Letter 26: Don’t Flake Out

22 Nov

This Letter was featured on the Freshly Pressed homepage as one of the best posts on the WordPress network.

Dear me at 19:

So you’ve decided that you love books.

You love books so much that you want a job helping people make them. You want to work in publishing.

Somehow, through the luck of the draw and the pulling of some strings you manage to land a sought-after internship at a small press. You are pretty sure that you have found your life’s calling.

They publish mostly feminist literature and experimental poetry. You read their manuscripts and feel like you might be the luckiest person in the world to have landed this job.

So you make the most logical next step. You decide to quit.



How does that make any sense?

Okay, alright. To be fair, you don’t quit immediately. You work there for a few months. At first, you just cut back your hours a little. Then a little bit more. Then you start calling in sick for your remaining shifts. Then you decide to send them an email resignation.


I’m writing you this letter to say: DON’T QUIT! DON’T DO IT! For the love of God and all things holy, buck up, act like an adult and keep your job.

Granted, when you began working there, you had a slightly different idea of what your job might entail. Maybe you didn’t quite understand the term “intern”. When you showed up wearing your first ever “Business Suit”, you were somewhat surprised to find yourself running errands, filing rejection manuscripts and licking envelopes. You proceeded to get up on your high horse so quickly that you practically gave yourself a literary wedgie.

“I’m not here to make photocopies,” you thought. “If I wanted a job filing papers, I would have gotten a job as a secretary. At least I’d be getting paid.”

Here’s the thing about internships: The actual job sucks. And you do it for free.

Because it’s not the job that matters. It’s the people you meet. It’s the time you put in. It’s what you learn. And most importantly, it’s what you’re able to put on your resume when you leave.

The small press you’re working at may not be a KnopfΒ or a HarperCollins. They may not make a lot of money, and they may not have a big shiny office in a tall building downtown. But they run their business like any other in the publishing world. Their processes are exactly the same, but on a much smaller scale. And they know people. Lots and lots of people.

If you stick this one out, it could lead to something much, much bigger. It could lead to a KnopfΒ or a HarperCollins. It could lead to a big shiny office downtown. It could lead to a job where you are the one hiring an intern, to fill in the holes for the much more important work that you are doing.

Most importantly, you made the owners a promise. You promised that you would work with them. You promised that you would work hard. You promised that you would be excited to learn. These are women that are kind and understanding and who love their business like it’s their baby. If you stick with this job, you’ll be keeping your promise. You won’t be letting them down. You won’t make them feel silly for believing in you.

But instead, you choose to flake out. You choose to take the easy route. You choose to break up with them in an email.


Honey, let me fill you in on something: Life is about work. Everything is work. Jobs are work. Relationships are work. Family is work. And a lot of the time, work sucks. It’s not the fun part. It’s not the glamorous part. It’s not the part that you look back on and think “Geez, that was awesome”. But that’s life. That’s reality. Not everything is fun, and nothing worth while is easy.

You will come to realize the importance of that little filing job very quickly once it’s gone.

So do me a favour, and ask for some of those shifts back. Maybe work a few more to make up for the ones you missed. Go into that office and file until your little fingers are sore. Work as hard as you can on every little job that they give you.

It might not seem like much now, but by giving those women, your employers, a reason to believe in you, you might even find another reason to believe in yourself.


If you liked this post, you’ll surely love this one and this one!


113 Responses to “Letter 26: Don’t Flake Out”

  1. The Simple Life of a Country Man's Wife November 22, 2010 at 8:43 am #

    Very nice post. I agree, most everything in life is about work. And often times unpleasant work as well.

    • thehindsightletters November 22, 2010 at 9:40 am #

      Isn’t that the truth! My husband always says “Work makes life sweet”. I don’t always feel that way, but I think it’s a good motto nonetheless πŸ™‚ Thanks for reading!!

  2. dearexgirlfriend November 22, 2010 at 8:56 am #

    congrats on freshly pressed. im doing something similar…writing hindsight letters, except to all my exes!

