Want to Reach New Heights as a Writer? Learn to QUIT

Image vis Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yuya Sekiguchi.

Image vis Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yuya Sekiguchi.

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month—November) is just around the corner. Many new writers take this as an opportunity to test if they can do this professional writing thing “fer realz.” Some of us dust off an old story and see if we can toss it in the crucible of peer pressure and FINALLY finish. This is a good plan…most of the time.

We have to be careful. Never giving up might keep us from ever succeeding.

Want to know the secret to success? Quitting. Yes, you read 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.

If you are tangled in a book that isn’t working, never ends, keeps getting rejected, ask for help. Sometimes the story (plot) is there only we can’t see it. We’re too vested and emotionally blinded.

This is why I do consulting. Yes, it’s $160 for three hours, but I’ve yet to meet a book I couldn’t wrangle and make behave. A skilled outside perspective is priceless and will save time and money (and good content editors are NOT cheap). People like me can help you quit the book that isn’t working and start writing the book you originally had in mind.

(***If you need help, e-mail me at kristen at wana intl dot com)

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 attended my first conference, 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 to a premiere agent, a DREAM agent. But, after NY ignoring it for over two years? I thanked my agent for his efforts and 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

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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.

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”

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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!

A new quote I have etched in my brain is, I can be respected or popular. I can’t be both.

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 SEPTEMBER, 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 novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook


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  1. Good morning, Kristen. Everything = Perfection. I gave up trying to be perfect a long time ago. Now I’m just the best I can be, and it truly is good enough. Thanks for all you do! Hope you’re well.

    1. I HAVE MISSED YOU!!!!! (((HUGS))) *tackles*

  2. I like you take on this – never heard it quite put this way but it does make sense – a time to bury stuff and move on can save even more time rather than pushing thru what is not working. nice – and have a great week.

    1. Thank you. Perspective is very important 😉 .

  3. also – regarding the prize you give away – I am not leaving a comment to be in the hat – just wanted to say I liked your point. Peace out

  4. This post is very timely for me. Lots of writer friends just starting out wonder whether they should stop writing altogether, keep promoting that first (sub-optimal) book. etc. Thanks for posting and giving me something to chew on today. Oh, and I shared it too. https://twitter.com/JMoraski/status/512962175074201602

  5. But what if I WANT to take a bat to the copy machine Kristen, Hmmm??? Great stuff here. I can only speak for myself, of course, but my small bit of experience in publishing (6 years, 20+ books across 3, formerly 4, small publishers) has taught me that to quit thinking the world owes me a Best Selling Author designation is also a recipe for disappointment disaster. This is a real “one reader at a time” business for most/many of us. Getting up every day pissed off that you STILL aren’t getting the recognition that so many other, seemingly more successful authors are wallowing around in is 100% counterproductive. Sure, you’ll have moments of that but those are the moments you need a hobby, or a drink, to get over it, refocus on the NEXT book and the NEXT reader.
    love ya like a soul sister,

    1. so that would be “quit thinking the world owes me a Best Selling Author Designation is a recipe for LESS disappointment disaster.”
      Sorry….too much fun last night, one supposes

    • Linda Tillis on September 19, 2014 at 9:02 am
    • Reply

    THANK YOU Kristen Lamb! I am NOT an aspiring writer…I AM a non-published author!

    1. PRE-published 😉 . Go for the WIN xoxoxoxoxoxo

  6. Best line from this – and I know its now new – ‘Persistence looks a lot like stupid.’
    I’ve been having trouble finishing anything – been following the blogs, buying the books, listening to the podcasts – yet never had anything ready for market.
    Until this week. A break-through. And every single pessimistic thought I’ve had has been blown away like so many cobwebs.
    Yep. It looked stupid. But it worked. ?

  7. I “quit” my day job to be a writer, but my day job is stay-at-home mom. I didn’t quit my kids or my family, I just realized I couldn’t be everything. I have about 18-20 hours a week I dedicate to my career, and I don’t let anything but emergencies take away from that. Not everyone understands, but my family does. It isn’t any different than investing in stocks or starting a business. There’s no guarantee it will pay off, but I take the chance. I’m investing in myself and I, for one, thing that’s a pretty good gamble! Great article. I have a similar post I’ve been thinking about for my blog and I’ll be sure to link back to yours!

  8. Thanks for the insight. Always appreciate your words of wisdom.

    • Tom on September 19, 2014 at 9:18 am
    • Reply

    I worked on my first “novel” waaaay longer than I should have. I finally figured out it wasn’t ever going to work, so I took what I’d learned and started a new one. Vast improvement. 🙂 I still keep the first one around so I can go back and remember how, um, “lacking” it was.

