A Strange Week, Starting Over, and the Nature of Giving Up

So it’s been a strange week. Getting home from a four-month road trip. Moving into my parents’ basement. Cleaning up Willie and putting him back into storage. Seeing so many friends who we hadn’t seen for what felt like years. Visiting my grandma. Hugging my bald aunt.

At many points during the week, my brain simply could not compute the the continuous accumulation of stimuli. It was like walking down a long, dark hallway, then opening a door to a room with loud music, flashing lights, strange smells, and dancing clowns. I just wanted to stand there in the doorway, my head cocked to the side, eyes squinting.

What is this place?

* * * * *

In some ways it feels like we’re starting over. 32 months ago we left a close community in Northern Virginia to pursue my dream of becoming a writer. During the first two years, I had picked up some momentum, found new leads, began new projects. We made headway. But after four months on the road, many of my leads have grown cold. I’m left wondering where to begin. All of my current projects are ending.

So it was during this strangest of weeks, feeling like we were at the beginning again, wondering how to move forward, that I kind-of-sort-of panicked. The voices started up again. You know. Those voices.

You’ll never get another writing project again.

Your writing life has peaked – it’s all downhill from here.

You’d better get a job while you can. Anything.

You’re going to end up on the street.

You can only pursue a dream so long before the wheels fall off and you have to give up.

They are always very convincing and nasally. And matter-of-fact. And for some odd reason they have British accents.

So on Wednesday night, I called a friend about getting a job. On Thursday I was told I could have the job if I wanted it – the pay wasn’t great, but it would be regular income. I said I’d call back on Friday morning.

When I went to bed on Thursday night, I had no idea what to do. When I woke up on Friday morning, what began as a vague feeling turned into a determination: I would not give up this easily. It was too soon. I needed to stay the course of writing for a living for a little longer, and if I took this 40-hours-per-week job, my writing would be pushed to the back of the line for a long time.

Most of all, I remembered how difficult it was to go from a complex life to a simple life. To go from a regular income to a sporadic one. I do not want to go there unless I absolutely have to, because the road back to this place is way more intimidating than continuing on the road I’m currently walking.

Does that make any sense?

So I passed on the job. I might be crazy. But I feel like there’s something good coming just around the corner. Which reminds me of some of my own crazy advice:

You will want to give up. Don’t.

Have you wanted to give up on anything recently? What kept you going?

(Photo used with permission)

23 Replies to “A Strange Week, Starting Over, and the Nature of Giving Up”

  1. Oh boy, Shawn. You couldn’t have written a more perfect post for me. For the last seven years my husband and I have been pursuing his dream in the technology field — a dream that has left us, more than once, wondering how we were going to pay for groceries this week. It’s awfully hard to say no to those regular paying jobs you settle for, when your kids don’t have enough. I keep telling myself that the kids need to see that dreams are worth it, that fear is to be conquered by faith, that contentment comes with less, not more. But IT IS HARD. I keep asking myself, at what point do we give up? Fear says now is as good a time as any. Love says not yet. Knowing that there are other crazy families out there, and supportive wives too (thanks Maile!) makes me feel stronger in my resolution to keep going.

    1. What a sweet encouragement! Yes supportive family can make or break the dream! So glad both of you have that. Plus, I think that we forget we are to walk by faith, and not by sight. Our culture tells us to walk by faith as long as you have everything in sight.

      I believe there is more joy in pursuing your passion even if you struggle, because you get the joy of seeing God provide. & He will provide. Maybe not in the amount of income we would like, or setting up that retirement IRA for us, or the sizse home that we think we need. He will provide all of our needs. I believe that is what Shawn and Maile are doing. Allowing God to provide all they need. Their needs have been adjusted to what He provides NOT what the world standards tell us. It is not easy and always fun, but when I look back down the road I smile when I can see in hindsight what God was doing along they way. I could not see at the moment.

  2. I can only say that I make these kinds of decisions by releasing them to God and praying with my wife. I need to know that God is sending me in a particular direction and that my wife can confirm it. I need her confirmation to make sure I’m not crazy! There are signposts that have pointed me in my current direction to write, but for me, it’s been a strange dance where I need to hang on to this and work hard, but I also need to constantly let go, trusting God to make the next step happen. The trick sometimes is that the next step doesn’t always look the way I expect! That’s certainly what it feels like right now.

    1. Very true, Ed. Next steps are so hard to discern – it’s the transition times that make for long nights.

  3. Too many of us do not have the opportunity to pursue our dreams the way you are. I feel it’s kind of like being in ministry. Don’t do it, unless that’s all you can do. Does that make sense?

  4. “I do not want to go there unless I absolutely have to, because the road back to this place is way more intimidating than continuing on the road I’m currently walking” I completely understand that statement.


  6. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – you are one of the gutsy guys I know! I couldn’t do what you’re doing, I’m just too afraid to take the stand and commitment you’ve made. Your determination is truly inspiring. Also, down with the tyrannical British voices!

    1. Thanks, Tor. Not sure of the reason for the accent – I have lots of great British friends after living in England for four years. Very peculiar.

  7. You would love the book I am reading Shawn . . . In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson. Here’s a quote I found last night that is relevant to your story . . . “Most God-ordained dreams die because we are not willing to do something illogical.”

    You will want to check this out. It will keep you focused when the voices in your head tell you that you’re crazy!

    All his other books are awesome too. Check him out!

  8. Hang in, Shawn. The projects will come. And you and Maile need to get that book outlined – the one about your trip! (Would a 20 hour a week job ever be possible? Or does that impinge too much, too? Me, I’m always lookin’ for an angle…)

    1. Yes, I’m filling in my time with some part time things, Diana. Not a bad idea. And just today I started ruminating on how to retell the story of our trip, so there’s that.

  9. I’m a quitter. I want to give up often. Thankfully for me I have a great wife, a good support system, and a relationship with God. I recently left my stable job to plant a church. I too moved into my parents house. God’s blessed this adventure! Thanks for sharing your story.

  10. Shawn, don’t do it. Keep writing. See what God has for you right around the corner. An ordinary person would toss the pens and paper for a steady 9-5 job, but by the sounds of your four month-long adventure and the power behind your words, you’re not a bit ordinary. So keep writing and praying. God’s always faithful, although sometimes I swear he waits until the last possible second :)

    I look forward to reading for years to come.

  11. Oh yes, Shawn, I know those voices well. And ten years into them, I’m still writing for a living (and I’ll add that the voices have become weary of picking on me these last few years—I almost never hear them any more). I’m so glad to hear you made the choice you did, and I’ll be praying for peace and guidance as you move forward. (And thanks for the encouragement you’ve given the rest of us, in the process of figuring this out! I’ve been feeling a bit up against a wall with my book project this month, wondering how to move forward…)

  12. Shawn,

    I’ve devoured your blog and “Building a Life…” over the past few weeks and continue to be amazed at how much you and your family have been able to experience over the past several months. The realistic part of me, the part that has put myself in your place, thinks you should have taken the job; the reckless, adventurous, creative part of me is hoping you will continue with the writing and traveling, “liv[ing] deep and suck[ing] out all the marrow of life,” as Thoreau put it.

    Whatever path you take from here, you are already the envy of most of us. You have lived a dream and survived to tell about it.

    Just remember there’s a fine line between “Carpe Diem” and “YOLO.”


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