The Audacious Act of Writing

“Writing makes a person very vulnerable. It opens you to public criticism, to ridicule, to rejection. But it also opens conversation and thought. It stirs minds, and touches hearts. It brings us into contact with our souls. So how can it possibly be a waste of time, an idle act, a mistake, a betrayal of truth? Who can possibly tell us not to do it?”

~Joan Chittister, Order of Saint Benedict

Have you been tempted to believe it’s all a waste of time? Has anybody ever told you not to do it?

Β© 2010 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Sophie's Mom on December 16, 2010 at 9:12 PM

    >Hi, Rachelle,
    I'm adding your quote to my collection. After 10 years of writing, a person can wonder if doing the dishes or the laundry would be more worthwhile. πŸ™‚ Recently, I worked through an exercise on QueryTracker that other readers may find helpful. There is a part 1 and a part 2. It made me realize that I only believe writing is a waste of time when I'm not enjoying the writing itself.

    Happy writing, everyone!

  2. hopejunkie on December 16, 2010 at 4:19 PM

    >I just addressed this on my blog:

    Writing solely for publication may be a waste of time, but enjoying all the little things the writing journey gives you is certainly useful.

  3. uniasus on December 16, 2010 at 10:57 AM

    >I've never thought of writing as a waste of time! It's helped me with so much, introduced me to such great people.

    But yes, sadly, I have been told it's pointless at times. By my own parents. But hey, I'm old enough where I don't have to listen to them ^_~

  4. Carrie L. Lewis on December 15, 2010 at 10:15 PM

    >I've never been told not to write, but I have often wondered to myself if I was wasting my time writing or being lazy by pursuing writing instead of other 'more normal' things.

  5. Leigh D'Ansey on December 15, 2010 at 10:09 PM

    >I've never been told not to write but sometimes I feel, not as if I'm wasting my time exactly, but a bit despairing. Even when the road's had little successes dotted along it, the journey still seems long.

  6. Munk Davis on December 15, 2010 at 1:05 PM


  7. kangaroobee on December 15, 2010 at 1:01 PM

    >Telling somone that and thinking it are so different. I'm sure my husband thinks is many times. I'd have to be an underground writer πŸ˜‰

  8. Sara Flower on December 15, 2010 at 11:39 AM

    >I would never consider it a waste of time. Even if writing were illegal where no one would ever read my books, I would still do it. If I didn't write, I would go nuts! Writing is just something I have to do.

  9. Rick Boyne on December 14, 2010 at 10:02 PM

    >With each agent's rejection letter, I am tempted to think that writing is a waste of time. But I choose to believe, rather, that it is a wasted opportunity on their behalf.

    I've never been told not to write; it wouldn't stop me, anyway.

  10. Katherine Hyde on December 14, 2010 at 8:13 PM

    >Years ago, I was married to a man who did not support my writing, and I eventually quit.

    Now, everyone in my life supports me. But I have sometimes wondered whether it's worthwhile when the things that are most important to me can't seem to get published. I see writing as a conversation, which implies another party.

    But the fact I always come back to is that I need to write for my own soul. I don't like the person I become when I'm not writing. So I will persevere, and hope that eventually the conversation will be consummated.

  11. Renee Miller on December 14, 2010 at 8:07 PM

    >I've occasionally considered that the hell that is searching for an agent or publisher might be a waste of time, but never writing. And I believe the waiting and searching is worth it in the end. (after the tenth rejection in two days though, it's tough not to get discouraged)

    No one who knows me would dare suggest that writing is a waste of my time. They'd be banished…

  12. Jean Ann on December 14, 2010 at 7:05 PM

    >"For if God is for us, who can be against us." One of my favorite biblical quotes, Wendy.

    If I quit, the multitudes for sure and for certain will not read my stories.

    I keep working.

  13. Sue Harrison on December 14, 2010 at 6:52 PM

    >Rachelle, that is definitely one of your gifts. You are a wonderful encourager.

  14. KH on December 14, 2010 at 6:32 PM

    >I have gone through phases of thinking of writing as a waste of time, but I always go back to it. As time goes on, it is more important to me, I receive more support, and I realize how important it really is.

  15. deedeemckenzie on December 14, 2010 at 5:49 PM

    >No one's ever told me not to write; in fact, most encourage me. But I'm my own worst enemy, I suppose, and often feel like what I write isn't worth the time I spend on it.

  16. Amber Cuadra on December 14, 2010 at 5:28 PM

    >I have a bad habit of thinking everything that's not writing is a waste of time (thus the pile of laundry that needs to be done, still in my closet…) Most people I've talked to about my writing think it's great, though I'm not sure all of them realize exactly what I want to get out of writing (publishing and such), because so many in my social circle write, but they only write for pleasure.

