by Cathleen Armstrong
I met her the second day of the ACFW Conference when I sat down next to her at the lunch table.
“How’s your conference going?” I smiled at her as I opened my napkin.
This is conference-speak for, “How are you?” The usual answer is, “Great! How about you?” Not this lady.
“Not so good. In fact, I wonder why I even came.”
By the time the table filled and the iced-tea had been passed, I knew her story. She had worked so hard to finish the first three chapters of her first novel and brought them to show agents and publishers, sure she’d be returning home with contract in hand. It hadn’t happened.
“They couldn’t have been less interested! One did say I could benefit from some classes on craft, the others just said I’d have to finish it before they’d look at it. I don’t even want to finish it now. I just want to give up.”
Even if most of us can agree that three chapters into your first novel is a bit early to throw in the towel, we all, I think, have wondered at some point if it’s not useless to continue. Is there a time to just give up? And if so, when? Here are some thoughts:
• When your own agenda gets in the way, give up the agenda.
My new friend had come with a plan–get an agent and find a publisher. And it nearly derailed her dream of being a writer. Skip the agenda and write.
• When your self-imposed timeline runs out, give up the timeline.
I’ve heard it before: “If I don’t get a contract this time, I’m done.” Who said you’re done? Do you have something more important you have to do? Skip the timeline and write.
• When your perfect manuscript gets some constructive criticism by an industry professional, give up perfection.
This one can be hard to give up. No one likes being told their baby has funny ears. But maybe, just maybe, your masterpiece could be made even more wonderful! So, skip the attitude and write–or rewrite.
• When your friend gets the agent, or the contract, or the starred review, give up comparisons.
You’re happy for her; you really are. But you know how much longer and harder you’ve been working, and you just wish things came as easy for you as they seem to come for her. I know. But it’s time to skip the comparisons and write.
There are, indeed, a number of things to give up. And the best time to give them up is now. But if you noticed, none of them are writing. Someone outside yourself put that longing to write in your heart, and it’s not up to you to decide to give it up because it’s not following your schedule. Remember: God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. Romans 11:29
Though Cathleen Armstrong lives in Southern California, her roots go deep into Southwest where her series, A Place to Call Home, is set. She loves to write about people of faith living out successes and failures in the small fictional town of Last Chance, New Mexico.