When You Want to Give Up Before You’ve Even Started
Written by CT Cue, Philippines
About 6 months ago, an organisation in my college was calling for submissions for a writers’ workshop, with professional writers serving as critics. I decided to try it out, as I had just finished writing a story about love in complicated family dynamics. It was very personal to me, and was completed after a long period of writer’s block. I was extremely proud of my work.
When my turn came to present, however, the critics quickly pulled my work apart, describing it as a stereotypical coming-of-age story and bombarding me with comments on what was wrong with it. By the end of the presentation, I had gotten only one compliment for the work.
I felt that they had completely missed the point I was trying to make, but I was told not to defend my work, because that’s not how writing works in the real world.
The memory of that day stayed with me, shaking me to the core. It made me doubt everything I knew.
Stuck in a cycle of perfectionism
Growing up in a critical environment, I’d always felt scrutinised, having received many comments about my weight, my childish ways. I often got compared to others as well, and people would keep telling me what they think I should do or pursue.
All of these led me to overthink most of what I say or do. I would try very hard to control how people perceived me—to either meet their expectations or just be invisible altogether. This made me prone to giving up before I’ve even tried.
This was why it took me so long to take writing seriously. Since most of what I write is very raw, it makes me vulnerable to judgement when (if) I let others read my writing.
It was only when God pushed me to do it that I got the courage to start writing seriously. He assured me that He knows my heart, He’ll understand whatever I say, and He would be my protector and provider.
Even so, it hasn’t been easy. Whenever I would finish writing, I would be so proud of my work, but as soon as I resolve to let other people read it, a voice in my head would begin to point out all the potential flaws, making it impossible for me to trust myself.
What will they think?
Will they like the story? Will they cancel me for my words?
Is this really something I should be writing?
I felt like I had to constantly prove myself in order to be called a writer. Because I only started writing seriously two years ago, most of my peers were already published in small sites or magazines, which made me feel that I was already behind.
There’ve been a lot of highs and lows; I would be super inspired one minute, then super defeated the next, to the point that I began to think that maybe this path isn’t really for me.
But God did not give up on me, even when I was about to. Instead, He kept gently prodding me by surrounding me with peers who gave me plenty of encouragement: a friend who assured me that I was an effective writer, another friend who asked me for help with his own work, being asked to write a script for church camp, someone telling me they were touched by a post I had written on Facebook. I knew these little moments were God’s way of encouraging me and affirming me to carry on with my writing.
In the aftermath of the rejection, as I came to Him in prayer, God revealed to me gradually, over months of sitting with defeat and disappointment, that I was stuck in a cycle of perfectionism. Even though I had previously won awards for my work, they didn’t ease my insecurities, but only added more pressure for me to do better.
I was constantly praying that I would be able to write as freely as I did before, but in the process, I almost missed what God was doing: He was trying to separate my identity from writing.
If my identity rested on me being a writer, I would not be able to recover if my writing gets rejected, if my career crashed and burned. If my identity is not firmly in the Lord, I will be shaken.
Finding my footing again
God reminded me that I have no reason to be insecure and jealous of anyone else, because He has fearfully and wonderfully made me (Psalm 139:14) and set me apart for His purposes (Jeremiah 1:5). It is God who has placed this dream in my heart, who gave me this skill, and is paving the way for it.
For a few moments, I stopped thinking about how profound my writing had to be, how I should get it right the first time around. I thought back to when the stakes were low and I wrote whatever I wanted, for my own enjoyment and for a few trusted friends.
I always said at the start that I was going to write about the things God was teaching me, but somewhere along the way I lost that. I started caring too much about what people would think. I became fixated on what I could and could not do, and not on my Saviour.
This was probably why I could not finish anything—I had lost sight of my purpose for writing, and so I lost my footing. I became insecure because I had forgotten my Why.
Anyone could write, but what would be the purpose for me to keep writing? Just to finish? Nothing would be substantial enough. Only God.
These realisations helped me exchange the burden I was unwittingly putting on my shoulders for God’s easy yoke (Matthew 11:30). Ever patient and gentle, He has given me the grace to make mistakes and learn from them.
I was never meant to have it all together. I was meant to depend on Him.
God never wastes moments
Writing became a blessing again when I began to see it as the means of expression God has given me, with the purpose of giving Him glory. My stories can be as authentic as they can be, because I’m pleasing an audience of One.
Even if my writing looks different each season (Ecclesiastes 3:1), whether I’m prolific or stuck, have many words or none, I know that God can use all of these, because He never wastes moments. I am encouraged because He is not yet done with me (Philippians 1:6).
Discouragement is still Satan’s favourite weapon to use against me, but I continue to pray that God would use my words in the same way He has used others’ words to convict and comfort me. I continue to pray that my words will help people feel His love.
After that writing workshop, I decided to set aside the story I had submitted, to give myself some breathing space. Although it was hard to let it go, when I finally did, I became free to focus on other responsibilities and new opportunities—in ministry, learning and falling in love with graphic design, leading other people in another organisation I am serving in. God has also given me a newfound interest in editing, and I’ve been enjoying helping fellow writers improve on their own work.
I am learning to see all the other blessings God has placed in front of me, that writing is not the only thing I can do. I’m learning to be okay with this and not force myself anymore, but letting my words flow out naturally as I did before.
Reflecting on my writing journey, I’ve come to see how writing for God (or doing anything for Him, really) will look different from the rest of the world, and yet it will be fulfilling and freeing when my identity rests on Him alone.
Very profound insight.
Congrats Erika , keep it up Be in the will of God today more than ever before.
Jesus said in Matthew 11:29 Learn from Me…
Great to get back to the source of wisdom, God Himself.
Keep sharing His words… Keep inspiring others and bring people to The Light. God bless you more.
Perfectly written. Hope this will serve as an inspiration to other aspiring writers and writing enthusiasts to never give up and chase their dreams.
Congratulations! its very inspiring not only for newbie writers but also in spiritual aspect to boost their self esteem. Keep it up!