  17. Rachelle on December 14, 2010 at 4:41 PM

    >Interesting how everyone's experience is different – some people feel supported and encouraged while others don't. I hope to encourage everyone to keep going!

  18. Kristin Laughtin on December 14, 2010 at 4:27 PM

    >I seem to have an unusually supportive environment, because most people tell me to write more, even if they haven't read my work. If I enjoy doing it, it's not a waste of time.

  19. B.E.T. on December 14, 2010 at 2:42 PM

    >Yeah, sometimes. Doubt creeps in on a lot of things in this area for me, mostly the old thought 'this isn't a practical thing to do.' I like to think, though, there's enough practicality in other parts of my life; I can afford to be a little impractical with this part.

  20. Dave Cullen on December 14, 2010 at 2:20 PM

    >About a third of the way through working on Columbine, I ran out of money, and went to my parents to borrow $5,000 to pay my rent, and literally keep the lights on. (I was a few weeks from disconnection.)

    My mom begged me to quit writing and go back to Arthur Andersen (which still existed), or something like it. She gave me the money after 30 minutes of begging. Needing the money was proof that this writing thing was a hobby, and not a real way to make a living, she argued.

    For years, I periodically went to sleep at night picturing the dedication, which end with something like, "…and to my mother, who begged me not to write this."

    Once I finished, I decided to be gracious, thank her in the acknowledgments and enjoy her bragging to her friends about me.

    But it is hard when your mother tells you you can't do it. There's something inside us that says we're supposed to listen to that voice.

    Luckily, there is something else inside us that says to NEVER listen to mom. Haha.

    She just didn't want to see me struggling to make rent–or literally going hungry, because I had to skimp at the grocery store. I get that. Moms were designed to keep us safe. Some moms see other concerns besides safety, others don't.

    Yeah, it still rankles me. And it made it so hard when I was already near the end of my rope. But you just have to move ahead anyway.

  21. Angela on December 14, 2010 at 2:01 PM

    >LOVED this. NEEDED this.

  22. Ghenet on December 14, 2010 at 1:58 PM

    >Thankfully, no! I'm lucky that the people around me who know about my writing support it. This is a great quote. Thanks for sharing.

  23. Nikole Hahn on December 14, 2010 at 1:49 PM

    >Never, except my own doubts–the artist who wants to destroy the creation.

  24. T. Anne on December 14, 2010 at 1:34 PM

    >Writing really is music to my soul, so your quote just quantifies how I feel.

    If I gave it all up today I'd have to live with major regret later. I don't believe writing is a waste of time for anyone who has studied the craft and taken the appropriate measures to ensure they are doing their best and networking with fellow writers. I guess at the end of the day if a writer doesn't manage to procure and agent, or land a publishing contract no matter how small, there is always the option of uploading your work as an e-book. All is never lost. There is always the possibility someone will read it and appreciate the effort.

  25. Michelle DeRusha on December 14, 2010 at 1:32 PM

    >Sorry — God has impeccable TIMING.

  26. Michelle DeRusha on December 14, 2010 at 1:30 PM

    >You know, I've been tempted many times in the last year or so to throw in the towel on blogging. I wonder why I am dedicating nearly all of my free time to it. I wonder whether it makes a difference. I wonder if the words make any impact at all. More often than not, though, when I am wallowing in the whys? of self-pity, I get an email or a comment, or someone stops me in the foyer at church, and they tell me why such-and-such post made a difference to them or how it changed their thought-process or inspired them to take action or make some small difference. God has impeccable time like that!

    When I first started blogging my parents were completely baffled. My mom responded, "What? What are you doing? What in the world is a blod?" They don't entirely get the writing thing. But they are supportive nonetheless. Sometimes my dad prints my posts and gives them to the deacon at his church (he has not mastered the link forward yet).

  27. Lori Benton on December 14, 2010 at 1:18 PM

    >"Have you been tempted to believe it's all a waste of time? Has anybody ever told you not to do it?"

    Thankfully I can answer NO to both questions.

    Great quote!

  28. eeleenlee on December 14, 2010 at 1:03 PM

    >If you don't write then you may live with the fear or regret that something will go unsaid

  29. Beth on December 14, 2010 at 1:03 PM

    >Double nope.

  30. Robert Trevino on December 14, 2010 at 12:42 PM

    >I never find writing a waste of time for one simple reason. If I don't write these stories who will? Every story deserves to be told whether it is read by the masses or not.

