • Jeff King on January 7, 2014 at 6:04 pm
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        Reminds me of a saying of the engineers in the Apollo program that got us to the moon: “better is the enemy of good.” If something was good enough to do it’s job, the engineering manager called it final. Their biggest problem was the German engineers who did great things but just couldn’t stop tweaking. “Quitting” got us to the moon!

  21. Yes, I’m a quitter. For a couple of years now I’ve been sharing the hand knitting patterns I designed on my writer blog. I was transitioning from being a knitwear designer to being an author and wanted to showcase my patterns and so… Knitters loved them. But the trouble is I was trying to be all things to all people–and I was muddying the waters. Knitwear designer? Author? I thought it was obvious. But the feedback I was receiving told me it wasn’t. And so the first thing I did in 2014 was remove the patterns from my writer blog. I was proud of them. It was hard to see them go. But now I feel focused. Now everyone knows that I am an author.

  22. I’m a reworker, like Holly. But Kristen, I don’t think you’re saying, “Don’t polish your manuscript.” You’re saying, don’t let one piece of writing define your success–or lack of it–as a writer. Isn’t that what you’re saying? As well as move on to a new project. I’m in the middle of revising, and it’s going much more slowly than I envisioned. It’s tough: I want the damn thing to be done, but the plot needs work, the writing needs work… I’ve got to keep me nose to the grindstone. If it’s all done, if it’s shitty and no one likes it, well…to paraphrase nathan bradford, from his recent book on writing a novel, it won’t be the worst book ever written.

    • melorajohnson on January 7, 2014 at 2:16 pm
    • Reply

    Love this – “The day job is no longer the ends, but rather the means. The day job is just venture capital funding the successful art-making business…YOU.” Great way to think of it. I’ve put things aside in the past that were no longer working for me, some I will go back to and some I won’t. When you have limited time and energy, you really have to be picky about how you spend it.

  23. Super read! Repeating what doesn’t work over and over, and over again. Amazing how we get stuck in the same old muck and drive forward instead of backing out.

    • Carina Bissett on January 7, 2014 at 2:29 pm
    • Reply

    I especially enjoyed the part where a writer should mentally quit their day job. It is easy to dream, much harder to do. When I was still teaching, everything I taught was meant to push myself further in my own work. Brava! Thanks for the reinforcement.

  24. I’ve been saying a lot recently about how failing to finish what you’re working on doesn’t make you a failure. Rather, it means you’ve recognized that banging your head against the wall and making something that just isn’t working for you is a fool’s errand. Best to step back and acknowledge that your work-in-progress is broken, or it needs work, but that work is best suited for another time, with a different approach.

    But you’ve said what I’ve been wanting to say so much more eloquently than I could muster, so thank you. This resonates very greatly with me.

    • jrosebooks on January 7, 2014 at 2:51 pm
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    Interesting post. I have the hardest time trying to balance the work/friends/taekwondo/singing part of my life with my writing career. I’ll go through phases where I go for a whole month just with work and writing (and maybe a few singing gigs, and one friend-hangout), and then go back to doing it all. This year, I’ve decided to try and balance it a little more so I can avoid burnout as I come to the conclusion of my beloved YA-MG book series.

    My ‘quit story’: I think everyone receives pieces of advice that help catapult them to the next level. For me it was when I was at my first writer’s conference [scary!] and Chuck Sambuchino told me to get up early to get writing done. [What?!] For me, I had to ‘quit’ telling myself excuses to why I couldn’t do this, and I also had to quit going to the tae kwon do class that kept me from going to bed before midnight (this implied halting training for my black belt so I could focus on writing!). Now I get up an hour earlier [at 5:30am] before work every morning and punch out an average of 1k words before work. This has proved very helpful – Using this technique, I wrote two first drafts in 5 months [200k words]. Thanks Chuck!

    • jrosebooks on January 7, 2014 at 2:55 pm
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    Wow, talk about synchronicity! Even successful, Newberry-award winning authors sometimes have to ‘quit’ on a project. Look at the brief blog-post by the amazing author, Avi, who chose to change the entire format of his novel before it was published!

    • Linda on January 7, 2014 at 3:06 pm
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    I have to first get to the point where I will submit my first novel to a beta reader. I just can’t seem to make that jump.

    1. Linda,

      Feedback from our peers to the #1 way we improve. Do you have a regular critique group or critique partner?

      If you would like, I’d be willing to read your first chapter and give my feedback.

  25. Are you familiar with Jon Acruff’s book “Quitter: Closing the Gap between Your Day Job and Your Dream Job”? I immediately thought of Jon’s book as I read your post.

    1. Linda,

      Feedback from our peers to the #1 way we improve. Do you have a regular critique group or critique partner?

      If you would like, I’d be willing to read your first chapter and give my feedback.

