Ready to Quit? First Try a Positive List

by Annette Gulati

March 2015 

Discouraged? Ready to give up writing forever?

Don’t quit until you’ve tried a positive list! I began my own list out of desperation. I needed to know whether it was all worth it. Whether I should continue writing. Whether anything positive had come out of the years I’d put into my career. I found not only encouragement, I learned something about myself and the writing process. Hint: it takes time.

Want to develop your own positive list? Look at the places I’ve found tiny nuggets of positive inspiration covered in a delicate sauce of writing wisdom.

Critique Group

The role of your critique group is to help you improve your writing. They’re undoubtedly going to tell you what’s wrong with it. But they should also be pointing out what you’re doing right. Go through some past critiques and find a sentence or a phrase that says you nailed it. It can be something specific about a particular story or about your writing in general.

I found this tidbit and jotted it on my list: Great job of identifying the conflict early on.

My first thought: so what? But there’s wisdom to be gained here. If this is something I’ve done before – a skill I know how to achieve – I can certainly do it again. All is not lost.


Have you taken an in-person or online writing class? A good teacher will read your work without judgment. They want you to succeed, and they will almost always give you some kind of positive reinforcement. Do you remember what a teacher or mentor has said about one of your manuscripts? Even if it seems like a trivial detail, pay attention to it.

I snapped up this delicate crumb and added it to my list: Your language is engaging.

Engaging means winning, attractive and pleasing. If I can write language that is pleasing to someone else, I have accomplished something worthwhile.


Have you entered any writing contests? If you’ve won or placed, that’s great! But look deeper. Did you receive an encouraging or positive comment from a contest judge?

I didn’t hesitate to add this appetizing morsel from a contest to my list: The author effectively uses descriptive narrative to set up the story.

So what if my story didn’t win. I’ve mastered an important skill and that is something to be positive about.


What does the writing community know about you? Have you gone out of your way to help a new writer? Maybe you volunteer for a local writing group. Do you offer information for writers on a blog? Listen to the things your peers have to say about you and write them down.

When I kept a blog, a fellow writer commented: I can always count on you to find things other people haven’t mentioned. I added this tasty scrap to my positive list.

Okay, I thought, I’m good at finding and imparting information. What else can I learn here? I’ve helped a fellow writer on her journey – a journey that is often long and difficult. That’s not only nice, it’s professional. And being a professional is definitely one of my goals.

Writing Professional

Have you met an author, editor, or agent at a conference or elsewhere? Perhaps this person gave you a critique, or a comment in a workshop where you shared the first page of your manuscript. Maybe this person thought you had a fantastic hook or you’d really captured the voice of the character. These comments belong on your list!

Until I searched my files, I had almost forgotten this enticing nugget: Your work is ready to be paired with an editor.

This is not the time to disagree with a professional. This is the time to start believing. If my work is getting noticed, I need to keep writing and keep submitting.

Work with an Editor

Have you had a chance to work with an editor on shorter work? Perhaps you’ve had a poem published or an article accepted for publication. If that’s the case, I’m sure the editor had something positive to say about your work. Maybe he or she had something to say about you personally.

I found this nurturing treat in my email correspondence: It was wonderful working with you. You are a true professional.

Flattery, perhaps? But what do I know about true professionals? They don’t give up. They keep writing, submitting, and striving to reach their goals.

Rejection Letters

If you’ve received a personal rejection on your work from an editor or agent, you better not have thrown it out. Hunt it down now! What did the editor or agent have to say? Did they like your idea? Your style of writing? Your characterization? Find that inspiring phrase and add it to your positive list.

This is a scrumptious comment I ate right up: I think you’re a talented picture book writer.

If an editor believes this, I’m getting closer to one of my goals, and perhaps, I should start believing it too. This is not the time to quit. This is the time to work harder.

Your Positive List

Go forth and create your own positive list. Maybe you’ll find one or two tidbits at first. Maybe you’ll gather a whole banquet of nourishment. Tape your list above your desk and indulge. Read it every day. Read it when you’re discouraged and hungry for inspiration. Read it when you’re ready to quit. Remind yourself that each of these delicious morsels, though tiny, are proof that you’re learning, growing, improving your craft. That is already an accomplishment!

Annette GulatiComment