  9. Reblogged this on My Passion's Pen and commented:
    Tough love to the nth degree. So powerful. So true. Quit putting everything else before your goals. Quit labeling yourself anything other than what you truly are. I love the phrase “pre-published author;” talk about empowering!

  10. Great post! And, oh-so-true!. My own experience, briefly, is happening right now!
    When my 3rd book was done and published, my newly-retired hubs and I decided to move from the big city to a small town. The packing and unpacking took so much time, I ended up way behind in the myriad of tasks we writers have.
    Three and a half months and several ‘To Do Lists’ later, I’m still tackling the backlog, but I’m almost done! Every time I complete a project, I feel better. I’m feeling great now!
    Why? During that time, a part of my brain was quietly working on the next book.
    Soon, I’ll attack the all-important book 4 with a gusto I’ve never experienced before. I’ve got fresh ideas and some major changes that are begging to be set free.
    Thank you for putting to words what I’ve been experiencing …

  11. Kristen, you completely disarmed me with your Learn to Quit title. But that’s exactly what I did. I pared my magazine editing job hours down from eight to four hours a day simply by doing less unnecessary research (I’m a perfectionist). That freed me to spend from noon till whenever on my novels. Oh, and I now take Fridays off too. Yes, I feel better about myself or doing so. Thanks for reinforcing that decision with your timely advice.

  12. I’ve just been lurking recently, but had to speak up and say thanks for another great one!

    I’m just about to publish my second book, but I’m all wrapped up in the next one. I’m determined to make it shine and sparkle, so I’m glad to know you do consulting. $160 for 3 hours? That seems awesome. It’s a really fair exchange for getting a kick ass book, IMO. Bookmarked for future reference!

  13. A most timely post for me. Thanks. I would like to put my previous novels down to learning experience, but my family are pressurizing me into trying to self-publish one of them as a test. I keep telling them that my writing style has changed and I don’t do those sort of novels anymore. They think I’m foolish persevering with finding a literary agent for my latest novel and should give up after 6 rejections, when 4 other agents who claim to respond to all submissions, haven’t done so yet after 6-9 weeks.

    Please could you tell me, Kristen, if Theresa Ragan self-published her novels that were previously rejected by traditional publishers, or whether she wrote something totally new?

    1. I believe she just published all the rejected stories and they caught fire.

      1. Perhaps I should give it a try then.

  14. Love this perspective on quitting! I always say don’t quit, but truthfully there are things you should. Thanks for the reminder.

  15. Loved your advice! I did quit my job which consumed almost every waking hour. Now I am writing! If only I would stop trying to be and do EVERYTHING! Must wean myself. Say NO. Thanks!

  16. What a great post. Thanks for sharing and encouraging; it was just what I needed this morning. In February of this year, I quit being afraid and “outed” myself as a writer. I still have days where the fear of what others will think of me/my writing get to me, but I’m much better at not giving in to that way of thinking. My first novel is in the hands of beta readers and an editor. I’ve written (and been paid for) other works and am getting great reviews. Quitting being afraid was the best thing I could have done.

    1. Vickie – I can so relate to that! I haven’t completely come out of the closet (computer closet? typewriter closet?) – I still haven’t said much of anything on Facebook, where all my friends and family are, but I do have my new blog set to publish to Google+ and Twitter. I thought I was past that, but then it got to me again recently – someone said something, and now I haven’t written in over a week. I have to get past that…

  17. Kristen, you were my “quitting!” LOL. That three hour session was fantastic. My second rough draft is nothing like the first. I just need to get back to it. The last half of August and all of this month, I ended up writing on the second book (which used to be the second part of the first book). It took a bit to make the shift in my brain from what I was dead set on writing to this, but I am very glad I did.

    • L. E. Carmichael on September 19, 2014 at 10:24 am
    • Reply

    By the time I reached my fifth year of graduate school, I was a physical and mental wreck. My physiotherapist said to me, “Do you know how many people have died on Everest because they were too stubborn to know when to quit?” Persistence does look an awful lot like stupid sometimes!

    I finished the degree, but made myself a deal – that I’d never again devote that kind of energy to something I knew wasn’t working for me. Life’s too short and there are books to write!

