When You Feel Like Giving Up

 By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

Have you ever felt like giving up?

I have. Lots of times.

In fact recently I had an excruciatingly busy week that made me wonder if the insanity was worth it. I'd just received some intense line edits with a short turn around deadline. At the same time, I had essays to read and tests to grade for a composition class that I teach. Plus I had real life demands–kids to taxi to activities, a doctor's appointment, a committee meeting, etc., etc., etc.

At one point during my week as I was running myself ragged with my line editing, I couldn't keep from burying my face into my hands, groaning, and saying, "Is all of this really worth it? Am I trying to do too much? Can I really handle all the pressure?"

Of course, I whined and complained only a few minutes before I picked myself up, shook off the gloom, and promptly got right back to work. I was honestly just too busy to have a pity-party. But the experience did force me to take stock in what I'm doing and why.

Sometimes when we feel like giving up, it helps to remind ourselves of the following 4 things:

1. Remind ourselves of the truth.

There will be plenty of times when our emotions will try to rise up and take control. We may feel like giving up for any number of reasons. Because we're discouraged that the process is taking so long or is much harder than we thought it would be. Because we're overwhelmed with juggling writing and life (like I was!). Because we get too much negative feedback and never enough positive. Because we aren't making the kind of money that we'd hoped for.

Whatever our situation, it's all too easy to allow our feelings of discouragement to take over. We wallow in the despair and let it weigh us down until we're immobile, sometimes to the point of not being able to write.

When we hit those low points, we have to remind ourselves of the truth of why we write, the truth that we're story-tellers, that we're in love with the written word, that writing, like breathing, is part of us that we can't do without lest we shrivel and die.

2. Resist making decisions when discouraged.

I always tell my kids we should try not to make big decisions or resolve a huge problem right before we go to bed. Why? Well, because usually by that point in our day we're too tired and emotional to see things objectively. It's best to get a good night's sleep, give ourselves some perspective, and then come at the decision again when we're fresh.

And the same is true with our writing decisions. When we're faced with burnout, discouragement, or even overwhelmed by all of the juggling, we shouldn't make a decision to throw in the towel at our low point. Instead we should wait until we've had the chance to take a short break, take a deep breath, and gain some fresh insights.

3. Re-evaluate our goals.

There are times when we may need to do more than just get a good night's sleep. There are times when the pressure, weariness, and responsibilities may require us to re-evaluate our goals and perhaps make some changes to what we're doing.

Maybe that won't mean that we give up writing altogether. But perhaps we'll have to seriously consider whether we're in a season of life where we're ready for the demands of being a published author. Perhaps for a time, we'll have to consider the possibility that we need to take the pressure of publication off ourselves and simply write for the joy of it. In fact, there may even be times when we need an extended break from writing.

After the birth of my twin daughters, I took a seven year hiatus from writing. I didn't write a single word in all that time. Now in hindsight, I have no regrets about giving myself that time off. I can see that it rejuvenated and matured me, so that when I finally picked up the pen again, I was much more dauntless and prepared for the job.

4. Rejuvenate. 

One of the things that keeps me going through the especially discouraging times, is that I continue to nurture my story-telling nature. I feed it in countless ways, but mostly by reading. Somehow in the process of reading the stories of others, I keep my own love of story-telling alive and thriving.

I listen to a lot of audio books, try new authors, read a wide spectrum of genres, and through it all, allow myself to revel in stories. As a historical writer, I take special pleasure in reading biographies and other historical books which spark my imagination. When I read something fascinating or come across a character that grabs me, I can't keep from wondering what "really happened."

The rejuvenation helps me then to go back to my own writing with fresh energy and enthusiasm.

What about YOU? Do you ever feel like giving up? How do you keep yourself going?


  1. Jody, no question I've been there (as, I suspect, have many authors). The step you've mentioned that resonates most with me is #3, re-evaluate our goals. Oh, not just are we writing because we feel we have a story to tell or are doing God's will (both perfectly good and laudable reasons)--but what would we do with the time we currently spend writing if we gave it up? We all go through these times. Thanks for letting us know we're not alone.

    1. Hi Richard,
      We all definitely go through those times of questioning whether we need to take a break or keep going. And I think that's a great question to ask: What would we do in the time we currently spend writing if we gave it up? Perhaps it would be filled with taking care of an aging loved one or a sick child or or taking on a new job. I guess another question to ask is whether writing is bringing unneeded stress to our lives or if it provides a break from the demands of life. As a published author, sometimes it's a mixture of both for me! :-)

  2. Jody, of course there are those who go into writing thinking it leads to a life of ease, and end up discovering that once they're published the dance just gets faster. But, as I've said more than once, it keeps me off the streets and out of pool halls.

  3. Thanks for the post. It makes you think back as to why we do these things instead of focusing on the problems that we are currently having. I also find a lot of inspiration from reading other author's books and stories.

  4. This post has so much wisdom and comfort. Thank you for writing it so eloquently and best wishes for your projects!

  5. I have been there!! I love your advice about sleeping on it. It's true--I'm in no condition to make decisions at night. And reading is my favorite, so I work hard to make time to read often!

  6. Soooo needed to read this today! Thanks for the encouragement, Jody!

  7. Great post! What an encouragement. Every time I receive a negative comment about my writing, no matter how kindly it is spoken, I start procrastinating again. As a homeschool mom who also teaches classes at a homeschool co-op, I can so relate to the things that made you so busy that you wondered whether it was all worth it. I appreciate your sharing this and showing that you have days like this too.

  8. I have thought about giving up at various points. (In particular when my publisher and I parted ways). I never do, though, because just thinking about it reminds me that I don't really want to stop writing.

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