The Two Most Important Words For Writers

You’re going to hear a lot of advice as a writer.

Good advice is all over the internet (especially here, in my humble opinion). Bookshelves groan with the weight of “how-to” compendiums. Your inbox and mine overflow with great articles on how to achieve your writing dream.

important words

Two Essential Words for Writers

That is all excellent, but today, I’m giving you the only two words that matter: beyond all advice, beyond all classes, beyond all books and blogs, DON’T QUIT.

Don’t Quit (Even When Nobody Else “Gets” It)

You can only truly fail if you quit, so keep writing!
—Bryan Hutchinson

It’s easy to say “don’t quit.” It’s harder to follow through in real life.

  • When your trusted friend hears your story idea and tells you it’s not good, don’t quit.
  • When you get the fifth (or fiftieth or five-hundredth) rejection from an agent, don’t quit.
  • When your story doesn’t even place in that contest, don’t quit.

Your story idea is like a seed—and sometimes, you’re the only one who can imagine the future tree. This is normal. This is also one of the most painful phases of creation. During the period of time when no one else can understand what you’re doing, it’s absolutely essential not to give up. Your story-seed needs time to grow.

Don’t Quit (Even When It’s Harder Than You Thought)

Keep moving forward.
—Walt Disney

  • When finishing that book takes longer than you hoped, don’t quit.
  • When you realize you have more to learn than you ever dreamed, don’t quit.
  • When literary agents or editors tell you your idea isn’t ready for publication, don’t quit.

Writing takes time.

 How hard can it be to write your story? As it turns out, very hard—but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the struggle.

You’ll run into roadblocks, look back on older writing with some embarrassment (and hopefully a good sense of humor), and struggle to incorporate new techniques. This is normal. There’s a learning curve for anything worth doing, and writing definitely falls into that category.

Don’t Quit (Even When It Seems Impossible)

Don’t quit. It’s very easy to quit during the first 10 years. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.
― Andre Dubus

  • When you feel like you’re writing in a vacuum and no one cares, don’t quit.
  • When you feel like your career as a writer will never be what you wanted, don’t quit.
  • When you feel like it’s hopeless, a pit with no bottom, a road with no end, DON’T QUIT.

You’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to get lost in the writing labyrinth and struggle to find your way out (and probably have to fight the Doubt-Minotaur to manage it). You will hit writer’s block. You will run out of steam. You will have days where every single word you’ve ever written looks like complete drivel to you. This is normal. As the old saying states, when you’re going through hell, keep going. In times of excruciating doubt, it is more important than ever that you keep going.

(One Last Time) The Two Most Important Words for Writers: DON’T QUIT

Fellow writer, don’t quit.

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying ‘I will try again tomorrow.’
—Mary Anne Radmacher

Fellow struggler, fellow word-wrangler, don’t quit.

Fall seven times and stand up eight.
—Japanese Proverb

Writing is worth the struggle. You can do this. Don’t quit.

Have you ever felt like quitting as a writer? Let us know in the comments.

PRACTICE

I have a slightly different homework assignment for you today. Take the usual fifteen minutes and go toe-to-toe with the last writing project you either quit or wanted to quit. Was it because someone doubted you? Because it was a bigger project than you thought? Whatever the reason was, write about it in the comments and take the vow right now with me: I won’t quit. You can do this. Don’t forget to leave encouragement for other writers!

About Ruthanne Reid

Sci-fi/fantasy author Ruthanne Reid currently lives in Phoenix, Arizona, though some say she really lives in her head. They'd be right. To see what she's all about (and snag free books), visit RuthanneReid.com or follow her on Twitter (@RuthanneReid).

  • Great post! I gave a talk about blogging last week and I shared that simply not giving up can be so powerful. I’ve been blogging at SouthernBelleSimple.com since 2009 and I refuse to quit. Even through periods of less frequent writing, I have not given up on my dream. Thanks for sharing this Ruthanne!

    • Margaret Stephens

      Great post.
      Though it also makes me wonder: if all of us keep on all the time, WHO is going to read all these books? That’s a bit worrisome…..

