On Giving Up: It’s Easy to Stop Writing Your Book, But Here’s Why You Shouldn’t

Don't give up and stop writing your bookAt some point in their writing journey, every writer feels like giving up. I certainly have. So has every other writer I’ve spoken to. But there’s a big difference between thinking about giving up and actually giving up. I hope today’s blog will encourage you to be the writer who doesn’t give up, no matter how hard it gets.

My Inner “I’m Not Good Enough, I’ll Never be Published” Voice

Let’s rewind a few years to 2008. I’d submitted my first book, What is Left Over, After to the Australian/Vogel Award. It had been long listed. But not shortlisted. And it certainly hadn’t won.

Then I submitted it to agents. At the time there were about 5 agents who were accepting unsolicited manuscripts. A couple of them asked to see the whole manuscript after reading the sample chapters. And a couple of them wrote me lovely letters, praising aspects of the book, but ultimately telling me they couldn’t take it on.

It was time to move on to publishers. This was before the programs that publishers have now set up to encourage unsolicited manuscripts, such as Pan MacMillan’s Manuscript Monday. Back then, it was just a case of reading the publisher’s guidelines for unsolicited manuscripts, some of which stated they wouldn’t accept them, and sending off your work. Again, a couple of publishers asked to see the full manuscript. They also wrote me lovely letters of praise, which ended in rejection.

At the same time as this was happening, I was writing If I Should Lose You, my second book. Every rejection felt like a message telling me to stop writing, that I wasn’t good enough, that it would never happen. But I wrote on regardless.

And this is the main message I want you to believe today. At some point in the writing process, every writer thinks they aren’t good enough. Every writer thinks their work is unpublishable rubbish that nobody will ever want to read. Occasionally, every writer thinks they should give up.

This can be a make or break point for writers. Many believe their inner voice. They do stop writing. They never finish their book.

Why you shouldn't give up writing your bookThe inner voice of gloom never goes away

What I want to say is that the inner voice of gloom will never go away. It will always be there, telling you to stop writing, that your work is laughable. Even after publishing two books and therefore knowing I can write work that is of a publishable standard, I still hear the inner voice of despair.

But you have to get over it. You have to accept that the voice is a part of writing and write on regardless. Think of it instead as your most powerful motivator. It’s the voice you have to beat. It’s what will make you try harder, write better, keep going, make your book perfect. Don’t be the writer who lets that voice stop them from writing.

“Don’t let the inner voice of doom make you stop writing. Make it your most powerful motivator instead.” Click to Tweet

Why You Shouldn’t Let Your Inner Voice Win

Nobody can write your book except you. If you don’t write it, you’re depriving the world of the wonderful story you have to tell. Why should the inner voice of gloom get away with that?

It shouldn’t. So make the voice work for you. Drown it out with words and sentences and chapters and paragraphs. Show it that you are better, stronger, tougher and that you’ll win in the end.

That’s what I do on those days when I hear the voice. And so far it’s worked. I hope it works for you too.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Do you have an inner voice of gloom? What does it say to you? How do you silence it? Have you ever come close to quitting? And does this advice help?

12 comments

  1. I hear that voice at least once a week. I’ve heard it a lot lately as I’ve been revising. It tells me that my character’s aren’t consistent, that the story doesn’t make sense, and I read things into other people’s comments (that hopefully aren’t there). It’s very hard to push these thoughts aside because as a writer you do have to look at your work with a critical eye—sometimes it’s hard to know just how critical to be! The thing that keeps me going is this story that I want to tell, and I can be pretty determined when I want to be. So I will make sure I get to the finish line, and tell the story to the best of my ability, and then see what happens …

  2. By the way—all your blog posts are great, but the last two have really resonated with me! Thank you 🙂

    • Thank you for letting me know Louise! It’s always good to know when things resonate with readers, otherwise sometimes it can feel like I’m just putting stuff out into an abyss.

  3. Lately, the voice of doom has been ever present in my mind during all things that I am doing. I am almost finished another draft of my book, and I know that this time around I have nowhere to hide. After this draft, I can’t say “Oh I’ll just tweak some more”- I have to send it out. And I am terrified! Thank you for this post though, I will keep it in mind as I go forward. the only way I will ever find out if I have what it takes is to try.