  18. This can be a tortuous change of mindset for writers. I am constantly thankful that I found WANA, Kristen and this blog BEFORE I quit my day job to pursue my authorial dream. This is the third time in my life I have pursued being a published author. This time it will happen.
    I have 50 pages of my first manuscript with an agent right now. I’m expecting the rejection soon. Not because I have a poor self-image. I can look at that story just six months after completing it and see where it is weak and needs improvement. That is why I have completed two other manuscripts since I wrote that one. I refuse to put all my dreams in one story. I have lots of stories. I’m reaching the million word mark (after only two years) and I’m starting to feel like I’m not completely lost in this whole writing a novel world. (But I know I have tons left to learn – and I love the feeling!)
    Thanks Kristen and all the other WANAs who have given me a hand along the way.

  19. The challenge is knowing when to pull the plug on a project. I discovered what I thought was a fatal flaw in one of my novels when I was more than halfway through and had to kill it.

    And now…halfway through my latest project, I’m wondering if I couldn’t benefit from some sage and learned advice. Hmm. I may need to talk to you about that.


  20. What stage of the book to do writers need to be in to hire you as a consultant?

  21. Thanks for the post, Kristen. It was a good reminder. The first book I wrote was a romance. I thought if “they” could do it, I could, too. An editor not only rejected it, but told me never to send her anything again. I quit writing romance and moved to other genres. Best rejection letter I ever received! Now when I’ve thought of resurrecting old manuscripts I couldn’t sell (not even romance) your blog comes along and convinces me to keep working on the present pieces, not to revisit the past. We learn so much just by writing and writing and writing. Thanks again!

  22. This was such a great post! And so true! I shared a snippet and link on my blog. I think the post would help anyone who is afraid of letting go and making changes.

  23. Hi Kristen, I couldn’t agree more with your post. In my previous business career, we always had this thing called ROI, it means Return On Investment. I useto consider it Return On Input. If a business plan did not work, or a sales strategy didn’t work, you needed to change it.

    I find the same works in writing. I’ve only produced two books so far, and producing my third, and almost finished my fourth. I find, that I’m still searching for the combination that produces the best results, but not getting stuck in one genre.

    The English call it “ducking and diving,” which is the essentially the ability to be flexible. I think we writers need to take a lesson from business people – if something isn’t working – change it.

    Thanks for you great post. Once again your always hitting the mark of what we writers need, which is a swift kick in the attitude!

  24. Just found your blog this morning, and love love this post. Take-away line for me is “Hire yourself to the dream.” I was complaining recently to a wise friend about all the things in my current life holding me back, and she said how about you quit focusing on all that and work toward the life you want to have, a little bit each day.

  25. I have been participating in NaNoWriMo for 6 years. It has been an exercise in accepting I have flawed work, learning to stop editing as I write and to practice the discipline of writing every day. It has been an exercise in learning to take baby steps and not get frustrated or stop when I can’t complete the whole project, reach my vision or achieve self standards of perfection. It has been instrumental in my realization that some endeavors are worthy of pursuit and that sometimes the value is in the process not the completed project. Every year, I shred (or burn – December S’Mores anyone?) what I have written, knowing that’s where it belongs. However, part of me has wanted to hold on to this work, has wanted to try to resurrect the dead. I am printing this post out and pinning it up near my computer to help me remember that quitting is not always synonymous with failure and that a cyclical relationship with my writing is not a good thing. Thanks!

  26. Good morning, Kristen! I’m thankful that someone posted this on Facebook. As I read it I realized that this is all me! At this point I have written and self-published three romantic suspense novels. My first had been with a publisher and didn’t sell until I self-published it and sold quite a few. My biggest problem with writing is being interrupted or my hubby wanting to go somewhere. Then try to get back to where I left off? Ugh! My second problem is marketing. Who has the money to pay for their marketing?? My third novel is at a standstill and makes me wonder if it’s not good enough – only a few sales, but I haven’t been able to do much marketing. The downfall has kept me from working on my fourth novel which I have all kinds of notes but just unable to get to it. Perhaps I will after reading this article! Thank you so much. If you have time, would you please let us all know ways to market that will help our books. I have my website, market on Facebook and Twitter.
    Thanks again!

    • Ron Estrada on September 19, 2014 at 11:46 am
    • Reply

    This year, I mentally quit my engineering job and put all my efforts into writing. After a visit to the boss’s office one day, I figured I’d better at least stay off my iPad during working hours. But I have made the shift this year. It’s not like when I wrote my first (or second…or fifth) book and said “This is the one!” It’s more like I’m at peace with my choice and know that I’ll succeed, no matter how long it takes or how many late nights it takes. It’s just going to happen. Thanks for your always encouraging posts, Kristen.