      • rosie

        Well, quitting is certainly the easier path, so the majority of people choose that. The rare ones who don’t–well, they’re the ones who shine! Did you know Walt Disney’s employers said he had no imagination? But he didn’t quit. He would’ve never honed his craft if he quit, and his movies wouldn’t be any good, so then of course no-one would watch them! So if you don’t quit, you’ll eventually get better and better at your craft, and people will definitely want to read what you have to say.

        • Margaret Stephens

          Thanks, Rosie! Good words. I didn’t know that about Walt. It’s just that sometimes I feel like there are SO Many Writers, does the world need one more book? (that’s on my worst days!)

        • YES! It blows me away how every “overnight sensation” usually comes after 20 years of hard work. 😉

      • ShirleyAnn Gaines

        Margaret, in my experience, writers read.

      • Readers do, Margaret – as well as people who just love good writing. I know quite a few of those!

    • Thanks, Kate! I love that we’re on the same wavelength. Keep going!

  • B. Gladstone

    Thanks for the motivation! “I won’t quit!” is a writer’s greatest affirmation!

    • Agreed! Keep writing! Keep learning! You can do this. 🙂

  • Deb Palmer

    Thanks…. I needed that two word cheer this morning.

  • Jean

    Just what I needed. Thanks

  • strictlynoelephant

    2 = Go write.
    2 = Stop thinking.
    2 = Now! Here!

  • joncarllewis

    I keep thinking my story is falling apart, but then I sleep on it and the next day things seem to have worked themselves out. Keep going. Don’t quit!

    • Amen, Jon! That’s how it works! I’m so glad your brain is on your side. 🙂

  • nancy

    I was just about to throw out the pen, dim the computer, chuck the keyboard. But now you say 10 years. Wow. I have three years left. A reason to go on.

    • nancy dont do that, cuz its when you have “tossed out “those things your brain will come up with the best idea that will cause your piece to fly,

    • You can do this, Nancy. In fact, it may take you more than 10 years – but that’s also normal.

      Take a look at this video: https://youtu.be/0t8wxLkIhoQ It takes an average of 12 years for us to start creating things at the level we really need. You’re on track! Don’t give up now!

      • nancy

        Thank you so much. This video is great. And it makes me think of all those actors who don’t even make it until they’re in their 50s or 60s. They hang in for way more than 10 years.

  • Gary G Little

    Oh woe is me! (beating of breast, pouring of ashes upon my head) I received my second rejection. They did not think my precious was worthy. Ah my precious! (beating of breasts, more ass pouring … That should have been ash, but, can’t go back and correct cuz the fifteen minutes ain’t up) Those Philistines! Those barbarians! Those nasty NAZI’s how dare they reject my precious! Oh woe oh woe is me.

    Ok, so fine screw’ em. I’ll find some one else to send it to. What’d they say, already published stories like it? Yeah right, but did they bother to proof read the schlock they call publish? Missing commas, missing adjectives, runon sentences, stuff TheWritePractice fixes every day of the week. Won’t say precious was perfect, but really? After the crap I’ve read that they have “published” I’d really be embarrassed to see precious published by them.

    Screw’m.

    • I like this comment. The moment I read the word ‘precious’, I immediately pictured Smiggles (correct spelling?) from Lord of the Rings pouring ash on himself and beating his chest.

      • ShirleyAnn Gaines

        Smiggles is good. I like it as in “to smiggle”. My darned spellchecker wants to correct my spelling.

        • I think this one should be added to the local dictionary. 😉

      • Haha!

    • Haha! Screw ’em, indeed! Someone else will want what you have. You don’t really want to be in a place that doesn’t “get” what you’re writing, anyway. 🙂

  • lilmisswriter17

    I’ve been struggling with my writing lately and this helped me push myself to keep going.

    • ShirleyAnn Gaines

      How did it help?

      • lilmisswriter17

        Well, I’ve been writing a story for almost five years now and over that time I’ve changed it, second guessed myself, and have put it to the side for long periods of time. Reading this helped me see that I shouldn’t stop until I’m satisfied with the finished product and I shouldn’t let my doubts get in the way.