  26. Its so true, It can be so hard knowing what to say yes to and what to say no to. I always tell my other art friends, “If you can’t say no to the things you don’t want to do, you give up the time you had to do the things that you did want to do.”

  27. My main problem is trying to be everything to my family and friends. I always find it hard to say no when someone is expecting something from me. Thank you for the great post.

    • Rachel Thompson on January 7, 2014 at 4:51 pm
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    I was a painter/artist/ illustrator. Did it all my life with lots of sales although it was a part time thing– a talent I have and not a business. Never made serious buck in this sideline. I quit fine art altogether when I got serious about writing. I haven’t touched a paint brush or ink pen since my newspaper political cartoon gig dried up. I also wrote for that paper– I did the cartoons because it helped create writing opportunities. I could do more cartoon work, I had offers, but I won’t. Why? I am a writer. I know how to quit.

  28. Being the military-minded guy that I am, I couldn’t help thinking of the Principles of Warfare. Trying to do everything/be everything violates Concentration of Force. Spreading oneself too thin invites defeat. By “quitting” at the appropriate moments you reinforce success, instead of reinforcing failure.

  29. I needed to hear that just now. Quit has a catchier zing than focus. Most of us are too close to our craft and unable to be objective. Thanks for this great advice.

  30. I wish I could have read something like this years ago when I was trying over and over to rework and resubmit the same dreadful novel. I didn’t know I should quit and start a new, better one for years. Great post!

  31. P.S. And when I quit several women’s groups in 2012, I did lose some friends. Some are still friends even though I seldom see them now. Non-writers don’t understand how distracting spending 2/3 a day can be even if the day was fun and productive–it wasn’t writing.

  32. Reblogged this on Visions and Revisions and commented:
    This is an interesting take on “quitting” by Kristen Lamb. Food for thought.

  33. A very interesting post – you show how it’s the perspective we view life (and writing) from which makes the difference.

  34. “…the difference between quitting a tactic and quitting a dream.”

    I’ve been following you for a while now Cat. I love your words but I have to admit this single statement hit me right between the eyes. It is BRILLIANT!! May I add this to my “Cool Quotes Collection” on my site?

    I’ll be re-blogging 4 sure!! Thanks for sharing.
    Forever Foward.

  35. I thought this was a great piece. I did realize that quitting in a sense would assist me in focusing on my life’s work of writing poetry.

    Before reading this I had already been planning to quit my accounting job. There is way too much to focus on when you are always dealing with other people’s financials…and forget about taking any time in your writing during the start of tax season. .which is quickly approaching! You are just too tired by the end of the day. But you did make me also realize that while you need to mentally quit your day job..ands a starting writer you still need a day job! Any recommendation on what kinds of day jobs might fit best for any kind of artists schedule? Which jobs can still allow you time to your mind to create more beautiful pieces of work for your readers… If that makes any sense.

    PS: you will be featured on my blog by the end of the week…A Lil thanks for the bit of inspiration you brought. You will be featured in the “the honey hive”

    1. THANK YOU!

    2. In my experience (worked as a temp), a receptionist job would be a perfect fit. Usually, companies allow the receptionist, or admin assistant to read, surf the internet, etc. between phone calls. On slow days, this would make a really nice block of time to be creative! Good Luck!


    3. Definitely quit – quitting my Big4 accounting job was the best move I ever made to becoming a writer! Funny how things work out – I’m currently in an accounting role again, but now only work part-time – maybe look out for part-time roles? I ended up here for the time being because, however much I no longer wanted to be an accountant, being a part-time accountant pays more than being a full-time barmaid (which I tried for a while, but found myself just as exhausted despite being less stressed).. Being able to work part time has given me the space I needed to be creative, write a novel, change careers and build a business of my own… Good luck whichever way you go!

  36. Very neat post. Curious when I read that your book The Rise of The Machines was ignored by NY. Their loss. It’s a great book full of authentic advice. I hope you make them kick their asses with your success.

    1. Me too. Fortunately, my allegiance lies with writers, not NYC. It would have been great to have a big publishing deal, but they were waiting too long and writers needed help. And I like the freedom of self-publishing because I could be more honest about the realities of the publishing industry as a whole. I think they would have cut my first three chapters because I point out a lot of skeletons in the closet ;).

  37. Wonderful post. I’m going to sound like a broken record, but again, you’re in my brain. I LOVE this post and resemble it and need to work harder at quitting. I recently noted, how anti-social I’ve become. Its good to know I’m on the right path. I’ve turned town pedicure dates and hang outs to stay home and write or read. I hope I don’t over do it. So the question is, when have we gone too far the other direction. I don’t want to be a bad mother, bad wife, or bad friend. What good would success be if I have no loved ones to share it with? AND…how long to we work and re-edit that first novel before we quit it or self-pub and move on?

