When Do You Walk Away?
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Kate’s manuscript has been sitting with her editor for over a year. Between submitting it then and waiting for its acceptance now, she’s worked odd jobs to bring in money, writing in between gigs. As she waits, so does the book her gut thinks will allow her to quit the odd jobs and move toward writing full time.
She wants to pull the book, to stop the stall, but there’s that question: What if no one else wants the book? What if it isn’t as good as she thinks it is? Or, if she does believe in the book, can she publish it herself? And promote it? And sell it? Stick around for the stall or try to pull the book from the editor and move in a different direction? The first feels safe — and frustrating. The second is scary — but would create movement.
Jake works with young musicians. He has an eye for talent and a knack for spreading “the word,” but a recent project grew so fast that he brought on someone who had more contacts within the upper echelons of the top records companies. Everything looked good for a while, until he found out the business partner was making deals behind his back. The deals were good for the young musicians, but could result in him being cut out.
Should he continue moving forward, hoping that the musicians will see his value and choose him if one day it comes down to a choice — Jake or the business partner? The latter has more high-level connections and could advance the musicians’ careers at a faster pace, but Jake is the one with the passion. He’s the one who found the band — the one who believed in them and got them to that “next level” of being in a position to garner the interest of those industry decision makers that the business partner is pulling in.
If he was in the band, he knows he’d want to stick with the person who found him, but… They are young and hungry… Looking at how young musicians have acted in the past, there’s a good chance that he’ll be on the losing end. Should he cut his losses now? Or keep investing time and stick in as long as possible? Cling to hope? Maybe it will work out, though the mouth guards he’s mangled, grinding in his sleep, make him think otherwise.
Ashley has a client she adores. Every day she thinks about how lucky she is — how amazing it is that she has the opportunity she has. And, it is an opportunity because she learns and grows with the client, in addition to helping the client do the same. The client is the co-owner of a company. Ashley gets along with everyone in the company, with the exception of the relative, who is also a co-owner. The relative doesn’t want to change and spends each day knocking down Ashley’s ideas — the Hell to Ashley’s Heaven.
Ashley begins to realize that her work is all for naught. She’s doing her portion, but the results for the client are minimal. Why? Ashley is advocating change and unless the work she’s doing is implemented and advice acted upon, the client won’t advance. Around the same time the client’s relative starts complaining about Ashley, stating that Ashley hasn’t offered value. The writing is on the wall. Should Ashley stick with the client and company she adores or say goodbye because, end of day, the relative’s decisions rule the day and the relative is not going to change?
Two times in my career, I’ve had to walk away from projects in which I’d invested my heart in addition to my time. Painful. And, saying I walked away isn’t actually right. The clients ended the projects both times.
For the first one, as in the example of Jake, in the above, I vowed to take over the project and do it on my own. I saw the potential. I knew I could make it work. And then… There was the money issue. I accepted more work, which meant less free time, which meant the project I loved and wanted to continue when the client lost interest stalled.
In both instances, there was a decision-maker who resisted change. Though my clients, the ones who signed the contracts, were the key contacts, they weren’t the end-all-be-all decisionmakers within their companies. The clients wanted to move forward, but the decisionmakers had different plans. Looking back, I knew “it” was coming both times, but I didn’t want to stop because I loved the work. I put more heart in, hoping for the best, while my gut twisted, keeping me up at night, knowing what the future held. Easier to ignore it than make the break early. Instead, the break was made by the clients and hurt a hell of a lot more.
I read an article about George Lucas recently, which hit on his sale of LucasFilms to Disney and and the fact that he didn’t play a role in the development of the about-to-be released new film in the Star Wars series (other than, ahem, being the father of the franchise).
“I call it like a divorce,” Lucas says candidly. He always knew that at some point he’d have to part with “Star Wars” in order for the franchise to go on living.
“There is no such thing as working over someone’s shoulder,” he says. “You’re either the dictator or you’re not. And to do that would never work, so I said ‘I’m going to get divorced.’ . . . I knew that I couldn’t be involved. All I’d do is make them miserable. I’d make myself miserable. It would probably ruin a vision — J.J. has a vision, and it’s his vision.”
Lucas’ experience wasn’t quite the same as mine or Kate’s, Jake’s or Ashley’s experiences, but it reminded me of them.
At some point, most of us are faced with walking away.
Do we continue on the same path, even though we know it dead-ends in a cemetery?
Do we cut away at the entrance gate? Or stick around to help dig our own grave?
My vote is cut out before hitting the dead end. Easier said than done…
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