Giving up

What is the value in giving up?

Lodgepole black woods copy

Giving up almost sounds like “offering up,” and that word up does give both phrases a positive spin.

For 40 years I ‘ve been churning through some words about home and frontier and childhood – words that have fallen into the form of poems or essays but never coalesced into a coherent book manuscript.

The latest draft came back from yet another editor with kind observations about “interesting” bits and, ultimately, confusion. In other words, a hot mess. This is not what you want to offer up to readers. The reality, too, is that it’s not really getting any better – if anything, the years of revision leave the material weaker than ever.

So, I give up. I will give up the paper to the recycle bin, the digital storage space to funny cat videos.

At one time or another, most (all?) of us have to move on from something in our lives that was once full of energy and optimism and possibility. But when? Knowing when to let go, when to move on, seems beyond our capabilities some times. We can take hints from others in our lives but the letting go is all up to the individual.

In my life, the same empty uncertainty applies to one family relationship. My stepson has pushed away from his family many times over the years, occasionally accepting a helping hand, only to disappear again into addiction, fear and anger. After 15 years of this back-and-forth, we now haven’t heard a word from him in a year. How long do you hold out for what you think is possible before just allowing ‘what is’ to be?

Life is about gathering up what is good and valuable and moving on. Giving up, at times. Giving yourself the benefit of the doubt about heartfelt investments in possibilities that were not to be.



  1. Ruth Anderson Donovan says:

    Giving up sometimes indicates we are waiting for an answer — as in: “I give up – tell me…” There have been times when there seemed to be no reply … and I was left holding questions others did not have an answer for, that I could not answer or bring to a close either. What to do with those questions? Perhaps there needs to be a “little library” for such concerns, where people seeking a mission can take them up and try to offer up solutions they have found – perhaps on a blog, like this, or more ideally, face to face. If I were there to ask you what you mean by “I give up”, I could better tell if there was any point in saying “please continue to write- I value what you write- I only just found what you were writing, after having met you years ago – it gave me hope”. Perhaps you have shared enough of your insight and hope for the moment, and need someone to share theirs in turn. Pruning dry branches of activities that no longer seem to bear fruit so new fruit grows better – or stepping aside from guiding something so another can take the lead, as geese do when they migrate, is not the same as “giving up” completely – one continues to fly, and to rest from pushing into the headwinds, and to trust there is a direction still to head that leads to sustaining life and staying safe. “Giving up” and “letting go” are not quite the same either… if a loved one is no longer close, and seems to have chosen to leave or to have been taken away, it may help to separate the act of leaving ,what seemed to prompt it, from the love that remains a constant. In the Biblical story of The Prodigal Son, the father did not have to condone mistakes to keep loving the son or to welcome him home, when the son came to himself. If you can let yourself continue to love, even when love seems to meet no return, such love can be the light in a window that someone needs to see it or trust it in order to make their way home, or to be able to learn how to love in turn. We cannot take on another’s challenges for them for long and still tend to our own life, but we can trust that love, and prayer, and faith in the good of another cannot be lost or fruitless. Continue to affirm what you want to see realized…the expression of what we love or value may take different forms, but keeping in touch with the essence of your being, and continuing to value and acknowledge the best in others, can lead to inspiration and renewal…expression is a counter-fact/ an alterative that can lighten the shadows of depressing thoughts and replace them with healing reflection.

    • Lorne Daniel says:

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Ruth. You’re right about the difference between giving up and letting go – but I feel that an element of giving up, saying ‘OK, it’s over,’ is necessary before that zen-like ‘letting go’ can happen. And on the relationship challenges, that’s always been the stance – to be available and open. As years pass, though, I find one’s mindset needs a reset from time to time.
      I recently pulled out my ‘bible’ – “Wherever You Go, There You Are” by Jon Kabat-Zinn, to once again (4th or 5th time through) review its timeless perspectives on accepting what is.