  31. Debbie Barr on December 14, 2010 at 12:23 PM

    >My family and husband are very supportive, which is good because I beat myself down on a regular basis enough for all of them! But I still trudge through because when it does feel right, it's wonderful.

    I've had a few neighbors/classmates/etc. who have given me that look like "oh, isn't that precious" or have asked me snottily, "Oh, so you want to be like Stephenie Meyer?" but they're pretty easy to ignore.

  32. Jane Wells on December 14, 2010 at 11:41 AM

    >Sadly, my husband is actively discouraging in what I have come to understand as God's call on my life. No matter what I do or how I try to reshape myself I am a writer. And I am most at peace with myself and aware of the pleasure of God when I am writing.
    As someone above noted – lonely.
    I am hugely blessed, however, with dear friends who not only encourage me, but actively pester me for the next chapter, book, concept. Without them and their prayers it would be a very difficult passion to pursue indeed.

  33. Buzz Bernard on December 14, 2010 at 10:59 AM

    >I've told myself it's a waste of time… but I've never bothered to listen.

  34. Taryn Tyler on December 14, 2010 at 10:45 AM

    >Beautiful quote. People don't necisarily tell me I'm wasting time but they like to ask when I'm going to start making money. You know results. And before I had my own computer those in my household would complain of me wasting their time. I guess they had a point.

  35. on December 14, 2010 at 10:28 AM

    >I don't remember anyone actually telling me it's not worth it, but loads of friends have shouted it with their actions.

  36. Scooter Carlyle on December 14, 2010 at 10:27 AM

    >I went through a delusional phase in which my writing was GENIUS and LIFE-CHANGING for readers. I promptly received a wake up call, and my writing changed to WORTHLESS DRIVEL.

    After a few more bumps and bruises, I've moderated my expectations. I also think that the growth I've experienced from working hard for months, seeing a difficult project through to the end, and quitting TV to get it done makes it worthwhile, even if it is never published.

  37. Julie on December 14, 2010 at 10:23 AM

    >I remember when I first started opening up about wanting to pursue writing as a career. It took a lot for me to do it because it IS such a personal thing.
    One person frowned and said, 'Getting published is very difficult, you might want to think about that'. Turns out she had written a book and went nowhere with it.
    It made me feel embarrassed about my dream until I realized that just because she gave up didn't mean that I had to.
    And even if I never get published, nothing else makes me happier so it would never be a waste of my time.
    Thanks for the post!

  38. Sherri on December 14, 2010 at 10:19 AM

    >Rachelle, I think I say this every time I comment here, but I must say it again: Once again, you've posted something exactly when I need it. Or in this case, my brother. Just yesterday we discussed his worry that writing was a waste of his time. I shall forward this to him posthaste. πŸ™‚

  39. Norma Beishir on December 14, 2010 at 10:06 AM

    >My father thought trying to get published was a waste of time. He knew the odds were against me. But then again, he knew I love a long shot.

    Looking back, I believe his skepticism kept me going more than the encouragement I got elsewhere.

    I'm so glad he got to see some of my books published before he passed away.

  40. Linda Jackson on December 14, 2010 at 10:06 AM

    >Nobody has ever told me it's a waste of time. Everybody around me is supportive. I'm the one who often wonders whether it's a waste of time. I probably would have given up a long time ago were it not for others encouraging me to keep going.

  41. Keli Gwyn on December 14, 2010 at 9:32 AM

    >Support. Encouragement. Admiration. Respect.

    Those are what I've received from the special people in my life during the five years I've been writing with the goal of publication. At the outset, I decided if I were serious about my new venture, I needed to declare myself a writer and let those around me know. Sure, I've had to field the "Where can I get your books?" type of questions, but I've used them as a way to gently educate others about the publishing world. My friends have listened, learned, and cheered me on through the many stages of my journey. On that momentous someday when I have a book contract and can shout the news, I'll have a small army of supporters ready to join in my happy dance.

  42. lynnrush on December 14, 2010 at 9:32 AM

    >Interesting!! I've gotten some funny looks/comments about being a writer, but no one has come out and said not to do it or that it was a waste of time.

    I'm not so sure I'd listen to them if they did, either. I can only walk the path that has been laid out before me…

    But mostly, I've been encouraged and supported, and for that, I'm very grateful!

  43. Susan Bourgeois on December 14, 2010 at 9:12 AM

    >No one has ever told me it was a waste of time because most everyone who knows me has commented on my writing skills. They know the ability or passion is there and they respect my goals.

