Friday, July 8, 2011

Throwing in the Towel

This publication thing is hard. The faint at heart need not apply.

So, you've decided you're in it for the long haul. You write a few books. You send out a few queries. You attend a few conferences.


So you get a critique group, you read a few writing books, you edit a few of those books you wrote, then start the process over again.


Nothing except rejection that is.

So when is enough enough? When do you throw in the towel, raise the white flag, slink back to your only-in-my-dreams world?

Some say never. And this might totally be valid. I've heard MANY an author encouraged to "keep going, keep persevering" because publication might be one step around the corner. The stories about pursuing publication for twenty years before it actually happened come to mind.

And that might totally happen to any one of us!!! (well, let's all hope it doesn't REALLY take 20 years!)

But... it also might not.

I don't have the answers to this for you. But I do have a few suggestions.
  • Don't give up. If you're going to do anything, give in. Giving up says "I can't do it." Giving in says, "I can do it, I just want to do something else for a while first." One is quitting... the other is changing your mind. Quitting is for those who are weak, changing your mind or changing direction is for those who are wise.
  • Don't listen to everyone else. "Keep going" might totally be right on track, but if God is whispering for you to move another direction for a while, keep going is being disobedient.
  • Pray. Ask for clear guidance. Be in prayer, talk to your family, and make sure you are on the path God wants for you.
  • Don't be overly sensitive. A rejection letter isn't necessarily a "no" from God about publication in general. Neither is a harsh critique of your work. Many times it just means, "Not yet" or "Not this agent" or "Not this editor" or "You have some more work to do."  It might be backbone building. But don't see every bad writing news as a lightning bolt from Heaven that you're doing wrong. You'll be shocked most every time:-) 
  • Take a break. I can't remember where I heard this first, but I've heard it many times. When all else fails, walk away for a little while. Take a week, a month, a year sabbatical. Then reassess. If that pit desire in your stomach is still there, then go back. If it has fizzled, then you have your answer as well.
Most of all.... HAVE FUN WHILE YOU WRITE!!! This reminds me of playing basketball in the 5th grade. I was HORRIBLE at it. But I had so much fun doing it! And I tried my VERY best. Never got on the "A" team... but I sure had fun trying. If you're going to be writing for 20 years... it would stink to be miserable the whole time!!!

Having fun makes the journey, no matter the end, much more enjoyable!

Because there are sometimes... when you are scratching your head and about to take the throwing towel plunge, something amazing happens. Last week, that happened to me when I finally landed my dream agent, Rachelle Gardner. I'd had a year of struggling with my writing while I went through a personal tragedy with my daughter, and when I was really trying to reassess just how much effort I needed to be spending on my writing, confirmation came that the towel needed to stay firmly within my grasp.

Discussion: Have you thought about taking the throwing towel plunge? Since you are reading this... odds are you haven't yet, or decided to keep going. What kept you going? Have you ever taken a "break"?


Miss Good on Paper said...

I can't imagine throwing in the towel on writing. I've been writing since I was 7, before I ever cared about publishing and plot lines. It's just part of who I am and what I do. Giving up isn't an option.

Congrats on landing your dream agent! I'd still be in celebration mode if I were you. =)

Sandra Stiles said...

I kept plugging away and praying abuot it. Several times self-publishing came to mind. Even when I made the decision to self publish I prayed about every step. It was funny because about a week after the decision while sitting with friends praying over the decision I got my agent who is now seeking a traditional publisher for my book and future books. I took a lot of flak for "giving in" to self publishing. Five years of reworking, etc. and this is where God led me. I'm glad he did and I'm glad I didn't give up.

Debra Chapoton, author said...

Congrats on getting your dream agent. I say no to giving up. I know God is in control and He is president of my marketing team. If He says "not yet" I'm fine with that. I'm only producing what He gives me - all to His glory. I realized a long time ago, in my day job, that whatever impact I was making on my students' lives was in His hands. You have the right attitude. Keep it up.

Joanne Sher said...

Your first point REALLY hit me. The difference between giving up and giving in is HUGE. I haven't really thought about throwing in the towel for more than a day or so. I'm a perseverer. And I haven't been at it that long anyway LOL.

Super post!

Stacy S. Jensen said...

I took a break from my memoir in progress while pregnant. I just couldn't write about some tragic events that happened to my late husband. Just couldn't do it. Then, moving put a kink in writing, but I'm reorganizing, working on some smaller projects and working my way back into the manuscript. I'm writing again, so that's been a great blessing.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Hey Krista,

Great post! And once again, Congratulations. I think for me it's gotten tricky b/c I keep getting a whole lotta somethings. The few times I've queried I get lots of bites and positive reaction. Even after my first novel I had an agent follow up with three emails (I was a ninny and biffed the technological side of things)...good thing, that novel wasn't ready.

Anyway, sometimes it's hard to be oh so close and continue to trust in God's timing.

I've been praying a lot lately about my course and it just keeps coming back to do I love it. And yes, I keep being reminded of my love of writing.

Thanks for the thoughts today!
~ Wendy

Pepper said...

Congrats again, Krista!
Soooo happy for you and Rachelle :-)

Now...about this 'throwing in the towel' thing.
Been there - more than once. And there have been times where I've had to 'give in' and focus on work, school, and family for a while, but God's always brought me back to writing.