    • Kessie on September 19, 2014 at 11:55 am
    • Reply

    I quit when the book is done. I’m doing Write, Publish, Repeat–got two books out and I’m revising the third. I quit when the book is done. It’s as good as my crew of betas and I can make it, and out the door it goes. In between, I’m studying to up my game in any way I can. Recently Writers’s Digest had a post about the last 10% of your book that was a total lightbulb moment for me. Another step in upping the game!

  27. And…you’re linked on my blog.

    1. THANK YOU! ((HUGS))

  28. Hi Kristen.

    I have a hard time finishing anything, so I guess I do the wrong kind of quitting. I become discourage or, more likely, distracted, and then I lose the passion to continue. So, I go on to something else.

    But…on this WIP…I intend to finish it. Maybe the difference is I tried to be a Plotter on this one, and I know how it ends. So, now, I’m late in Part Three. I’m finally getting to the Second Plot Point, and my MC has learned enough of her lesson that she is willing to swallow her pride and do whatever it takes to beat the bad guy. Maybe I can learn something from her.

    Maybe, what I’ve learned, is that I need a plan. That way I will know when I’m done. Because I’ve just written the last scene.


  29. I think you mean quit on the first synopsis? Quit coddling the kids? lol Put everything aside until I get this thing done for SYTYCW?

    I am not good at hidden messages. And all messages are hidden to me! You have a lot of wisdom. How do you think this post relates to me? lol

  30. Oh my gosh!!! I thought your message was forwarded by my girlfriend, it was so spot-on. hangs head in shame.

    1. LOL. We are ALL guilty, my friend *ignores siren’s song of dishes to be washed*

  31. I once took a part-time job at a department store to earn pay off some bills and to earn some Christmas cash. One night, after I had already restocked and straightened up my area and was about to leave, the manager stopped me at the door and told me I couldn’t leave, that I had to go over to another area and help them.

    I looked at her for a minute and replied, “No, I’m done. I’ve got my real job to go to in the morning and I need to go home.”

    She replied: “If you leave, then don’t come back.”

    I laughed and said, “Well, then I won’t be back.” And I walked out. I quit!

    And, boy, did it feel good!!!

    I’m looking forward to the day when I finish my novel and my rewrites and I can say, “All right, that’s enough of that. Next book, please!”

    • R. A. Meenan on September 19, 2014 at 1:05 pm
    • Reply

    This reminds me so much of the first “novel” I ever wrote. It was an epic fantasy that was part Tolkien, part Pullman, and part EPIC FLASHY MAGIC AND RANDOM POINTLESS ANIMALS. I wrote a full 100 pages and hardly got anywhere in the story.

    This was back in high school. And I learned the hard way that I had to quit it. Instead, I’ve focused on a NEW fantasy world that thankfully doesn’t have as many issues. XD

    But yeah, sometimes you just have to quit a story. It happens. It sucks. But it’s life and you gotta move on. Something better will come because you may have QUIT but that doesn’t mean you have to GIVE UP!

  32. Yes yes YES!!! LOVE this post. Fantabulous. Needs to be shared with EVERYONE (and to sink into my VERY thick head!!). Gonna practice being better at quitting. Thank you, Kristen!

  33. Ah, quitting – I was lucky to learn early on to do this. I usually frame it in the famous words of Stephen King, “Kill your darlings” – and I have to whisper this to myself often as I find myself frantically trying to save a side-plot or character or backstory etc etc, that just isn’t working. “Kill your darlings”, as I mentally picture myself sharpening an axe and approaching that part of the story like a farmer about to shoot his favorite cow that became too bloated on thistles to live.

    Usually I don’t have to axe whole stories, but I have had to cut out huge chunks. “This villain really isn’t working, time to behead him and do something else.” “Time to totally re-model X character, because he’s not adding anything to the story as-is, not serving the purpose for which I added him.” Comparing the current draft V of my wip to draft 0 (as I call it to distance it from me, it was so horrible) – the two share character names, and the same basic plot, but they’re so different…just letting go of the original way I wanted to write the story, being willing to turn it upside-down, that’s what’s allowed it to be GOOD. Letting go of Character Y as the main and 3rd person view to do Character Z as the main POV character first person…that rivalry won’t work as it was…Maybe one more draft and it’ll be ready to query.

    And this, of course, is after letting go of other floating story ideas and realizing I need to quit working on what will one day be my masterpiece because it’s not done stewing yet, that I have to outline it because it’s bigger than what I’m used to, and I can work on it when I have large blocks of time to dedicate to outlining. Which will hopefully be soon, when I can actually completely quit my day job and replace it with full-time writing. Quitting the right things? I agree, definitely some of the best advice for artists.