        • YES!!! That’s right!

          It can take YEARS to finish a good story. Don’t let that get you down! In the meantime, write other things. Read lots of good stuff. And remember that many of the great stories in our world took a long time to complete. You’re in good company!

    • I’m so happy to hear that!!!

  • Elaine

    I have been keeping a journal for 25 years; I have also written some poetry. A few weeks ago I started writing, and started a writing practice. I’m not sure where I’m headed but I’m enjoying the journey. This site has been very helpful. I found this to be very wise advice. Thank you.

    • Elaine, that’s great! I’m so glad this is helping you. It’s a very special time when you’re just starting your writing journey; I’m so happy for you. 🙂

      • Elaine

        Thank you Ruthanne.

  • ShirleyAnn Gaines

    I didn’t quit. I took a break. That’s what it was. Now I get to start all over again. In the past, poetry was what I thought I wrote. I did. I wrote poetry. Quite a few pieces got published in well respected journals and publications. No manuscript was accepted. Recently, The California Quarterly accepted a poem written from a childhood memory: a five year old, bored beyond the beyonds of what her dad thought was a wonderful “learning”experience. Instead, she has her own experience. I liked it. It felt good. I’m ready to try something different, something else. Poems are a hard sell. I don’t know what the new something is, but, I’d be willing to bet on some good ideas right here.

    • We all need breaks, ShirleyAnn! I absolutely love that you found your voice through poetry for a time.

      My manuscripts have been rejected, too, many, many times over. Keep going. Don’t give up. You can do this!

  • Thanks, R.R… “Don’t quit” turns out to be the battle cry of every good protagonist. So what does that make us, the writers who refuse to quit? Yes, heroes. I’m working on a novel that’s been over ten years in the making. I wish I felt more like a hero than I do. But I’m not quitting.

    • HEROES! I love it, PJ!

      You know, you probably do feel like a hero. After all, heroes rarely know that’s what they are. They feel the struggle; they weigh the costs. They carry the burden of whatever they’re trying to accomplish. It’s only after, from an outside point of view, that their courage becomes clear.

      You are a hero. Keep writing!

  • kathunsworth

    Thank you Ruthanne I am beginning to see through the doubt. After each critique or feedback. I learn and move onwards. I am becoming numb to the writing topics that use a number. (as did this one) I know it works, but I now glaze over titles in my inbox starting with….. Ten ways to blah blah blah. There will be a new style I imagine coming soon because we have read them all. I now only read a few writing blogs otherwise the learning slows when I think to much about it all. Enjoyed this post and will always read posts from this site no matter the title because it always delivers great content like yours.
    Kath

    • Kath, you are so, So welcome. I tend to glaze over after a while, too – there’s so much really good advice out there that it starts feeling less effective!

      But in the end, I really believe it comes down to that determination not to quit. I’m so glad you’ve found this helpful!! Keep writing!

  • Oh là là So true. i will not quit because if I’m doing, I lost the very thing that gives a goal to my next 10 years. Life is short ! Thanks so much !

    • Life is short, Annie! I’m going to share a video with you that REALLY helped me when I realized this would take much longer than I thought.

      https://youtu.be/0t8wxLkIhoQ which shows it takes an average of 12 years to “make” it.

      Keep going!!!

      • Thanks, I’m going to watch your video as soon as possible, See you

  • The story I’m working on already has 3 drafts to it and its not even half way done It has 3 drafts because these drafts didn’t sound right so i started over. Now I’m encouraged to finish it.

    • You can do it, Debra! Don’t even ask me how many drafts my current WIP has. 🙂 All that means is you’re growing as a writer while you’re writing it, almost like a little kid who outgrows his pants a month after his mom bought them.

      He’s not failing. He’s outgrowing them. That’s a good problem to have!