  2. Lorne, I am not sure if I should read this as your true blue feelings or as an ironical piece. The bloody world, and I say “bloody,: because it seems that people are being shot everywhere these days. (When I last lived I Calgary, there were five shootings within a five block range of where I lived in less than a week,, plus bullets sprayed between the six-plexes where I lived, at about 7:00 pm one evening. Now,I’m back in Lethbridge for the time being, because after Calgary, and the North and Saskatoon (where somebody put a gun to a woman’s head, only two blocks from where I lived, three days before left, I didn’t know where to go. ere, in Lethbridge I thought I could at least take some time, tutor, edit and write. However the universities ad colleges aren’t hiring PhD’s. They hire third year students to do tutoring and Learning Services etc. So, most of my time is spent scrambling to find some freelance work each month, with no energy left to write. AND what would I write? It hardly seems that the neat imagistic poetry of the past can begin to reach the depth of feeling when 1000’s are dying everyday, ad when the internet is piling up with posters of kittens or stupid sayings. So, most days it seems hopeless. Then, suddenly I read something–lately Doris Lessing’s novels, or Transtromer, or Ashbery, or Robert Hass, and suddenly everything is ok again. There are still people out there who know what it’s all about. Then, I know no matter what that words will come again.
    I knew long ago that writing was my life, and that I would die for it. Even if I’m not writing much these days, I know I live by that motto. I’m not sure that writers can just move on. Too many people who don’t write think writing is something a person can give up like working as a cashier or selling cell phones or something, and then move on to another job, but in the end that’s not the way it is. I once gave up writing and went in to medicine and academia again because I had spent a lot of time on a manuscript that had been turned down. Later, the same person who turned it down said if he had heard me read the poems in my voice, he would have published. His rejection turned into eight years where I attempted to give up writing and find a new intelligent occupation. I don’t regret going into medicine and graduate work, but ultimately my first love is poetry and “yes” I will die for it. Anyway, this is long and rambling, but again I wasn’t sure about the one you were presenting in your piece. I, for one, have always admired your work, and when I was young was admittedly a little jealous, because I always felt you were more liked as a writer by our old mentors than I But, that jealousy is long gone. Through the years, I’ve come to admire your poetry and often re-read some of your poems, plus read them to others. There is this section on your site titled “Share your thoughts” so these are my rather rambling thoughts, but I wanted to say, I think I know how you are feeling as much as anyone can ever know another person’s feelings.

    • Lorne Daniel says:

      Yvonne, thanks as always for the passionate case you make for poetry in a world where it seems totally irrelevant. In giving up on a life-long writing project, I’m not abandoning the reading of poetry or even some future dabbling on other small pieces. The angst is probably more about just aging and feeling a diminishing of time, energy and skills. Some things have to be let go, in order to live fully in the days I have. It’s great to see that you still have the fire 🙂

  3. Sarah Boon says:

    I totally understand the idea of giving up and/or letting go. Since I was diagnosed with a chronic illness, I’ve had to give up on my idea of what I expected life *would* be like and instead accept how it actually is. It’s not easy. I can’t even imagine the difficulty in giving up writing – sure I’ve given up on some individual writing pieces over the years, but never writing itself. Though perhaps you’re just giving up this one project, and not the entirety of your writing life. Whichever it is, I wish you the strength to accept this change and move on – I don’t doubt that it will be difficult.

    • Lorne Daniel says:

      Thanks Sarah. Your experiences with illness mirror mine with my 2014 fall, which forced me to remove “long distance runner” from my identity and expectations. So much of this is wrapped up in how we identify ourselves – and, of course, that is also related to what we enjoy in life. In this case, I’m giving up a massive writing project (40 years, boxes of research and old drafts) that over time became part of my identity. The book-to-be, the places where it grew from, and I became entertwined. I will likely continue to putter at writing some poetry, mainly for the sense of personal fulfilment, but give up the self-assigned title of “writer.” Writer, to me, implies that whole cultural struggle involving publishers, workshops, contest submissions, and writers’ groups. And I will continue reading all the good stuff that people like you are writing 🙂

  4. Hmmm, I’m curious about this massive writing project that you have given up on. Sometimes it is the nature of the project itself that means it will never fly – it is something one is really passionate about but will never find a market. In which case it can be a personal project or… the right step is just to let it go (or “give up” on it).

    But sometimes the project itself is worthwhile. It’s just how you are going about it (I am meaning the non-specific “how one goes about it,” not “you” specifically, but that sounds so awkward in English, damn, we need more pronouns) that is not hitting a market (or a publisher). Look at Yvonne’s comment above – how she gave up her project for eight years after being rejected, and then when that same publisher saw (or heard) it presented in a different way he suddenly realized he would have wanted it.

    So I am wondering about your project… have you tried working with some sort of editor or mentor who could look at it all and give you some advice? Not just the kind of editor who exists to accept/reject, but the kind who is there to work with you and nurture your project (while still giving you realistic objective advice?) Maybe it is not the project that you should give up on. Maybe you just need another approach or angle.

    Anyway – maybe you have already done that. But if you haven’t… it may be worth doing. Sounds like you have invested a real lot into it, so obviously it is something that means a lot to you. Which makes me think that there is a good chance that it will mean something to a lot of other people.

    Anyway, all the best with whatever you decide. I’m sure you already know in your heart whether you should completely let it go, or whether you simply need to give it a bit of a rest and some space, before finding a different way to tackle it.

    • Lorne Daniel says:

      Hi Jackie, thanks for your thoughts on the writing project. It is a quirky one, a mixed bag of non-fiction and poetry, so the market for that is extremely limited. A number of writer / editor friends have kindly provided critiques of the manuscript over the years, and I recently hired a professional editor to give some objective feedback. It’s pretty hard to find someone willing to mentor / guide a work through – everyone in the literary world, as you know, is swamped with their own work and editing / publishing commitments. At this point, my conclusion is that I don’t have the talents and energy to push it through to yet another finished form. (Having done that at least 10 times over the years.) So: onward. Sincere thanks for your suggestions and wishes.

  5. Lorne, and everyone else here, thank you. I’m rebuilding my own website and came here looking for inspiration. I found plenty of it. And in ways totally unexpected. Again, thank you! Bruce

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