  34. I wrote a whole book (over 100,000 words) based on my daydreams and growing from there. Then I met a woman who is a writing coach.

    We became friends and she looked at the first three chapters of my book. Now I’m on chapter three of a whole new rewrite. The basic plot is still the same. But now there is more connection to the MC, more description of her surroundings and her interactions with people. And there is now some conflict in those first chapters along with more strength in the MC.

    Now I think there will be a chance that people will like the book enough to buy it when it’s finished.

  35. I quit writing fanfiction to write original fiction. My only regret was not quitting sooner 😉 I was working on a fanfic novel, and it was my first creative writing endeavor so it sucked. Written over 5 years it was 200k words and not even finished XD It would be quicker to write another story than it would have been to edit that beast. Sticking to short stories for now to improve my writing technique.

  36. This post is so true and couldn’t come at a better time. I can learn so much from this. I was trying to push a book that I have since learned to walk away from. I used to think that I needed to kill myself and write a sequel or turn it into a series because that was why it wasn’t selling. I realized later that there were other reasons and I needed to move on to something potentially better.
    Thanks for writing this. It really hit home for me.

  37. Speaking of NaNoWriMo, I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t for me on a few levels:

    1. Wordcount. My daily wc fluctuates wildly. Some days I’m prolific, other days I suck ass.
    2. That Perfect First Draft. I’ve gotten over this for the most part, but I just can’t fathom writing 1700-ish words a day without fail if I hate where the story’s going. I’d rather waste time trying to get it going in the right direction than waste time writing something useless.
    3. Life. Every single time I’ve attempted, I stop at Day 8 or 9 because life interrupts–personal issues, craptastic workdays. It *is* during Q4, which is commonly the most insane season for client-facing jobs.
    4. Missing a day. You miss one day, you now need to make up for it down the line. And even I’m not that prolific, and I just don’t have the time.

    So yeah, last year, I decided to quit trying and not even bother anymore. I’ve given myself other, more logical goals and deadlines.

    Lots of good stuff to ponder in this article…thanks for sharing! 🙂

  38. I actually DID quit the day job, though I’ll admit that health issues were pushing for me to make the change. That was nine months ago. I sold half of my few possessions, relocated (also for health reasons), and moved into an apartment slightly larger than a postage stamp. It’s scary…actually, it’s terrifying, but I don’t want my life finishing without having tried. I’m also one of those people who are terrible at choosing supporters and/or fellow travelers who turn out to be either users or non-starters who want me to wallow with them in misery. WANA has helped me more than anyone or anything, but I still must find my way past trust issues that I allowed life to instill. Thus far, one book is published (poetry) and two that are fantasy fiction are ready for the feedback. Meanwhile, I scrounge pennies and keep writing. Thank you, you’ve made a huge difference in this life.

    • johnfindley on September 19, 2014 at 6:27 pm
    • Reply

    Hello Kristen.
    You make a lot of sense; perhaps we all have let something go in the past that wasn’t showing results. The trick is knowing when to try a new way.
    Thank you for this blog.
    Regards John

  39. This makes a lot of sense. In some ways I wish I could quit my day job to act upon my dream of becoming a full-time author. However, that is not in the cards with two children, a husband without a job and only one vehicle. (Don’t worry. The hubby’s looking for a job so I can do just that, but nothing’s come up so far.) Maybe one day in the future. However, I take things day by day. I’ve never had a story I couldn’t wrangle to behave the way I want. I’m waiting for the day I do. In fact, I look forward to it.

    1. The point is to mentally quit. Make it the means and not the ends. That will transition your mind from hobbyist to pro. Best of luck and I feel your pain. I still had to keep the sales job even though I threw up every day on the way to work. But it was temporary and that made it endurable once I shifted mental gears. I knew I would not die a paper salesman.

      1. Mentally quitting is just as hard… Got to work on that…

        1. Simple is never easy and nothing worth having is either. You will get there! ((HUGS))

  40. Last week i quit trying to shrink-wrap a story into a shorter length (maximum number of words required was 12,000 and I had 14,000). I suddenly realized if I gave up trying to force the story to be something it was not, I might be able to finish it. Sure enough, it happily ran out to 30,000 words. I had been trying to compress it simply because I promised myself I would submit one short story to every anthology call from my publisher (it was a discipline goal for me). So I submitted it as a novella. Then I took a deleted scene the next day, wrote the short story from THAT, and submitted the short as well. Sometimes we have to quit trying to make a story into something we want it to be, and let it be what it is.