    • thehindsightletters November 22, 2010 at 9:39 am #

      Thanks so much! Your site is awesome too! Would you be willing to write a Guest Letter here at the Hindsight Letters about one of your teenaged exes? It would be great to combine forces πŸ™‚

  3. Skirmish Paintball Games November 22, 2010 at 8:57 am #

    Just a quick congrats on appearing on Freshly Pressed!

  4. Mikalee Byerman November 22, 2010 at 8:58 am #

    Ah, the power of hindsight. If only our current self could communicate more effectively with our past self.

    That would certainly save me in my current situation — blogging about the soap opera that is my life while fighting a court order to stop doing so. But dammit, I have rights here…

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed, and let us know how the imploring works for you. πŸ˜‰

    • thehindsightletters November 22, 2010 at 9:36 am #

      Thanks so much for the congrats! Still can’t believe it πŸ™‚ Love your blog- thanks for reading mine!

  5. Mitch Leuraner November 22, 2010 at 9:11 am #

    I think that ‘Don’t Flake Out’ should really be the motto promoted by all highschool councelors.

    How differently my life would have turned out if I had followed that motto!

    • thehindsightletters November 22, 2010 at 9:34 am #

      Totally! I am absolutely a recovering flake πŸ™‚ Thanks so much for reading!

  6. pltprincess November 22, 2010 at 9:31 am #

    Absolutely loved it! Thanks.

  7. Steve November 22, 2010 at 9:34 am #

    It’s not the job that demeans the person, it’s the person that demeans the job.

  8. Livy Parker November 22, 2010 at 9:40 am #

    Ugh – if there was a time machine so our young selves could read those letters…

    • thehindsightletters November 22, 2010 at 9:41 am #

      Agreed πŸ™‚ We’d be saved so much heartache! Thanks so much for reading!

  9. Ava Aston's Muckery November 22, 2010 at 10:46 am #

    I always was told that the word “intern” was an old Greek word meaning chump.

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!



  10. Nora Weston November 22, 2010 at 10:51 am #

    Hi! It’s fantastic you were Freshly Pressed right before the holiday madness sets in. Your post is like a gentle reminder to stay calm, cool, and collected with all of the added responsibilites and social gatherings during this time of year.

    I think a person’s character is tested when things get stressful, so not “flaking out” can be a challenge for sure. I’ve never met a person who regretted keeping a promise. That’s a great point you bring up.
    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!:)

    • thehindsightletters November 22, 2010 at 10:54 am #

      Thanks so much for all your kind words! I’m so glad that you enjoyed the post! Happy Holidays!

  11. michaeleriksson November 22, 2010 at 11:06 am #

    While you do have some points, also remember the saying:

    Do not life in order to work, but work in order to live.

    (Further, I have heard many claim that US internship system has become a way to just get free labour. My own opinion on the topic is not fully formed.)

    • thehindsightletters November 22, 2010 at 2:07 pm #

      Absolutely agreed. It’s a fine balance, right? Thanks for reading!

  12. Sunflowerdiva November 22, 2010 at 11:20 am #

    Great post, thanks for sharing!

  13. Fiona November 22, 2010 at 11:50 am #

    What a genius idea for a blog – I love it!

    On the subject of amazing letters you might find this interesting, I hold a self development group and last year the most adored session was the one I created for xmas. I got everyone to imagine they were able to write a letter to themselves retrospectively to help them get through 2010 with joy and ease.

    Everyone finished the letter and said – wow I hope I remember this good advice for next year. So we then proceeded to schedule the things we wanted to remember into our diaries and we’ve touched base on these things throughout the year to see how it’s working out & I can say I’ll definitely be doing another session like that this year.

    Love what doing,x

    • thehindsightletters November 22, 2010 at 2:10 pm #

      That sounds awesome! It’s so cathartic to write these letters and address the mistakes you’ve made. We are always looking for submissions if you’d ever be willing to submit a letter of your own! Thanks for reading πŸ™‚

  14. Eschelle November 22, 2010 at 11:50 am #

    ~vigorous applause~

    • thehindsightletters November 22, 2010 at 2:10 pm #

      Aw! Thanks lady!!! I have so appreciated all your support πŸ™‚

  15. steveduchardt November 22, 2010 at 12:02 pm #

    So much of that rings true for me. It was just easier to quit certain things. Don’t know why. Just was. Thanks for the reminder – it’s worth thinking about the reasons behind a decision, or job – rather than the results in the moment.

