You Got to Know When to Fold

My daughter’s Girl Scout Cookie sales goal this year was 1500 boxes.  Since she sold 1300+ last year, this isn’t as laughable as it sounds.  But this has been a weird year for a bunch of reasons, and on Thursday evening, with 700 boxes still to sell to make goal (and 250 to sell to break 1000 and reach “Hall of Fame” status), the girl decided to stop at 800 boxes, return her remaining cookies, and call it a day.

Mind you: 800 boxes of cookies is a more-than-respectable sale.  And she had a lead role in a play that went up the first week of the sale, which meant no after-school sales; and sales this year have been peculiar and lousy at some of the reliable hot-seller locations.  And…well, probably, her interests are changing.  She wanted to sell 1500 because she’d get an iPod Touch if she did so; when it became clear that it would take a miracle to sell to that level, I think she shrugged her shoulders and decided to bag it.

I found myself in a peculiar position.  I have tried to teach my daughters that 1) commitments must be honored and 2) giving up on things is not good for you in the long run.  I believe both these things (which probably explains some of the rotten relationships I stayed in waaay too long in my yout’).  However, I also believe that, all things being equal, it does no one any good to keep doing something that gains you not so much.  If her troop had been depending on her to sell her initial order of 1000 boxes I would have insisted–that’s part of the honoring-commitments thing.  In fact, by Thursday night Thin Mints and Samoas and Tagalongs were in such short supply that there were four families waiting for our returns so they could go out and sell them.  So no one lost by her default.  If I believed that she would somehow harm herself by not meeting this particular goal, I would have–maybe not insisted, but lobbied to finish up.

She may, at some point in the near future, realize that she’s missing out on the Hall of Fame dinner, the plaque for her wall, the I Sold a Bazillion Cookies patch for her GS vest, etc.  At which point she’ll have to deal with that, and I will endeavor to be sympathetic.  But honestly, can you imagine anyone less able to sell than a sullen 14 year old who’s being forced to sell cookies?  Ugh.

The writing life is sometimes like this; sometimes you start on a story or take on a project that–for whatever reason–turns out to be a bad idea.  There are reasons to finish, and sometimes that’s what you do.  But sometimes the best thing to do is tidy up your workspace and go on to the next project.  Maybe someday you come back to this project; maybe it remains one that got away.  Learning when to fold is an undervalued, but very important writing skill.


Madeleine Robins is a founding member of BVC, the author of Petty Treason and Point of Honour, the mother of two girls and (by adoption) one dog, and a former Cookie Cupboard Manager.  You can read her short fiction, but she’s all out of Thin Mints.


About Madeleine E. Robins

Madeleine Robins is the author of The Stone War, Point of Honour, Petty Treason, and The Sleeping Partner (the third Sarah Tolerance mystery, available from Plus One Press). Her Regency romances, Althea, My Dear Jenny, The Heiress Companion, Lady John, and The Spanish Marriage are now available from Book View Café. Sold for Endless Rue , an historical novel set in medieval Italy, was published in May 2013 by Forge Books


You Got to Know When to Fold — 2 Comments

  1. On the other hand, if you’re in entirely the wrong place – the wrong job, the wrong school, the wrong relationship – it is a very good idea to move out once you realise that, and not a year or two later. Honouring comittments is all very well – but I think your subject line is spot on.