    I've written one book and as I've stated recently, it didn't take me long, after researching the submission process, that I put the cart before the horse without a platform for non-fiction. That's OK because that book had to come from what I was experiencing at that time or it wouldn't have been written with the same intensity. It wasn't a waste of time and I am very proud of that accomplishment and my plan is to introduce it after I build a platform with my book of fiction.

    I learned a great deal of valuable information regarding the submission and publishing process, therefore, writing that book was far from a waste of my time and energy. It has led me to my next project on fiction.

    Here's what sort of funny now. Only my close family members (children and husband)know about the plot and characters of the book on fiction. They love it, feel it will be a big winner(trust me they are all adults and they would let me know if it was weak or not original). Because they love it and believe in it, they want or think I can whip a new book out in the snap of my fingers.

    Life doesn't work that way. It takes time to make these things come to life in a novel and my wonderful loving family needs to realize that I will need a great amount of time to concentrate on completing this task and I won't be so available when that time arrives.

    I'm going to be focused, determined and let's say, a little more selfish with my time so that I can reach the goals I wish to reach with this book in 2011.

    I hope everyone who has goals with their writing will do the same, if possible, in 2011.

  44. Tim A Martin on December 14, 2010 at 8:45 AM

    >Amazingly I've had nothing but positive encouragement from family and friends since I've began writing my novel. Everybody who knows me, knows that I'm a bit of a bookworm so I think they were not surprised that I'd want to write a novel.

  45. Kathy on December 14, 2010 at 8:40 AM

    >My parents weren't the most supportive when they first found out I wanted to write for a living. Although, that could have had more to do with the subject matter than the actual writing (YA fantasy, not something my parents are crazy about).

    Honestly, I am the only person in my life who has much doubt about my writing. Most of my friends and family are highly supportive. They seem to see something that I have trouble seeing. They remind me that it's not a waste of time.

  46. Amy Tripp on December 14, 2010 at 8:39 AM

    >I absolutely sometimes think my writing is a waste of time. There are days when part of me believes I couldn't string two words together coherently to save my life. Other days, I'm invincible.

  47. Heather on December 14, 2010 at 8:37 AM

    >Hmmm…I remember Thanksgiving in my last year of high school…my well-meaning aunt asked what I was planning to do after graduating (as if she was hoping I'd finally grown up and wouldn't answer the same as past years). I answered the same: "Writing fantasy novels."

    "Not going to college?"


    She just smiled and said something that boiled down to, "You need to get a real job, dear."

    But thankfully, I think my perseverance has changed her mind. ;0)

  48. David A. Todd on December 14, 2010 at 8:31 AM

    >Almost every day I think it's a waste of time. But then, with an ounce of encouragement I might not think that way. Our writers group disbanded, so now I have zero encouragement from anyone in real life. The extreme difficulty of breaking into book publishing makes me think I should just write poetry, but then my wife says, "Don't you think there's enough poetry in the world?" So whatya gonna do?

  49. Wendy Paine Miller on December 14, 2010 at 8:27 AM

    >Reminds me of if God is for us, who can be against us?

    Even a few of the books I've written that likely won't be published weren't a waste. I was "brought into contact with my soul" while writing them, therefore I'm a different person because I engaged in the process.

    I guess it depends how you define waste. I have a hard time seeing much of anything as a waste if it spurs growth.

    ~ Wendy

  50. Timothy Fish on December 14, 2010 at 8:04 AM

    >Katie Ganshert said, "I think there's this unspoken, but not-so-secret belief among the world that it's wasted time if a person never gets published."

    I think the quote Rachelle posted kindof implies that as well. For writing to open us up to criticism, it must be published. Of course, publication doesn't have to mean that we have a traditional publishing contract or even that it is in the form of a book, but people have to be able to read what we write or it fails to accomplish much of its purpose.

  51. BK on December 14, 2010 at 8:01 AM

    >I've never thought it was a waste of time, but I have wrestled with feeling like it's not as important as other things, like directly serving in some capacity at church. I probably wouldn't wrestle with that either, except for the fact that to write means a humungous time investment, and it really does hack into the rest of your life.

    You've got to be tough and focused to bear up under that weight, because most people, including sometimes the writer herself or himself, will think they are not spending their time the way they should.

  52. R.S. Bohn on December 14, 2010 at 7:48 AM

    >My first husband.

    There was a lot he said I couldn't do. I'm not saying my life now is lived to prove him wrong, but… I'm proving him wrong.

    This is actually a sad post, Rachelle!

  53. Malin on December 14, 2010 at 7:44 AM

    >That quote makes me want to cry, in a good way. There's a little voice in my head stuck on repeat and telling me "it's a waste of time". I convince myself my words will never be as good as my idols – and that if I'm not the best, I'm not good enough. Nothing I tell myself seems to change that. πŸ™

  54. Sue Harrison on December 14, 2010 at 7:34 AM

    >When God gives us a gift, no matter how small that gift may seem to our occluded eyes, we miss great opportunity and great joy if we don't celebrate His love by opening it!

