When Giving Up isn’t Giving Up

I often talk about my stubbornness, it’s been a strong part of my personality since I was quite little.  And it comes into play in many ways.  For instance if I commit to doing something then I have a very hard time letting it go.  Even if that thing I’ve committed to is clearly not working for me.  I find myself thinking of it as “quitting.”  I question if I am perhaps simply being lazy, not pushing myself to my full potential.

But giving up on something, or stopping work on it, isn’t always a bad thing.  There are many applications of this in life — but for the sake of this post I am thinking particularly about writing.

 Sometimes you have to let go of a project in order to make room for another, as a matter of prioritizing.  I encountered this recently with the decision to stop active updates on Disparate Threads.  The story was taking all of my attention, and all of my energy.  Which meant I was putting all my efforts into what was supposed to be a fun side project, and getting nowhere on my novel.

At first I tried to just adjust my schedule, to update with less frequency, but it was still taking all my energy and I found myself running into my deadlines.  I kept thinking, “If I just get a few months ahead, then I can focus on editing the novel.”

I’ve been saying that to myself since December and the editing progress on the novel had been very slow.  In a race, it would have been outpaced by a snail.  A few times.

So I had to let something go, and since the novel is where I really want my focus to be, it was Disparate Threads that needed to be placed aside.  Though I fully intend to return to it, to update again (with more polished updates, a revised beginning, and more consistent characters), it still felt an awful lot like giving up.

In the weeks since I made the decision, though, I’ve found myself making great progress on the novel.  Being able to really focus and think about it.  As many friends reassured me when I made the decision, I am simply refocusing my energy.  I am not giving up.  This does not make me a “quitter.”  There is nothing wrong with shelving a project that simply isn’t working.

Have you ever faced a moment of decision like that?


This is my monthly post as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a IWSG badgegreat group of supportive writers, helping one another through our writing ups-and-downs.
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29 thoughts on “When Giving Up isn’t Giving Up”

  1. All the time. First, I’m totally with you. My mom always said I was stubborn. I told her I was determined. =) Truth is, we have to prioritize everything in our lives, from eating to sleeping to family to writing time and beyond. Why should it seem odd we’d have to do the same thing with our writerly projects? I find it nice, knowing I have a work I love just waiting the wings when there is time. =)

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  2. I think of this as setting aside projects. What I’ve heard a lot from writers, and experienced myself, is the more books you write, the more you learn. Sometimes a new manuscript opens up a lot of opportunities you might have been held back from making while revising the other.

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    1. Most certainly! And I have files (and piles) of “return to later” writing projects, seeds and starts for novels. What made this one stand out more was I had been posting it online as I went. So stopping and switching my focus had an underlying feel of giving up in the “public” eye (not that it was widely read, but I had a few readers… most of whom have been awesome and supportive!)

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  3. I’m in the same mind set. If I take on a project, not only do I have to see it through, but I give it my all. Even when it’s clear I shouldn’t. It’s actually quite an annoying habit, isn’t it? Good luck with your novel!

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    1. I’m trying to remind myself of that.. especially since both the novel and the blog-story started as NaNoWriMo projects YEARS ago…. they sat a time and came back stronger once, no reason one of them won’t benefit from a bit more sitting.
      I suddenly want to make a wine comparison. Some projects are like whites and are better to enjoy soon, others are reds and get better with age.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I wouldn’t consider it quitting at all. Just prioritizing. The story will still be there when you get back to it. And sometimes a change of pace is just what you need to spark new creativity. Good luck with your novel!

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    1. Thanks! That’s exactly how I’ve been trying to redefine it for myself. It does help that the novel is definitely benefiting from the decision — not only am I making great progress, but I’m being able to delve deeper into the characters (which will help make it SO much better!)

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  5. I think it’s hard to let some things go, but as other people have already said, it’s not really quitting. You just need to do what you gotta for now–and that’s prioritizing your novel. Juggling a lot of things can be hard and sometimes, we have to make tough decisions. Good luck with the novel!

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  6. I am so much like that. I have a VERY hard time quitting. I find what works best is to work out a “new plan” and sometimes that plan prioritizes other things over the top (or changes my measurement parameters so something else can be considered “done”, but yeah… I have a very hard time totally letting go.

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  7. Yes, I’m stubborn to to a fault (and I mean that literally). I can’t let go of a project until it’s complete even when I know I’m on the wrong track. I keep telling myself all I have to do is finish, and I’ll fix it in the edits—even when I know it’s not true.

    VR Barkowski

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    1. Yes… I’ve been learning how important it is to let go… or re-frame what I’m doing so it doesn’t seem like letting go. Turning my stubbornness into something that can help me.. somehow…

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  8. I don’t think it’s quitting at all. You still have the project and didn’t delete it, so like you said, you can come back to it sometime in the future.

    ~Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine (Cohost for June)~
    Story Dam
    Patricia Lynne, Indie Author

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  9. I think you are prioritizing and focusing on what is important. That is not quitting, eclectically. Good luck with your novel!

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  10. OMG. I think we were separated at birth. I struggle with this. I’m harder on myself than anyone else ever could be. And often it’s all about the fact that I said I would, even if everything around the promise changes. Thanks for the reminder to think about the bigger picture.

    My IWSG Post

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  11. I usually get to the end of the first draft of something before I shelve it, or rather leave it in the bottom drawer. In some cases this is more like gathering mold than marinading. But as some wiser people here have said, some of the elements can live on elsewhere. Time I re-thought what I’m doing. Thank you.

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    1. Hehe, I totally get that marinading-or-gathering-mildew distinction. I’ve found amazing things in some of the work that I’ve put aside, but sometimes it just needs to be let go nearly completely — but there is always the possibility that SOMETHING can be put to use.

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