I recently got a rejection from a fabulous agent. FABULOUS agent. Her words about my novels were pretty tough to hear, even to the point of discouraging me from finishing one or promoting another, so I sat back to reevaluate.

I realized that (for now) I am enjoying the journey with what I write - so I'm going to keep writing it until an editor tells me I need to modify. For now, I just LOVE the characters and stories I've created, and that love of them keeps me motivated.
For now...

And I love the journey (on most days). Sometimes it does feel very hard to juggle it all - but then there are those little nuggets of inspiration God sends to spur us on.
I love those.
Providentially designed agents of rescue (sometimes in the form of a wonderful friend, other times in the form of chocolate :-)

Angie Dicken said...

I have thought a lot about this. Being a stay-at-home mom the guilt factor enters on a daily basis--trying to balance this with the kids. It's hard to justify "an outlet" taking up so much time, but I hope it becomes more than that someday.
It's really hard to not depend on "this next query or contest" to be a make it or break it deal, indicate if I should throw in the towel...which I know is totally off, and I need to relax!

Pepper said...

I know it helps me to reprioritize everytime I get a rejection or hard critic.
Distract myself with things that matter even more than writing.

I guess it's that old addage of placing all ones eggs in one basket. If the basket breaks then all feels lost - but the great thing about most of our lives, is there is SO MUCH MORE.

I'm not trying to undervalue writing. It's super-important. I love it, but I love a lot of other things too (mostly people) a whole lot more than writing.

I think making sure that we have our eggs spread in different baskets helps a lot when we break one. We still feel the sting of loss, it still makes a mess, but we can recover because we still have other things to look forward to or find joy in.

Okay - sorry - too long :-)

JoAnne Potter said...

If we are really writers, I don't think it's possible to throw in the towel completely. Right now, I am in a holding pattern, waiting on God and reassessing my direction, working on my blog and establishing a network presence. Two projects have risen to the surface in the lull, like fish nipping at bugs on the surface of a still pool. They wait for me to begin at the right time. I feel the vigor rising. I am both excited and content.

Beth K. Vogt said...

Such an excellent post.
I don't think I will ever give up on writing. But I think sometimes I have to "give in" on the reality of certain projects being published (for now.) My agent and I had that discussion last year. We both loved the book idea (non-fiction) but while it got initial attention, it never got past the pub boards. So, my agent advised that we set it aside for now. We gave in. (For now.) Yes, I know I'm repeating myself.
Interesting thing: Giving in on that project led to my focusing on a fiction project and landing a contract.
Sometimes giving in is just refocusing our efforts.

Angie Dicken said...

Pepper...You are so right! It is easy to feel like writing is top most priority when it's so fulfilling to create characters and stories...but there is so much more that matters. We should focus not on the outcome, but the love of the craft, every part of it...even the parts that go unnoticed (edits, plotting, drafting...) I suddenly find myself anxious to finish, query, get on that road to publishing, and I am forgetting that I just love to write, and that I have nothing but time right now. So what is all the anxiety about?
Okay, so this is way off topic now...and I have some kiddos that need me! :)

Mary Vee Writer said...

Thanks for a very down to earth post.
For me, if my weekly family Bible Story blog didn't keep my butt in gear for writing, I might have thrown in the towel. I have this super group of nine friends on this blog, though, who have shined, and had sorrows. So good to have a group of friends walking the journey with you:)

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post, Krista.

That's what I love about the writers' community on here. There is so much support. We all know what each other are going through.

Yep. NEVER give up.

Rebecca A Emrich said...

I won't throw in teh towel but I have takena break, even a week to clear my head. I think that small breaks are important- but you need to come back.

Sarah Forgrave said...

I love what you said about giving up versus giving in. I don't think I'll ever stop writing, but I may redirect once in a while.

Happy weekend, everyone! :)

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Wonderful post, Krista, and so practical. I haven't been at this for very long, and God is giving me the opportunity to fulfill a dream I never thought would see the light of day. Yet, there have been times when I've considered throwing in the towel. For me, it usually comes when I see what writers further along the journey are writing and how far "behind" I am. Not an accurate perspective, and God has worked on this. :) I will move forward at His pace, not mine.
I, too loved the difference between giving up and giving in. The other point that spoke to me (because Oswald Chambers wrote a bit on this topic for this date) was not listening to everyone else. I do need to listen to, and obey, God's voice first.
Thanks for some great thoughts!

Krista Phillips said...

GREAT thoughts everyone! Thanks SO much for sharing!!!!

To clarify, I think when I wrote the post, I had specifically "writing for publication" in mind, vs just plain ol' writing.

A writer writes... regardless. Even if it is journaling, short-stories that will never see the light of day, or blogging.

But there is a difference in writing with publication in mind. It's more intense, more demanding of your time and energy if you will.

I LOVE that you all are persevering and not giving up!!! KUDOS to you!!!!!

Julie Musil said...

Holy cow, Rachelle Gardner? Congratulations! That is amazing!

You're so right about this...a lot of it is about attitude and patience, and learning along the way. If we're enjoying it, the temptation to quit will remain small.