How to Know When to Stop Writing

At one time or another every person in the world must make a similar decision. We all need to decide when it is time to quit doing something. It is a metaphor-rich moment.

Put your foot down.

Put a fork in it.

Walk away and don’t look back.

The end of the road.

Pack it in.

Stop playing the game.

Not going to take it any more.

Close the book.

        Uncle.

How do you know when it is time to stop writing?

I mean permanently, stop writing.

It will always be difficult and time consuming, so if it is difficult and time consuming, that can’t be the time. There will always be critics, so bad reviews can’t be the reason. Markets shift and cycle around, so changing times cannot be the trigger to stop. Publishers will always have authors they like better.  So will readers.

Even indie authors need to make a decision when it is time to give up. It’s not as if being an indie author immunizes someone from the work, the critics, changing needs of the market and the likes and dislikes of readers.

So how do you know when it is time to stop writing?

When you hate readers.

I am not using the word “hate” loosely or simply to make a point. It can be real hate accompanied by grinding bitterness.

Readers don’t appreciate quality writing. They are not interested in anything of depth. They are not smart enough to understand how important my work is.

Time to stop writing. Immediately.

Seriously, if you were a customer service representative for a company and you hated every customer that calls you, it is time to quit. If you are a teacher and you hate students, it is time to retire. If you were a pastor and hated church members, well, it is obvious what your decision should be.

When anyone begins to hate their audience, it is the sure sign they need to move on.

“Those idiots wouldn’t know a good book if it hit them in the face.”

“No one appreciates good writing any more.”

“People are only interested in watered-down messages. I won’t pander to them.”

Maybe you wouldn’t say any of these out loud, but you might think it.

Publishing books has an interesting side lurking in the shadows that is common among all artistic ventures. It is the same in music, fine art, drama, film…as well as writing. For any number of reasons, creators can isolate themselves from the consumers, lose touch with them and eventually hate them.

Because connecting with readers can be difficult, frustrating or even downright maddening, it can be quite easy to actually end up despising them.

But there is an antidote for this disease.

Pray for your readers specifically and in general, but don’t announce it. That’s right, don’t tell them.  Why not?

Because you aren’t praying to make people like you. You are praying for them because God wants you to.

Prayer is a calming balm for a bitter attitude. If I weren’t a Christian, I would think it was a magic spell. And it is magic. Divine magic. It is impossible for light and dark to abide together. When light comes in, darkness leaves.

Praying for the readers of your work today and every day is the cure to the disease threatening to extinguish your passion for writing.

Praying for the readers of your work today and every day will free you to write joyfully for the rest of your life whether you are published or not.

24 Responses to How to Know When to Stop Writing

  1. Avatar
    peter July 7, 2015 at 3:28 am #

    Good word Dan.

  2. Avatar
    Jackie Layton July 7, 2015 at 4:17 am #

    Hi Dan,

    I’m not published, but I’ve prayed often that my stories will honor God. I’ve also joined the ACFW prayer group and pray for other authors.

    Your post opened my eyes to the fact I should be praying for my blog readers. I don’t know why I haven’t prayed consistently for these precious people.

    Thanks for the insight!

  3. Avatar
    Sue Raatjes July 7, 2015 at 5:15 am #

    Let’s all do this–those readers won’t know what hit them!

    • Avatar
      Andrew Budek-Schmeisser July 7, 2015 at 6:06 am #

      Aye, let’s ambush the wee nasty buggers and show them what’s for!

      • Avatar
        Lisa Taylor July 7, 2015 at 8:18 pm #

        Hee… heee.
        I love it.
        Glad to see that painkillers have dulled your sense of humor, Andrew. Nice going Andrew, Sue and Dan.

  4. Avatar
    peter July 7, 2015 at 5:28 am #

    I have to say Dan, I surrendered my writing to God a few times, mainly because, like Abraham surrendering His son, I felt none of this was about me anyway and I needed to lay it down, stop owning it and let God lead me to where I might be of greater value.

    I totally surrendered Facebook for that reason and to focus on my own survival. To be quite honest I don’t feel my writing will exactly change the world (only a very few get there) and I need to do all I can to survive – so the thought of drawing a final line is on my mind.

    I accept that God may just have needed to write into my life, not necessarily through my life – He needed to change me and bring me to a different place in my faith. I am at peace with that.

    However, my dear wife, who so relates to my life-long passion has encouraged me to turn to blogging and to lower all my expectations by treating that as a past-time, which also means participation in forums like this for no other reason than that it is worthy. In addition I feel I should take my life experiences into my church community and deepen my commitment to that – if I can’t change the world, let me be of value where I can.

    My following in Facebook was sizable and my exit evidenced significant support, so methinks I should turn to what works and matters. Blogging is already enhancing my network with others in the same boat, bringing new friends and a virtual fellowship that transcends time, place and culture, reflective of what Jesus said about “neither in Jerusalem, nor Samaria, but in Spirit and Truth.

  5. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser July 7, 2015 at 6:10 am #

    Feeling a bit too ill at the moment to expound at length – time for a LOT of morphine, with only a little effect – but I will say this:

    Hating readers is a symptom of the underlying hatred for oneself.