  38. Becoming an author has made my day job a lot more interesting… but I’d still like to get successful enough to leave my day job, of course… 😈

  39. Great post – and well timed! I committed last summer to write once a week in my blog. At that time, I had a certain idea of what I thought I would be writing about. Since then, I have experimented with topics and styles, and I think I am finally starting to find my true voice – and guess what? It’s not what I thought it would be. I was literally just thinking about “quitting” what I thought my blog was going to be about and going with what seems to be working the best for me – my more natural ‘voice’. 🙂 Just got an email that my last post will hit “Freshly Pressed” soon too – so that’s kind of a big hint, eh? Thanks for sharing your wisdom, as always!!

  40. “Quit your day job.” Yes ma’am!
    That’s the plan for this year (sooner rather than later) and the very idea makes me blindingly happy – something I am at pains to conceal while in the office!

  41. WOW! This is actually very inspirational. Not something that most people would actually have thought of.
    Thanks Kristen!

  42. I love quitting. However I never never quit being an artist, just quitting the projects that don’t work, or the people who don’t support.
    This is a perfect example of a useful post, it causes a great response, That is why I like your blog, don’t quit this.

  43. This really reflects where I am at the moment, trying to work out which things to quit to free my brain up for the important things in life. It’s not easy, so it’s good to have someone pointing out its value. Thanks!

  44. Great advice though really really scary to take that first step but … In 2000 my husband brought home a little book called “Who moved my cheese?” I read it that night and at the age of 50, promptly resigned my job the next morning. My first romance was published in 2003. Ten years, twenty one books and many new possibilities later, the sky is still the limit.

  45. I found this article to be fantastic. Kristen, you make a lovely point about how we have to keep moving forwards, and it’s pretty awesome to be reminded of that. I’ve been reworking one of my books since I first wrote it in 2002, and right now I’m completely rewriting it for the third time (with lots of heavy editing in between except for the last three years). It’s definitely given me food for thought as to if I should keep working on it or go to the next step.

    Having previously sent the last two versions of the manuscript round a few literary agents in 2007-2009, and having recently returned to making time every day for my stories and their characters, I had started to consider self-publishing. The changes of view of self-publishing since 2009 is astounding – another reminder that we must push forwards or potentially never get to our goals.

    Thank you.

  46. I’d love to say that I love quitting, but I don’t. I just keep going and going and going until…I’m a goner, ha ha!

    I find however that big decisions are the easier to make, stuff like quitting one’s job to start writing. But once you’ve started, that’s when the real challenges start: which one of your (several) first drafts is good enough to be finalized into a publishable book?

    That’s where I break down, and you’re quite right, artists do lack discernment, and how! They fall in love with an idea, with a specific piece of art (read: book) and can’t let go. It becomes an obsession and of course, depending on the objective quality of that piece of work, it can become a huge waste of time…Sigh!

    That’s where good editors move in to help with the “discernment”. But where do you find “good editors” when you’re a self-published author and you have to pay them yourself? Editors (like everybody) like to keep their job and make sure money keeps flowing in. Are they really going to dare to say the truth about your work and risk losing future consultancies with you?

  47. Kristen,
    This is a nitty-gritty truth. Getting too precious about a piece of writing can hurt when the critique comes in. Picking over the verdict should be done with interest though because feedback is the way we can grow.
    However..If you leave that work for something else, once the edits have been done and you are still finding glitches..Never erase your copy! Please, do keep it for a rainy day when a new competition title comes in that allows your story to be tweeked to fit. I’ve done this with a few short stories. The backbone has been there, then I look at it with a new perspective and it makes more sense.
    Sorry, I’m a hoarder!

  48. I’m working on just about everything you said….

    • Alex on January 8, 2014 at 9:12 am
    • Reply

    Wow! Love this post! Especially about quitting mentally your work. That is fine piece of an advice.

  49. I worked for a year on my first book, and it’s terrible, and I quit it when i started learning how to write. I can’t imagine constantly trying to work it and improve it now. Ugh. Great advice, Kristen!

  50. Great post! I think this angle is too often over looked in the old mantras. The reality is that there is a time and “a place for everything, and everything in it’s place”!
    Sometimes taking the wisest path means making a hard, but good choice.

  51. It’s that being “everything” that’s hard to juggle. And for a procrastinator like me, it’s easy to use other commitments as an excuse to not turn on the computer to edit. Drafting is great fun! (I do it with pen and paper.) It’s all the on-screen tweaking that needs to happen after that’s so very difficult… But it shouldn’t be! You’re right, we need to take ourselves more seriously. Pre-published authors!

  52. Interesting take on this. I’m not sure what I think about “quitting” entirely, but I do think I need to make writing more of priority in life.

