Time to Stop Digging

I have this quote from businessman Warren Buffet that I keep posted where I can see it often:

When you find yourself in a hole, the best thing you can do is stop digging.

It sounds ridiculously simple, right? But easier said than done.

Right now, I have to tell you: I’m in a hole. I picked up three more clients from ACFW, and I’m pretty much at my limit. I’m almost to the point of not being able to get everything done in a timely manner.

So, I have to stop digging. Translated, this means: I probably won’t take on any more new clients for about the next month. (This could be negotiable if you volunteer to move in with me, take care of my children and do all the cooking, grocery shopping, laundry, and housecleaning.)

If you’re waiting for an answer from me on a partial I’ve requested… if you’re hoping to hear that I’m offering representation… it’s going to have to wait until I’m caught up and properly taking care of the clients I’ve already said yes to.

Believe me, this is hard to say! When I find a project I love, I really want to say yes. I don’t like to pass up chances to work with talented authors on great projects. But it wouldn’t do either of us any good if I were to say “yes” and then not have time to do the work.

So as difficult as this is, I’m going to stop digging. Please bear with me; I’ll get caught up soon enough. Then I will be able to consider new clients again.

Anyone want to share stories of your own deep hole? How did you get out of it? Was it hard to stop digging?

Rachelle Gardner is a Christian literary agent affiliated with WordServe Literary Group in Colorado.

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. christa on October 21, 2008 at 7:24 PM

    >Oh, so it’s NOT the shovel that’s the problem…

  2. Avily Jerome on October 21, 2008 at 2:46 PM

    >Hey Rachelle, I’ll totally move in with you! I have to bring my own three kids, and possibly my hubby, though… 🙂 My housekeeping is slightly sub-par, but I’m a decent cook and an awesome mom!
    Seriously, though, I admire your willingness to step back. I’ve often wondered how you guys do it all when you’re receiving thousands of queries/submissions every year. Do you have someone who screens them for you?

  3. Yvonne on October 21, 2008 at 1:00 PM

    >Hee, hee….I thought of “Holes” too, but figured it didn’t fit in this conversation.

  4. Timothy Fish on October 21, 2008 at 12:57 PM

    >If your name happens to be Stanley Yelnats, then it might pay to keep on digging.

  5. Rick Brown on October 21, 2008 at 11:40 AM

    >Rachelle–A number of years ago when I lived in Denver we were asking Max Lucado to come speak at a fairly large event. He was at a point in his life where the invites were more than one person could handle.

    I received a letter from him that stated something to the effect that, “There are many who can fill your speaking needs well, but there is only one person who can be a father to my children.” That kind of “stop digging” has helped him maintain a healthy family along with a very healthy publishing life.

    You’re on the right track. Just don’t forget Jesus Sightings

    –rick brown

  6. Rachel H. Evans on October 21, 2008 at 10:29 AM

    >In my experience, one of the things that drives me to continue digging is guilt. I hate saying “no,” and have always struggled with the belief that if I CAN do it I SHOULD do it.

    …So, I feel your pain!

    I just try to tell myself that I would rather do a few things well than a lot of things badly…and, (as corny as this is), that few people lie on their deathbeds wishing they had gotten more work done.

    Another thing that helps is to refuse to answer the phone or check e-mail for an entire day. 🙂 I sometimes do this when I need to focus on writing. That’s what answering machines (and husbands) are for!

  7. Rachelle on October 21, 2008 at 10:03 AM

    >To Lisa and anyone else from whom I’ve requested materials (at ACFW or anywhere else)…

    Please feel free to send it whenever you’re ready. You may want to take some extra time to get it just right! Whether you send it now or wait another 3 to 4 weeks, I can tell you two things: I’ll give it serious consideration either way, and I probably won’t make any new representation decisions until mid-November.

  8. Jennifer Dukes Lee on October 21, 2008 at 9:30 AM

    >I read your post yesterday, “Early Morning Dilemma,” and it sounds like God spoke to you today with a reminder to stop digging. I’ve found myself at the bottom of holes that I’ve dug. From the bottom, the only place to look is up. And, of course, there He is.

    Blessings to you, as you take some time to stop digging and to climb out of the hole.

    I’d be lying if I didn’t express (selfish) disappointment. I emailed you a query last week, and am a Rachelle Gardner client-wannabe! … Me and a gazillion others! … Yet I admire your ability to say no, and to have your no mean no. Good for you. A lesson for all of us. …

  9. lynnrush on October 21, 2008 at 8:29 AM

    >I understand. I’m in the customer service industry, and when I feel like my service to my clients is deteriorating, it’s always because I’ve taken on more than I can handle.

    I pride myself on my service, but I’ve had to ask for help before. I’ve had to step back. It was difficult, but needed. My service levels increased and my customers were more happy with my service.

    So, Rachelle, step back, seek first HIS kingdom. He’ll guide you.

    God Bless!

  10. Katy McKenna on October 21, 2008 at 8:23 AM

    >I meant to add that while I TRY, I often fail. And I completely empathize, Rachelle!

  11. Katy McKenna on October 21, 2008 at 7:27 AM

    >My particular overload struggle has to do with 7+years of elder care, a job a did not apply for. I’m too tired to say more about that right now! Ha.

