Knowing When to Abandon a Project

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Something that I feel is extremely important but difficult, is to know when to abandon your work. Knowing when to give up on your current project and move on. Giving up is often seen as a failure, a weakness. Something that you do when you don’t want to work harder, when you are looking for an easy way out.

But is this true? I would argue it depends on the how and the why. Giving up completely is not good, a full stop will never take you anywhere. However, giving up and taking what you’ve learnt and moving on. That is valuable and essential.

I’ve heard numerous times that the only way to fail in writing is to stop. To give up on the dream and move on. Instead, you have to just keep going, keep writing. To persist against all the odds.

However, hanging onto projects that aren’t working is not a virtue. It is the wrong kind of persistence. In my writing journey, I’ve given up on three novels, abandoned them completely. I finished them, edited them as best I could, then moved on when I found their quality lacking. I left each one behind and moved on. I couldn’t make them as good as I wanted so I had to let them go.

It wasn’t easy, there was pain each time. All that work, all the hours of effort poured into those pages. All gone. For what? Nothing tangible, no books sold, no money made. How could it not feel like a failure? It did, each time.

Yet after the sting lessened, I could see the silver lining in them. The mistakes made and the lessons learnt from them. The failure made me stronger, a better writer. It was not something that I should fear but something I should embrace when it happens. Who knows what would have happened if I’d clung on instead, stuck in an endless cycle of rewrites and revisions.

You can follow my writing adventure on twitter @James Bee

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