    Pray for readers, yes, but ask them, and others, to pray for you because you’re gonna need it.

    • Avatar
      peter July 7, 2015 at 6:33 am #

      Hey bro, I am sorry you are down. I did give feedback on your blog by the way. I feel a bit cheeky here. God put his plans for Moses and Abraham (notably), on hold, because of their indiscretions. I challenge you to commit to a serious “Dying Spouse” work and put heaven on hold. The ups and downs of that journey are real to every writer, yours is just aggravated by a significant illness. However, as someone said to me earlier, it is a Battle that we are in, a battle against our emotions, misgivings, doubts, fears and the indifference of our world. I am not minimizing your unique circumstances, but I am saying keep going and take it one inch at a time if need be, but push through and make every blow count for His glory, until you are are forced to lay down your sword.

  6. Avatar
    Beverly Brooks July 7, 2015 at 6:48 am #

    Brilliant … true … encouraging
    thank you!!

  7. Avatar
    kerry flowers July 7, 2015 at 7:59 am #

    I don’t know if you meant this post to be inspiring, but it is! Thank you on behalf of all the authors who write to the most ungrateful, mean, and ignorant readers out there…

    • Dan Balow
      Dan Balow July 7, 2015 at 8:10 am #

      I usually like to take readers on a “ride” so if it ended up being inspiring, then mission accomplished. (Because it didn’t begin with inspiration!)

      I love blog readers!

      Thanks.

  8. Avatar
    Julie Surface Johnson July 7, 2015 at 9:44 am #

    Good words, Dan. Thanks for sharing! New thoughts for me.

  9. Avatar
    Deena Peterson July 7, 2015 at 9:55 am #

    As a reader, maybe this can serve as motivation/inspiration.

    I’ve started a book and can’t engage with the writing. So I put it down. Then days, sometimes weeks later, I pick up said book and am hooked immediately.

    At times, whatever is happening in my life conflicts with the message of the book. So my disinterest isn’t a true reflection of the talent, but more a reflection on me and my condition.

    Because, every book has a message. God has a way of preparing my heart for your message.

    To know the author prayed for me would be HUGE! But don’t just say it….really do it.

  10. Avatar
    Teresa Pesce July 7, 2015 at 10:31 am #

    That was brilliant. It seems to me you wrote it with the burns still stinging, so it cost you to learn it. We’re grateful!

  11. Avatar
    Corina July 7, 2015 at 10:33 am #

    I have no words to express the perfection of this post. Truly God inspired.

    Thank you for sharing!

  12. Avatar
    Josiah DeGraaf July 7, 2015 at 11:31 am #

    Really good post here. I hadn’t thought about this question before, but this was a great answer, followed by an excellent solution. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Avatar
    Peter DeHaan July 7, 2015 at 1:09 pm #

    Dan, what a great post and a wonderful suggestion!

    Last year I made a prayer card: “A Month of Prayers for Writers.” I think I need to update it and add this to it.

  14. Avatar
    Victoria Bylin July 8, 2015 at 3:25 am #

    Jumping up and down and applauding here. I’m currently working on book #19 or #20 depending on how I count rewrites. Hard work? Yes. Tired? Oh yeah. Ready for a break? You bet. But you just pointed out the difference between being burned out and burnt up. Thank you, Dan! You encouraged this weary writer 🙂

  15. Avatar
    Carla Jo July 11, 2015 at 11:53 am #

    I’ve prayed for readers of my unfinished work on peace Scripture graphic line structured and studied for a week; almost done and in upgrades again. But along the way I picked up praying for the Christian world to get it even if my work project never gets published. It is hard in creativity and innovation to be finished until I look at it and feel it one page at a time. And reviewed days later in a fresh looking as if I am the user. And pray again. And read this Writer’s Agent blog site information and see I have room to make the project better. When do I stop? Hopefully soon. But it keeps the praying going. With that I feel useful and keep from sliding into wearyness of unending details.

  16. Avatar
    Lisa Evola July 15, 2015 at 5:56 am #

    AMEN!!!! I love this Dan! And you are right, it is not just writing. It pertains to all creative outlets. As an artist I have done just that – prayed for the people who would own a piece of my art, that they would allow the Lord to be a part of them and change them; their lives, their spirits and every fiber of their being. It can be difficult to not receive recognition for our efforts, but if we are creating for an audience of one, we are gloriously successful!

  17. Avatar
    Viola July 16, 2015 at 3:01 am #

    Thanks for the good advice! May I ask you a question? Thank you in advance!

  18. Avatar
    Dedra January 3, 2016 at 7:29 am #

    i dont empathise that pander my collation web site?its simply picturfes of peoples preparation isnt it?x

  19. Avatar
    Jeremy @ great essay writer September 12, 2019 at 6:04 am #

    This is a well-researched article, I think you should write on how to write a blog topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get New Posts by Email

Get New Posts by Email

Each article is packed with helpful info and encouragement for writers. You can unsubscribe at any time with one click. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!