How do you know when your project is a waste of time?

This past week I saw a question I have seen, and heard, for years.  “How do you  know when you’re wasting your time on a project?” or “When should I give up on what I’m working on?”  Same basic question.  These are questions that every creative person has faced at least 3,000 times.(I picked a number)  As a writer, and photographer, I wrestle with this all the time.  I call this the anti-conscience.  The anti-conscience is the voice that tells you  “you’re no good“, and that “you’ll never amount to anything, that what you’re doing is worthless.”

Don’t let it win.  Writers have to fight these feelings off all the time, with every rejection slip, with every critique, this voice chimes in.  It tells us that we can’t write and should give up without a fight.  Before you run to the corner, with your head hanging in shame, just remember that even the greatest have had to face this problem.

We all have dreams, and when we persue those dreams the anti-conscience has an opening to shut us down.  Sometimes we can give ourselves the strength to go on, and sometimes we need to look to others for the inspiration and guidance, but in the end we can never give up.  Our dreams give us hope that we can make a difference, our hope gives us faith to believe in our abilities, and faith gives us the strength to see it happen.

As long as we don’t give up on our dreams, we can keep this voice under control, and it will never win.  Only then will our dreams come true.

Challenge: If the anti-conscience is still strong, and you feel you can’t go on, let these publishing statistics inspire you.  Print them and put them where they can help you the most.

1)  Mary Higgins Clark’s first story was rejected 40 times.

2) Alex Haley’s “Roots” was rejected 200 times.

3) “A Time to Kill” by John Grisham was declined by 15 publishers & 30 agents.

4) “Robinson Crusoe” was rejected by 20 publishers

5) “Harry Potter” was rejected 30 times.

6) Zelda wouldn’t marry F. Scott Fitzgerald until he sold his first story.  He used the rejection slips to wallpaper his bedroom.


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11 Responses to “How do you know when your project is a waste of time?”

  1. Carol Says:

    “Root” rejected 200 times???? Well if that is not encouragement that it CAN happen with diligence and hope and patience, I don’t know what it.

    Thanks, Allen, for another wonderful thought-provoking/inspirational blog.

    • apb148 Says:

      As incredible as those stats are, there are even bigger examples. these are just some of those I found on one website.

  2. cruizen4u (Cindy) Says:

    You have no idea how much I needed to hear this right now. I have been self editing for weeks now. I started to believe maybe I just wasn’t cut out to write.
    After reading your blog I feel like I can go on. Only you would understand something like that because of what you wrote and I thank you for it.

    • apb148 Says:

      Thank you for your comment, Cindy. I even had a similar situation with my photography, when I wouldn’t give up on getting into a magazine. I got in twice in a column the editor wrote on trees. It didn’t pay much, but it showed me I could do it.

  3. Neko Kin Says:

    Thank you so much for this Allen! I have an anti-conscience that is extremely skilled and has had many years of practice at taking me down. I will post this in an obvious location and read it often.

    May I post this in my LiveJournal? I have some friends that need this as much as I do.

    Again, thank you! 🙂

    Neko Kin

    • apb148 Says:

      Thank you for the comment. If you think it will help someone else, then you can definitely post it on your livejournal. I hope it continues to help.


  4. Neko Kin Says:

    Thank you, Allen!

    Neko Kin

  5. Tamara Hughes Says:

    Great blog, Allen. It’s a good reminder of how hard writing is, not just putting words to paper but withstanding rejections and our own inner critique.

  6. PS Gifford Says:

    Very well said- one should never, ever give up in what you passionately believe in- or want to do.

    The fact is that most succesful writers have been rejected hundreds of times…

    Stephen King used to keep his numerous rejection slips pinned to a wall where he typed. He used it as inspiration to prove them all wrong.

    The last I checked he seems to be doing rather well these days.


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