  41. Thanks for this post. When you have been sitting on a story for a long time as I have, it’s hard to change plots and characters, as you can become overly attached to them. This is my first. But I find myself going through it again and again re-editing it adding more substance etc. I haven’t found a critique group yet. I read somewhere to be wary to upload your book, so maybe you could advise on a trusted group?

    1. Try WANATribe. It’s the social network I created for writers. LOTS of critique groups or at least easy to form one.

      1. Thanks will go there. 🙂

  42. You can’t see it, but I’m holding an imaginary lighter aloft in the dark, waving it for you and this post!

    I quit my family of origin. Well, not totally – just the relationships that were sucking me dry, taking hours of my day as I tried to help certain relatives work through their issues, only to have every suggestion I made summarily dismissed. Those problems used to eat at me, even when we weren’t talking about them.

    I quit trying to handle other people’s baggage when it was clear they wanted the attention they got from lugging it around and telling me how huge a burden it was.

    That freed up hours for me, each day – and even more energy. I have an abundance of time to spend with my spouse and children, and I have lots of time for writing, too…

    I never realized just how much of myself I was giving away, until I decided I had to stop, for my own emotional health.

    I haven’t published a novel -yet. But I have numerous WIPs in various stages of development, my blog is an active place, and, maybe most importantly, I have lots of energy for those few things that mean the most to me. =)

    Things like reading this post, and sharing it! =)

    1. AMEN and AMEN! I call those folks “Askholes” (stolen off a FB meme). People who constantly ask for help/advice then do whatever dumb thing we advised against then summarily expect help cleaning up the mess. GO YOU! Took a nasty case of Shingles this past August for me to realize I needed to LET go of certain people and love from afar. If I learned from making mistakes, so can they 😀 .

  43. I’m good at quitting, although I’ve not yet succeeded at focusing enough of my energies to get that baby published (it’s coming thought, I feel it!) One of the my favorite quotes of the moment is: “You can do anything. But you can’t do everything.” Thanks for the inspiration!

  44. Reblogged this on A Keyboard and an Open Mind and commented:
    Great advice from Kristen once again! And timely as well, as I try to convince myself to put certain projects that aren’t working right now on the backburner and focus on what is.

  45. Reblogged this on Speculations Impressed and commented:
    Kristen nailed me on this one. I’ve been working on my first book since February and have kept on stalling. I have yet to get beyond the “beginning” of the story because I just haven’t found how to convey the meat of it. It could very well be that this story was never meant to be in the first place.. I’m shelving it way at the top, the highest shelf, where I can’t get to it unless I really have something more to contribute to it.

    Yes, I do have another story in the works.

  46. Great article…. You would say learning to quit takes a truth that most of us feel a pressing need to lie about. The square peg will never fit into the circle hole, You’ve only been in love once, and my life is better lived to help YOU achieve your dreams. Can you say no, no, and no? Newsflash… THERE IS NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN, so why do most need to create a new path to success when others have paved the way? I mean really think about that; If each one of us was given a blueprint to a surefire way to succeed no matter what your dreams are how many do you think would follow that proven blueprint to the exact letter? We would find a way to make it our very own when at that very moment we would need to become an ‘expert quitter’ and get back on track.

    Look at it this way your dreams and goals are the big picture and the methods you are using to reach them is the means on getting there. If those means mean you no good you simply quit; meaning that you didn’t quit on what your dreams and goals are, but you simply stop using methods that wasn’t helping you reach your dreams and goals.

    So like Karen so perfectly said just quit; become a professional at it and take solace in the fact that quitting the things that aren’t working now beats quitting all together.

  47. Thank you for your wise advice, Kristen.
    I had way too many things blocking out the important tasks of reading, writing and submitting. So the old year slipped away and the new year was born I decided to weed out my life and bring more focus. This has resulted in far less clutter and in bold new steps forward. I now know what needs to be done and I do it. Focus is keep for me.

    • Rachel Thompson on September 21, 2014 at 7:54 am
    • Reply

    I often say, you can lead a mind to knowledge but you can’t make it think. I’ve reviewed many manuscripts for content and most authors fight the advice, make excuses. Those with an open mind that’s ready to learn get published, the others, not so much. Never stop learning.

  48. Thank you, Kristen.

    This is the third time I’ve read this post and I took time in the interim to do some self reflection about what things in my life are not helping with my writing or worse, are an outright hindrance. you’re spot on about what needs to be culled from, or changed in, my own life. Not easy but the pay-off will be worth the effort. I’ll be blogging my thoughts today.