  • Ryan

    Beautiful post. Thanks! I think that this factor of perseverance is what makes a true writer…

  • Vincent

    Good Post. 🙂

  • Brad Thrasher

    Can’t let set-backs hold me down. Stupidly, I’m guily of it. Before my stroke, I was putting out 1000+ words each day, during the NHL season and playoffs. The new BackCheck’s Blog will publish before the playoffs begin. Thank-you Ruthanne and everyone else sharing here.

    • Brad, thank you for sharing this. it can be especially hard to write when, on top of all the writer’s doubts and writer’s struggles, we ALSO have to deal with medical issues or other problems of great stress.

      I’m so proud of you for not giving up. I know it’s a much slower and more frustrating process than anything you’ve done before, with no guarantee it’ll ever be the way it was.

      It’s STILL worth it.

      Keep going. Keep pushing through. It makes every word you type worth that much more.

  • Nathasha Xavier

    I’m guilty of not believing in myself. Especially when not getting any recognization but I won’t quit no matter how hard it is

    • Nathasha, it’s SO hard when no one gives you the encouragement you need. It’s very, very easy to lose confidence in yourself, assuming you even had any.

      if you’re driven to be a writer, if you have that burning passion in you, then you are SUPPOSED to do it. You can make it happen. It’s going to take a long time, but it will be worth the struggle – and you’ll be able to know you earned every word.

      I’m proud of you. Don’t quit!

  • Victoria Minks

    The most recent project I’ve been struggling with is a historical novel. I’ve been working on it for the past three years, it’s on its third rewrite, and I’m stuck at the beginning of the current rewrite wondering where it’s supposed to go and how to capture all the beauty that’s in my head down on paper! I’m not giving up on it, but I am a wee bit frustrated and I’m probably going to let it simmer in my brain some more while I finish other projects. I fight and feel and create fancies with a pen… Can’t quit!

    • *hug* I know this is an accidental second comment, but I still want to cheer you on! You can do this!

  • Victoria

    The most recent project I’ve been struggling with is a historical novel. I’ve been working on it for the past three years, it’s on its third rewrite, and I’m stuck at the beginning of the current rewrite wondering where it’s supposed to go and how to capture all the beauty that’s in my head down on paper! I’m not giving up on it, but I am a wee bit frustrated and I’m probably going to let it simmer in my brain some more while I finish other projects. I fight and feel and create fancies with a pen… Can’t quit!
    http://www.victoriaminks.com

    • I hear you, Victoria! Sometimes, the best thing to do is put a book aside while you work on another one. That’s not quitting. 🙂 That’s like saying you’ll work on your arms instead of your legs at the gym, just giving those muscles a break.

      Keep going! Do other things. That project will be waiting for you when you’re ready to pick it up again.

    • Usually getting to the end helps with rewriting the beginning. Read the beginnings and endings of your favorite novels. You will find the protagonist often is in a very similar environment, but is a very different person.
      What I’m having trouble with now, for my 2nd novel, the prequel, is figuring out what is the Inciting Incident. Since it was originally part of my debut novel, it’s missing that. And without the Inciting Incident, all these little side trips my protagonist takes are not worthwhile. I will keep at it though. I did it once. I can do it again!
      Sherrie Miranda’s historically based, coming of age, Adventure novel “Secrets & Lies in El Salvador” is about an American girl in war-torn El Salvador:
      http://tinyurl.com/klxbt4y
      Her husband made a video for her novel. He wrote the song too:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P11Ch5chkAc

  • I quit for about ten years. I found I had to write. It’s what I am. You are 100% correct here. Sometimes you have to recommit each day. I was expecting the famous quote from Henry Ford, “Wether you think you can or you think you can’t, you are correct.”

    • Cynthia, I find I have to recommit every day, too! You’re not alone.

      That’s a great quote, too. Thanks for sharing it.

      I’m so glad you’re writing again. Ten years is a long time to avoid something you need to do and love! I”m so, so happy you’re back on the road.

      • Actually, it was more like 5 years. From about 18 to about 25 when I was the “manager” of my best friends rock band. I did write during this time, but only for myself. My rockstar friend up and moved to California with her boyfriend leaving my high and dry. Oddly enough, a bad break-up and a little gray cat brought me back to writing professionally. It’s been over 20 years. My friend doesn’t sing anymore, has lived back her hometown for over 20 years and works as a secretary. I’m still writing.