  55. Anita on December 14, 2010 at 6:07 AM

    >This is one of the best quotes that I have read about writing. It does make one vulnerable, but that is also true of any creative pursuit. There will always be someone to judge another's craft. Is it a waste of time? Only if you do not believe in yourself.

  56. Katie Ganshert on December 14, 2010 at 6:02 AM

    >I think there's this unspoken, but not-so-secret belief among the world that it's wasted time if a person never gets published. But somehow, once they pass from no book contract to book contract, the world responds differently. All of a sudden, that person isn't weird or wasting their time, they are admirable.

    It's sad.

    There's nothing wasteful about having a dream and chasing after it. No matter the outcome.

  57. Timothy Fish on December 14, 2010 at 5:59 AM

    >I never feel that writing is a waste of time, but I do feel that most of the stuff I've been doing to market my books is a complete waste of time. It's odd how people seem to enjoy reading my books, but they aren't willing to buy them.

  58. Sharon A. Lavy on December 14, 2010 at 5:52 AM

    >Some do not understand the years it takes to learn and perfect our craft. But my first ACFW Conference confirmed that no writing is a waste of time.

    Since then I have learned so much about life, from the mere fact of learning the writing craft.

  59. Jeffrey Beesler on December 14, 2010 at 5:38 AM

    >I never find writing to be a waste of time as I'm always getting something out of it. Sometimes entertainment, sometimes the chance to vent, and sometimes clarity. It all depends on how the writing session goes for me on any given day.

  60. Bonnie R. Paulson on December 14, 2010 at 5:19 AM

    >I get told that all the time, actually. It's sad, but how is something that you love a terrible waste of time? Love the quote!

  61. Nathan on December 14, 2010 at 5:19 AM

    >It's often the illusion I create for others to somehow justify my lack of notoriety in my writing pursuits, as if distinguishing writing as no more than a casual hobby will place me above reproach if my writing fails to go beyond my own keyboard.

    Basically an occult cowardice behind which I can hide for the time being. Maybe if I'm ever published I'll slowly lower my guard.

  62. Dorci on December 14, 2010 at 3:55 AM

    >There have been moments when I've wondered if I'd be better suited to another pastime, which is all writing has amounted to for me thus far.

    And then every now and then I'll get a little nudge, a little nibble, a little confirmation from someone, somewhere. And it fans the flames of the creative process again.

    Commercially, I may never be a success. But there are kindred spirits out there. How could one heart touching another ever be a waste of time?

  63. Mariya Koleva on December 14, 2010 at 3:36 AM

    >Hm, in fact – yes! A lot of people around me believe it's a waste of time. I don't, in fact, dare tell them I write prose (let alone poetry, they'd be laughing their heads off). My husband supports me a lot. My father used to write poetry, so naturally he was my first reader and critic. Auntie, too (high school literature teacher), but no one outside the family … Lonely.
    I'll see how the agents will feel about it, though.

  64. Carol J. Garvin on December 14, 2010 at 2:59 AM

    >If I thought writing was a waste of time I'd have to think eating and sleeping were, too. πŸ™‚ Sometimes I'm tempted to believe publication of my novels may be beyond my reach, but but trying isn't a waste of time because I love to write.

  65. charlotteotter on December 14, 2010 at 2:55 AM

    >Yes. An editor on a magazine I once worked for said, 'Why write a novel, Charlotte? There are so many already out there.'

    Now, I have to say, he is one of my biggest supporters, but I think that put me off novel-writing for about 10 years.

  66. Pippa Jay on December 14, 2010 at 2:51 AM

    >I frequently hit lows where I feel I'm wasting my time, that I can't take another rejection or that my writing isn't good enough. And the more I 'toughen' up, the more I worry I will lose contact with the feelings that inspire me to write and that I instil into my characters. But there is always the thought that, if I give up now, I've failed myself, and I just won't do that.

  67. Michelle on December 14, 2010 at 2:49 AM

    >My mum thinks it's a waste of time πŸ™

  68. Sally Napthali on December 14, 2010 at 2:42 AM

    >Out of frustration and probably a lack of skills I've had moments of thinking what I write is a waist of time. It’s hard when well-meaning people look you in the eye and question your qualifications to write on the subject. In the end you have to smile and let it go and keep on writing.

    My husband says it’s about having tough skin, not allowing these things to knock you around, stand your ground and push through.