    A girlfriend of mine used to turn down every single street if she saw a “For Sale” sign posted on the corner. Yes, she was in the market for a new house, but we’d be driving through neighborhoods she clearly could not afford. (This was WAY before sub-prime loans became the rage…) I’d say, “Jo, why don’t you narrow down your search to specific neighborhoods and price ranges? Wouldn’t that be a better way to find the house that’s right for you?”

    I’ll never forget her answer. “Yes, but I like to keep all my options open.”

    I try these days (20 years after my friend said this) NOT to keep all my options open!

  12. Myowne on October 21, 2008 at 7:16 AM

    >I have to say that being the person relied up on for so many things can be overwhelming. You can feel pulled in so many directions. I am where you are as well, and like you I have learned the art of saying “Wait…” or “No.” Saying either may cause some hurt feelings or misunderstandings but I believe that God does not want us to fall into the pattern of giving so much of ourselves there is nothing left for Him or His purposes for us. We can have the best of intentions to meet everyone’s needs and desires, but in the quiet moments, we can feel God tugging on our hearts. We can hear Him saying that there is a much more needful thing to do (seeking Him even in the face of pressing needs), and the yoke He has for us is much easier to bear than the yokes we either give ourselves or allow others to place around our necks.

    I have decided to stop digging in the hole I have found myself in after all these years. The truth is I have started to become resentful of the things I used to love to do and I believe there is a God-reason for that feeling of angst. I am choosing to obey Him, and I pray that whatever His will for you during this time that you will continue to do the same. After all, ultimately you have to please Him above all else.

  13. Catherine West on October 21, 2008 at 7:01 AM

    >Good for you. I don’t know why saying no is so hard. Last year when I knew I really needed to concentrate on my writing, I did have to step back from some things, and it was hard. But I’m not particularly good at multi-tasking, so it was necessary. Recognizing you’re on overload and doing something about it is a very good thing!

  14. Richard Mabry on October 21, 2008 at 6:56 AM

    >Rachelle, it’s both painful and refreshing to see someone who has the courage to say, “I wish I could… but, no!” I struggled with decisions like that during thirty-six years of practicing medicine, during which I not only cared for patients but wrote textbooks, gave lectures, and made time to attend my children’s ball games, swim meets, and speech tournaments. I know you work hard to balance career and family without short-changing either, and even though this is painful, it seems you’re doing the right thing.

    Sometimes when we communicate I can tell that you’re working at your limit, yet you remain patient and helpful as ever. I pray that the road will get smoother (and maybe a bit downhill so you can even coast from time to time), and that eventually you can take on more writers, all of whom should be terribly grateful to have someone like you working with them.


  15. Lisa Jordan on October 21, 2008 at 6:54 AM

    >I can so relate. Working full-time, going to school part-time, caring for a family, writing, and doing children’s ministry about maxed me out.

    My hubby (my voice of reason) told me something had to give. For six months, it was my writing. Then I started saying no when asked about committees and projects. For a people pleaser, that’s not an easy task.

    I pray you will be filled with peace and won’t be stressed by your new amount of work.

    If you requested our chapters at the conference, should we hold off sending those? Or send them and be patient?

  16. Yvonne on October 21, 2008 at 6:46 AM

    >Ah, Rachelle…

    I wish I could scoot over there for a few hours each day! I’d love to help you out. You wouldn’t want to move to Maine, would you? There’s a nice house for sale right down the road from us.

    I’ll be praying that you’ll be able to fill in your hole a little this month!

  17. Jessica on October 21, 2008 at 5:48 AM

    >Eep, I’m glad you posted this 🙂 Definitely helpful.
    btw, I’ve got cleaning down to an art, but my cooking is horrible. Sorry I can’t help you out, lol.

  18. Anonymous on October 21, 2008 at 5:33 AM


    In my experience, if it’s a God-shape inside of you it’s both the most joyful and most arduous life has to offer. It’s caring so deeply you wish there were no limits and bemoaning the ones confronting you. It’s watching your tree bear fruit even within your human limits, to your astonishment at times, because you know if only XY or Z, you could do so much MORE. 😉

    I live like that in my little job and in my writing, though time will tell how much or if my writing ever bears fruit. My job is much different from yours, but in it I am but one person filling a single role for many needy ones. (Writers are needy, are we not?) God worked a miracle in me: He allowed me to give richly while not giving all, keeping just enough back to sustain me when I most need it. He does the same for you–I think many of us just stand back and wonder at how you do it.

    You likely did not need the pep talk this morning, being a strong woman of faith, but there it is humbly offered and I hope received in the spirit it’s offered. Thank God for your God-shape, and I pray He will bless you richly today and sustain you.

  19. Anne L.B. on October 21, 2008 at 2:12 AM

    >Oh yeah. Been there.

    My husband advised me for some time that I needed to give up being the local National Day of Prayer (NDP) coordinator because of how taxing it had become. I loved this ministry position, which also happened to be as high profile as anything I’ve ever done. (Everywhere I go people still say, “I know you—you’re at City Hall every year doing National Day of Prayer.”)

    As this last May approached, I found myself obligated to both teach and be at City Hall—with the mayor—at the same time. The only person who could cover my class was … my husband. He refused to do so until I agreed to make 2008 my last year with NDP. It was a painful decision, but one the Lord confirmed in His own way.

    Obedience to the Lord (and gracious submission to my husband) was very difficult. But in laying down that ministry, the door was opened to a ministry with potential to reach far more people.

    Didn’t someone say, “When God closes one door, look for the one He’s going to open?”