    Again, many thanks.

  49. Needed to hear this today

    • Addy Rae on September 22, 2014 at 12:28 am
    • Reply

    ‘This is why I do consulting. Yes, it’s $160 for three hours, but I’ve yet to meet a book I couldn’t wrangle and make behave.’

    Somehow through following your blog for over two years, I totally missed that you did this. Or maybe I misunderstood what you did The hubby and I will be having a finance discussion. 😉

    1. I just now started offering it because I’ve gotten a system that can repair any book in roughly three hours. Before, it would have been too time intensive for me and too expensive for you guys. My goal has always been to offer quality at a fair price that is doable. Any content editor worth their salt is probably going to run minimum around $1000 for a full-length novel. If the novel is full of errors I can reality help you fix, we could be talking up to $5000 because then you are talking multiple revisions and that editor helping with plot problems, character issues, etc.

      What I do is make sure you can write something structurally and artistically sound that is STILL your story. Then, much of the time you can rely on beta readers and focus more on line-edit because the story is there.

        • Addy Rae on September 23, 2014 at 12:47 am
        • Reply

        I’m glad I’m not completely oblivious!

        That sounds really valuable, and I hope lots of people realize it and keep you hopping. Maybe not too many though. 😉

  50. I agree with your article 100% — do you really read an entire manuscript in 3 hours, or go by the synopsis to figure out how to improve it? Do you have any clients who have found agents after using this awesome service?

    1. It’s done via synopsis and we work holistically. And yes, I have had numerous clients who went on to publish, land agents and multi-book deals and even hit best-seller lists. By the time we finish, you have a detailed blueprint for how to write or repair the book. But, I can’t write the book FOR the person, so a lot is contingent on what the writer DOES with that.

  51. Wow – this is a refreshing perspective. I have so much shame in quitting, even when I feel better saying goodbye or moving away from a project. Thanks for the post!

  52. I loved this post! I quit my day job in November 2013, sold all my belongings and bought a one way ticket to India. I quit being what everyone else thought I should be and left America to find out what was wrong with my life and ended up finding what is right with it. I started a personal travel blog to keep friends and family updated on my adventures and was blown away by the outpouring of support and love from readers. They encouraged me to become a writer, a dream that I walked way from years ago. I started throwing around ideas while on the road in India and actually outlined (using the methods you posted) an entire trilogy! I am now a third of the way through my second draft just three months after I began writing…your blog has helped me in ways I can’t even describe. Quitting is the only way to become who you truly want to be. Chasing money with an empty heart will lead you nowhere. Thank you, Kristen!

  53. Reblogged this on Sunflowers for Moira and commented:
    Gosh, I really like this blog.

  54. Ha! Awesome read!

  55. Hi Kristen, this was an important and inspirational read. I’ve been taught all my life that quitting is for the weak. Like you, I’m loyal to the point of my own detriment. It was a relief to have someone of influence say clearly that quitting in certain situations is healthy. We have finite time and have to pick our battles. It’s better to be at the bottom of the ladder you want to climb than at the top of one you don’t.

  56. kristen this is very interesting. I never thought of quitting in quite this way- and your point about the day job being a “means” not an “end” touched a nerve with me. Because I’m in that position now, where I’m trying to write full time (partially magazine writing) and have two interviews for full time technical digital writing- blah. I’ve been scared to cross that bridge in fear of losing the creative. As for my novel- while it’s been three years- it’s only been three years of actually writing it, editing it and cutting it down to size. I’m just now starting to submit it to agents. So not at the point of quitting yet-but I do have a self publishing back up and a timeline should the rejections pile up:) This definitely has me thinking!

  57. Great read. You make an excellent point about quitting and letting go because there is a big difference to just quitting and then quitting and letting a go. Holding on even when you have quit can drive you crazy so thanks for that little eye opener and realisation!

  58. Great read. I especially like the point you make about letting go because there is such a big difference to quitting and then quitting and letting go. Holding on to something once you have quit can drive you crazy! Thanks for giving me a little eye opener and realisation!

  59. I quit! I wanted to use clever historical quotes to provide context for my novel and have been seeking permissions from various authors and publishing houses. Some of these inquiries have led me down ridiculous rabbit trail searches in tracking original sources and who owns the rights.
    I’ve officially decided today, it is time to quit. Use the quotes that are public domain or that I can obtain permission for and axe the rest in the interest of moving on and get back writing.