        • WOW! You know, the way you got back into writing sounds like a story in itself!

          I’m so, SO glad you’re still writing. It’s difficult when your creativity gets hijacked; it needs to be protected, and that’s something we all have to learn one day at a time. Keep writing!

  • Jhean Moico

    I quit every now and then. I find myself just staring in the screen of my computer thinking, ‘where is this story going? where’s the plot here?’ but then again I don’t really find myself doing the plotting and thinking it through before writing. I like to surprise myself where I am going which led nowhere.

    However, despite that, I will still find myself writing eventually.

    Fellow writers, LET’S NOT QUIT!

    • Absolutely, Jhean! No quitting is gonna be the key in the long run. It doesn’t sound like you’re quitting to me, actually. 🙂 Resuming writing is the opposite of quitting!

  • Caroline

    I was taking a course recently and one day the instructor had each of us read what we had read. For each person before me she gave kind criticism, praise, sometimes gushy, and encouragement. After I read my piece she told me my writing was boring. I know the piece wasn’t my best or even my usual, but it had value because it was challenging and I’d met her criteria and I’d written it. I quit the next day. In an email to me she claimed my writing was fine and I should not be intimidated by the other’s work. She missed my point. I was not; I was hurt and angry at her disregard for my feelings and inability to provide a balanced critique. I still write, and write with other writing groups and another teacher, but I’m hesitant to share in some situations now.

    • Oh, Caroline, that’s so painful. What an utterly terrible experience.

      I’m so sorry you went through this. I COMPLETELY understand being hesitant about sharing your work; in fact, I think it’s wise to be careful who we share our work with at all until it’s actually ready to publish. It can be fragile otherwise.

      I can’t tell you how proud I am of you that you’re still writing, even with such an experience. Keep going. Other people WILL “get” what you’re doing. Thank you for being willing to write about this!

    • KatSteve

      Write something better. Write your heart out!

    • Caroline, as a teacher, I have always been aware that there were people out there like that! In high school, I had a teacher who just put big red Fs on most of our papers. He had no time for those of us that weren’t at his level. I guess that’s why I became a teacher: so others wouldn’t go through the same experience I had.
      I always gave my students to grades: content/mechanics. And they could keep rewriting as many times as they wanted (though most didn’t).
      In my MFA program, the professor sent me a private e-mail saying I need to critique students’ writing, not just give them praise. it was hard for me, but eventually I learned to ask questions and say “Tell me more about this.” But I never said words like “boring,” “bad,” etc.
      That professor was a bad one. I’m glad you left the class.
      Might I suggest starting a writer’s group at your local library? that’s what I finally did and we now do presentations as well as critiques. We have an artist who joined us, and a musician! It’s going wonderfully!
      Sherrie Miranda’s historically based, coming of age, Adventure novel “Secrets & Lies in El Salvador” is about an American girl in war-torn El Salvador:
      http://tinyurl.com/klxbt4y
      Her husband made a video for her novel. He wrote the song too:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P11Ch5chkAc

      • That’s awesome, Sherrie! What a great way to approach it: you didn’t find a group, so you MADE one. Go you!

  • That IS that! Woohoo! Go, LaCresha!

  • Maria Bouka

    You must have been reading my mind…..Thank you!!!!

  • Rhonda Flack

    All the time but then I see the desk, my pen, and the fresh page and I sit down and think five more minutes won’t hurt – an hour later I realize how much I’ve done and the heavy feeling has left

    • Rhonda, this lifted my spirits to read. 🙂 I know that feeling all too well, and it is exhilarating!

      • Rhonda Flack

        Thank you that’s made my day, we all need that excitement

  • George McNeese

    I’ve felt like quitting on more than one occasion. When I first started writing, I got bashed for different areas of my work. There was one story in particular that got totally thrashed. It discouraged me writing and I feared I would never get my degree. And then, there were times when I wouldn’t write for months at a time. I thought writing wasn’t the thing for me because I wasn’t writing every day, or because I wasn’t doing anything with my degree.