    • The voice of doom does tend to be at its most forceful when it’s nearly time to send work out, I think. Also, just after I’ve sent something out, it gets even louder! Stay strong, know you’ve done your very best and I always believe that good writing will find its place in the world. One of the very first students I was lucky enough to teach was one of the best writers I’ve ever seen. And I thought, surely his work will be published one day. His name is Sam Carmody and he just got shortlisted for The Vogel, which proved to me that yes, great work always finds a publisher. Yours will too.

  4. Glen Hunting

    Thanks for your candour in relation to your ups and downs, Natasha. And yes, congratulations to Sam Carmody (KonKS alumnus, no less. :))

    At the risk of sounding like yet another doom merchant, I must disagree with you: not all great work finds a publisher. A lot of great work goes unnoticed, for any number of reasons. And while this can be extremely disappointing and frustrating, I would like to think that, in a way, it isn’t the end of the world if this is what comes to pass. I would never dissuade anyone from writing if it was what they really wanted to do. But writers need to be mindful of their motivations and aspirations, and the relative importance of both. And anyone who wants to be picked up by a publisher should be as clear-sighted as possible (within the vagaries of both artistic appreciation and prevailing markets) about their ability and their prospects. The two don’t necessarily coincide. Sometimes it simply isn’t the right time – socially, politically, or economically – for a work of art to be appreciated. Joyce’s Dubliners springs to mind here. In that instance, it only took several years. Some people’s writing isn’t appreciated until after they’re dead. If at all.

    Of course, anyone can self-publish on the web nowadays. But here, again, I would urge people to work as hard as they can and be as informed they can about the quality of their work before going public with it. You’re only going to look like a complete Wally for all time if you put something out there that’s half-baked, and online readers will avoid your work in droves.

    I think prospective authors should hope for the best while being prepared (as best as they can) for the worst. I rather like idea of somebody turning out beautiful work in spite of its being consistently passed over; there’s something almost heroic about it. Sometimes these people never even submit their work to publishers, but leave them to their children or just leave them in their attics and basements, waiting to be embraced or burned after they’re gone. And I say all this while acknowledging that I am not so ‘heroic’ as this in my own process; nor do I mean to diminish the pain that rejection can inflict.

    • Hi Glen, haven’t seen you around here for a while, have been wondering where you were! As you probably suspected, I’m going to disagree with some of what you said. When I sent my first book out, all I did was hope. I didn’t prepare for the worst. No matter how many times I told myself that probably nothing would come of sending my book out, I secretly always hoped it would. I don’t know if it’s possible to have true equanimity about the outcome; I certainly didn’t!

      But I do agree with you about Sam, and I’d forgotten he was a fellow KonKer, so thanks for the reminder!

  5. Natasha, this post came at exactly the right time for me. I’m at the stage where I was almost willing to give up the novel, call off the whole PhD thing as a bad experiment, eat humble pie and crawl back to work! Then I went to my desk determined this morning to look for all the things wrong with my novel – and guess what, I figured out how its going to finish! For months I haven’t known, hoping it would just ‘happen’ ( and it didn’t) and there it was – almost all there. Now I have the motivation to write those 30,000 words that seemed impossible yesterday. And if I haven’t told you already, your novel, What is left over, after, is one of the most memorable novels I’ve read in the past couple of years, and the world would indeed be poorer without Serena and Gaelle. Thank you.

    • That is one of the nicest things I’ve read for a long time, thank you Rashida. I’m so glad you’ve had such a big breakthrough with your book. I, too, have had the same feelings you’ve had, and sometimes out of those feelings come wonderful revelations. Sometimes it takes way too long for those revelations to happen though! It would be great if we didn’t have to go through the pain first. Best of luck with your redraft, I hope you have more feelings of joy than of pain.

  6. Anne Jones

    Hi Natasha, thanks for this post. I’m playing around with writing my memoir and my voice of doom has been telling me lately that my story is boring, my writing is bad and I don’t enjoy writing anyway. This has led to very little writing being done. To counter the voice, I tell myself that I’m simply recording the story for as a history and also just for myself. After that I can see what comes of it. Thanks, Anne

    • That’s a great idea, Anne. Telling yourself that the story is just for you takes any judgement away about it being good or bad. And believe me, my inner voice also tells me that my writing is bad, but don’t let it make you believe that you don’t enjoy writing.

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