  60. I have to remember the difference between quitting and giving up. I’ve quit a few book ideas because they just didn’t seem interesting enough. Or I’ve deleted parts of a story that was interesting but didn’t really fit into the story. But sometimes I give up and shelf writing altogether. I wish I had your commitment.

  61. Quit to Win is precisely what I knew was necessary in a few life areas, and you brilliantly blessed the words WRITE onto the page. My most memorable Quit to Win story is unrelated to a specific writing experience, and more along the line of desperately needing the Peace and Time to write. I was simultaneously doing EVERYTHANG and getting nothing done at all! I was depleted. So I Quit.

    “I Quit Talking to my Teenager.” Now that may sound harsh at the onset, because like most mothers, I want to have this wonderful open line of communication where the child always gets to express themselves, yeah yeah yeah, that’s a great goal for parents with wonderful amazing teenagers who never push boundaries. I honestly think mine would push me off the mountain top to get to that next party!

    Anyway, I decided I was getting on my own nerves, and realized that those long lectures where I thought we were bonding and formulating understanding, could have been better spent dishing out the consequence and letting him deal with his feelings about it.

    Now don’t get me wrong, “I Resume Talking to my Teenager” after he pays the price for the infraction. Most importantly, the relationship is really blooming because I Quit getting sucked into arguing about the drama and parented my child. The other reward of Quitting is I got Started on my Writing LIfe…the Life I must have.

    Very Much Appreciated.

  62. I’ve done this recently, but hadn’t thought about things in this perspective. Very fitting. Now I’m a pre-published writer who happens to be a Graphic Design student :}

  63. I just read this post very carefully since I got a little confused by the title. But then I found the one sentence that made me understand.
    “We have to learn to detect the difference between quitting a tactic and quitting a dream.”
    I had to quite my tactic apparently… otherwise my book would still wait for an agent, a publisher, or some other person supporting me to publish it the traditional way… it didn’t work – and finally I decided to self-publish it… I couldn’t say whether or not it will work… it will be fully available by tomorrow.
    Thanks for this post, Kristen. It made me understand!

    • Liz on September 26, 2014 at 12:45 pm
    • Reply

    This was great. I’ve been struggling for more than a year it seems with how to manage my time: Should I totally revise the first novel that keeps getting rejected albeit with some nice rejections, i.e., is there something there worth salvaging OR just move on already to that next thing that I’ve written a first chapter for several times? It’s hard to let go of that first one.

    • Suzette de Borja on September 26, 2014 at 5:25 pm
    • Reply

    Thank you! A very timely read for an aspiring author like me 🙂

  64. Intriguing post. Thanks for sharing it. 🙂

  65. Hi Kristen- I wrote an article along these lines a couple of years ago about ‘giving up and letting go’. It wasn’t specifically about writing, but a person can give up many things, good and bad, with a clear conscience. I am not writing a novel, but I have started a new blog, and it has really juiced my creative impulses. It is a complete departure from what I used to write, and it is so absorbing, I hope it won’t end for a long time. It is really just for me, imbued by the fond hope others will like it, too. It was inspired by Diary of a Provincial Lady. I love her style, and have discovered it works for me. At first, I felt like an imitator, but am finding my own voice, in there. Will add you to my home page-

  66. I have approached my wring from the position of perseverance but realize in reading your blog that I need to practice quitting. There really is a difference between quitting a tactic and quitting a dream. Much of what I need to quit are tactics that keep me from facing my fear and wring. Thank you.

  67. Irony of all ironies, I was reading posts over at Finding Fab-U-Lous when a link in A Demon in My Closet led me here. The ironic part is that I am contemplating quitting nablopomo. It seemed like a good idea when I signed up; a paying project, a family crisis, and two funerals later it seems like I should stop beating myself up about not writing a post per day. I should focus on the blog related items on my to do list, find a stable income source and write some of the posts I’ve wanted to work on for at least a month now and not worry about a post per day. I engaged in an internal debate while hopping around WordPress. And, then you gave me “permission” and a new insight on quitting. I quit nablopomo, I think. 🙂

  1. […] to quit in order to succeed.  You have to let go of that bone.  Knowing when to quit is smart as Kristen Lamb posts in her blog.  It’s good to know better writers than I have given up projects a time or […]

  2. […] Lamb a few weeks ago. For me her blog is absolutely filled with great advice for writers. But this post I found especially helpful because it challenged me to take a hard look at myself and my life. What […]

  3. […] Lamb tells you to quit. In no uncertain terms she spells out the path to success: quitting. Not without discernment, but […]

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  5. […] “Want to reach new heights as a writer? Learn to Quit.” […]

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