    Oh, yeah. There were times I wanted to quit. But thankfully, my wife encouraged me to write because she heard how much I wanted to write. She’s my biggest critic and biggest supporter. I probably wouldn’t be writing right now if it wasn’t for her.

    Nowadays, though, I struggle with feeling like I’m a writer because I don’t have ideas for a novel. But I have friends that encourage me to not give up; that the idea will come when the universe feels I’m ready to write it. In the meantime, I’ll write my blog posts and short stories. Maybe an idea will be born from them.

    • George, the fact that you can jump back in and keep writing in spite of awful experiences like that are REALLY important. I’m so glad you have support in her!

      Keep writing. It’s worth all the pain and all the effort.

      It’s okay not to have ideas for a novel. After all, Ray Bradbury made his name with his short stories; the novels came later. 🙂

  • KatSteve

    I have been working on a story for a lot longer than I want to admit. During this time I realized I had to learn a lot! I stopped writing, went school and got a degree in design, lost a job, got a new one, and all that time I could not stop thinking about my story.! I WILL write it, but now treat it like game. Some days I read, some days I wrote. Some of the things I write have nothing to do with my story, but i believe that if I am not writing for the joy of it, if it is not playful, then I shouldn’t be writing. Writing from that attitude has gotten me back on track with my story and sparked some story lines that really interest and excite me. I wish i could write full time!

    • Kat, I did the same. It took 30 plus years to get my story out there. I went back to school for my MFA in Creative Writing and still could only start writing this story when it was time to write and turn in my thesis.
      But it was worth every second!
      Sherrie Miranda’s historically based, coming of age, Adventure novel “Secrets & Lies in El Salvador” is about an American girl in war-torn El Salvador:
      http://tinyurl.com/klxbt4y
      Her husband made a video for her novel. He wrote the song too:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P11Ch5chkAc

      • KatSteve

        I put your book on my reading list. Thanks for your response. It is taking me sooo long to make any progress with my writng, but after readng this, I realize that I should just take my time and let it happen in its own time without stressing over the progressing or feeling guilty that I have not written as much as I think I should be.

        • I’m determined

          To take my time and let it happen? As in, not to pressure myself, to push, to force myself to have my novel completed already? I’m thinking you have something here. Thank you.

    • Yes, Kat, You WILL write it! I’m so happy for you that you’ve gotten back on the horse.

      You can do this. Real life does get in the way, I know all too well; but you absolutely can do this. Don’t quit and keep writing!

      • KatSteve

        Thank you! I will!

  • Tatia Miller

    Thank you

  • saadia

    Thanks a lot good idea

  • Yes I can! I did it once, but for some crazy reason, I thought it would be easier the 2nd time! 😉 <3
    Sherrie Miranda's historically based, coming of age, Adventure novel “Secrets & Lies in El Salvador” is about an American girl in war-torn El Salvador:
    http://tinyurl.com/klxbt4y
    Her husband made a video for her novel. He wrote the song too:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P11Ch5chkAc

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  • Ai-tama

    I’ve had this story brewing in the back of my mind for ages about a teenage girl whose best friend protects humanity by fighting demons. It seems so embarrassingly juvenile and extremely “anime” that I abandoned the project a while ago because I believed no one would take it seriously. (I am actually a pretty big fan of anime and manga, but that’s not the point.)
    But after reading this post, I realize that a lot of great books probably started as an idea so nerdy that their writers thought no one would take them seriously. With this new view on “never giving up,” I will pick up the project and maybe start drafting it. Thanks for the wonderful and eye-opening advice. <3

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  • sabah allami

    Hi Ruthanne,
    My name is Sabah Allami. 65 years old. I am journalist in Arabic language. I live in Canada . My great hope is to write in Englsih. I couldn’t forget this target in despite of feeling frustrated for many times!. I don’t know where I choose you to talk about that. Hopefully, you discover something important.
    Have a nice time.