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When to Give Up on a Writing Client

Knowing when and how to quit

I recently accepted what I thought would be a fairly simple research job. In fact, it sounded like fun. The pay was reasonable, the deadline short and I truly enjoyed the chat I had with the editor. I also really believed I understood his instructions.

Ask Early

Two or three hours into the project, I sent him a sample of
what I was doing. Although I was pretty sure Iíd gotten it right, Iíve learned itís better to check in early, particularly when deadlines are tight.

He responded at once, gently telling me I was totally on the wrong track. Disappointed but undaunted I began again and shortly realized I didnít know how to find what he needed. I let it go a day, tried as many approaches as I could and came up with zilch.

Then I looked at how much time Iíd already spent and realized I simply wasnít the right person for this particular job.

Geeze I hate that!

Resign Nicely

But I told the little voice that kept telling me I ďshouldĒ know how to do this to be quiet and sent an email resigning and apologizing.

The next day there was an email to me from the editor. I didnít want to open it. I donít know what I thought he would sayÖ something in all caps for sure. I felt guilty as heck. Of course, he was charming, thanking me for letting him know promptly and promising to keep me on his list and call when he had something that seemed to fit my skills more closely. I actually believe he will, but thatís not the issue.

Who said, ď50% of life is knowing when to quit?Ē Woody Allen? Whoever said it has a point. Knowing when youíre licked, or over your head, is important self-knowledge. Being willing to admit it and quit is, I think a sign of maturity Ė as a writer as well in the rest of life.

Of course, in addition to knowing when to quit, you also need to know how to quit. I think the keys here are promptness and honesty. Once we realize our efforts arenít working, we need to communicate that to the employer as quickly as possible for two reasons: They need time to find someone else and we need to get on to a project that will work.

Honesty, or frankness in our communication is necessary too. As tempting as it can be to make up an excuse, tell the truth. Tell it simply and without whining. There are at least two reasons for being forthright: It leaves the door open for the future and we simply feel better about ourselves.

Write well and often,



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