  53. Reblogged this on Avoiding "Watchful Dragons" and commented:
    “Learning to detect the difference between quitting a tactic and quitting a dream.” These are wise words you don’t hear often. There’s a fine line here that’s to be followed by careful consideration and prayer, but there’s wisdom in this post.

  54. I needed to hear this right now. Thanks.

  55. I wholeheartedly agree. The idea of quitting is like someone murdering their young, but it isn’t as bad as one thinks. When you are willing to let it go, it is usually at that point when you get something that is amazing (a breakthrough, a new idea, a concept to work a shorter piece, etc).

    I’ll be sure to point people to this piece if they ever feel they are horrible manuscript murderers.

  56. I really like this approach. Great post.
    I specifically love the message of not quitting your goal/dream, but finding a new way to accomplish it. It really is essential to success. Something else I’ve heard is, when you say yes, make sure you’re not saying no to yourself. I believe both of these concepts need to be considered when making career decisions.

  57. Really motivational post, Kristen! I literally quit my full-time job late last year. After years of struggling with exhaustion and trying to be everything to everyone, I realized I needed to prioritize. I feel sooo blessed today–and my health is much better, I might add. Now I can give the world the stories that it deserves and my body the rest it needs. I’m definitely going to share this post with my readers in this week’s mash-up.

  58. Releasing negative energy is an art unto itself! Thank you for inspiring article.

  59. At school when we were being prepared for exams, the teachers always said to do the questions you can answer first and come back to the rest afterwards. Unfortunately I only ever remembered this half way through the allotted time when I was still stuck on some of the early questions. Even worse, twenty odd years later when I was asked to do numeracy tests in a couple of interviews I still did the same thing, sticking to answering the questions in order rather than using my time more efficiently. I’d been mulling over a story for my first novel for a couple of years but although I was really intrigued by it (and still am), I just couldn’t get inspired and passionate about it. Then in 2012 I was reading Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M.R. James and was absolutely fascinated by a particular story called The Mezzotint. It was like a catalyst and suddenly I was overwhelmed by all these ideas and possibilities for a new story. Part of me wanted to cling to the story I initially wanted to write and then write the new idea afterwards, but I had to let it go because the new story was so insistent. I could see where the protagonist lives, that the entire apartment is decorated in ivory and black, the view onto the streets below, the look and feel of each of the different worlds that feature and now even hear musical pieces to accompany specific events. This story wants to be told and it wants to be told first regardless of where it came in the order of things. So I dropped the original story and for the first time ever I’m answering the question that comes easier first and coming back to the harder one later.

  60. A very fascinating idea! The title of the post caught my attention and, to be honest, I read with doubt. But the way you unraveled the meaning of “quitting” was very encouraging. You gave a positive connotation to a negative word! There were many times I was stubborn to give up, almost as if I couldn’t escape the sunk-cost fallacy, but when I quit, I became a quitter. Never really thought about giving some time to recoup with a different approach. Thank you for the wonderful post!

  61. Thanks for an interesting post. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. It’s so important to focus on what’s working and let whatever isn’t go. After writing seven romantic suspense novels and being told over and over again romantic suspense was dead, I’ve finally quit trying to convince traditional houses my books would sell and have decided to indie publish them. It’s nervewracking, exciting, daunting, exhilarating, but I’m so glad I’ve made the decision to do it and move forward. Thanks for your post.

  62. Wow. I sure want to be the master quitter, but how to uh.. finance that?! That’s the catch.

    1. When I started, I was in sales. I had a full-time job and a 9-state territory AND Northern Mexico (drove to Mexico every 6 weeks). But, instead of watching TV or movies, I wrote in the evenings in the hotel. The job was a means to an end, a temporary stop along the way ;).

      1. Thanks for the advice. You did a great job!

  63. Great post Kristen. You’ve put into words what I’ve often thought when I see the same people I met 5 years ago still trying to push through or rework that first book.

  64. Reblogged this on Some of my favourite posts.

  65. Makes sense. I wonder… if all editors were so in-sync with public demand, every novel they published ought to be a runaway hit. But they aren’t.
    Just accept that they may not deserve your script. Self-publication seems to be the new life-saver.

    What I do is erase the script out of sight for 2 weeks; then re-read it fresh. The errors stare out. Best way to self-edit.

  66. Thank you Kristen. This was the perfect post that I needed to read. It has helped me see what I need to do, which is to pull my manuscript from my editor and run. I’ve tried the compromise and I’ve done everything she’s asked me, but the one thing I can’t compromise on is my character. It’s her story and it has to be told her way. It’s time to quit and look for a new place to publish or just publish it myself.

  67. Re;blogged your post here: http://ekaiserwritesablog.blogspot.com/2014/01/its-january-again.html and thanks again for the good points!

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