    • thehindsightletters November 22, 2010 at 2:11 pm #

      Absolutely. It’s all about perspective, right? If you can take yourself out of the moment and look ahead to the end goal, it gets harder to quit πŸ™‚ Thanks so much for reading!

  16. Sarah Barbee November 22, 2010 at 12:12 pm #

    This is great! I’ve been reading your posts now for almost an hour! I must go back to work, but I will be subscribing and waiting for more.
    I absolutely wish I had worked harder at some jobs I had in the past. I could have become so many things.

    • thehindsightletters November 22, 2010 at 2:13 pm #

      Aw! So glad you like the site! Please, by all means, read on πŸ™‚ We are always looking for submissions too, if you ever felt so inclined! Thanks so much for reading!

  17. hearttypat November 22, 2010 at 12:14 pm #

    I’m trying so hard not to remember some of the decisions I’ve made when I was 19… or even last year… ah well, I’m happy where I am!

    • thehindsightletters November 22, 2010 at 2:14 pm #

      Ha ha… I feel the same way! I have so many cringe-worthy moments to look back on πŸ™‚ Thanks for reading!

  18. enjoibeing November 22, 2010 at 12:23 pm #

    great read! congrats on being freshly pressed as well!


  19. acleansurface November 22, 2010 at 12:43 pm #

    This is my favorite part” “Not everything is fun, and nothing worth while is easy.” It’s a tough lesson.

    • thehindsightletters November 22, 2010 at 2:16 pm #

      Such a tough lesson! Definitely one that I think keeps coming up as we get older. Thanks so much for reading!

  20. Sandy "Nano" November 22, 2010 at 12:51 pm #

    A life lesson that I wish was spelled out to me at a younger age! I would add: Sometimes, what we think of as the worst work situations are what make the best stories to tell.

    • thehindsightletters November 22, 2010 at 2:17 pm #

      Totally! Particularly the embarrassing moments make for really great stories πŸ™‚ Thanks so much for reading!

  21. dozenaday November 22, 2010 at 1:02 pm #

    I love this letter. This summer, I’ll be starting an internship very similar to the one you’re describing. Thanks for a little push in the right direction. πŸ™‚

    • thehindsightletters November 22, 2010 at 2:18 pm #

      Aw! So glad you liked it! And yes, my advice would be to stick with it, work your hardest and always keep in mind that, above all else, you are there to learn. Be an efficient little sponge πŸ™‚ Good luck and thanks for reading!

  22. Dianne Firth Evans November 22, 2010 at 1:22 pm #

    This is great advice, as usually given on your blog!

  23. Evie Garone November 22, 2010 at 1:43 pm #

    I’m still torn on the free intern thing…my son had quite a few of these during college and I thought he was being taken advantage of…not even a few bucks for gas to get to and fro work! Hmm, free slave labor? I don’t know?


    • thehindsightletters November 22, 2010 at 2:20 pm #

      It’s true. All work and no pay. Definitely not a lucrative route, but you just hope something comes of it in the future πŸ™‚ Good luck to your son and thanks for reading!

  24. Nikole Hahn November 22, 2010 at 2:30 pm #

    My first acceptance from Marion Zimmer Magazine floored me at seventeen. They asked for a rewrite–at seventeen! And what did I do? Oooohhhhh…the pain! Nothing. I set it on my desk and forgot about it. I flaked out. I kick myself now.

    Very good blog! Good work ethic.

    • thehindsightletters November 22, 2010 at 2:54 pm #

      Ugh! I know the feeling πŸ˜‰ If you ever wanted to write a Hindsight Letter about it, we’re always looking for submissions πŸ™‚ Thanks for reading!

      • Nikole Hahn November 30, 2010 at 1:55 pm #

        Maybe I will. :o)

  25. Kathryn McCullough November 22, 2010 at 3:28 pm #

    This is fabulous! I blog from Haiti and wrote today about a lesson I still haven’t managed to learn, but, gosh, what a great idea for a blog–thehindsightletters–I love it!

    • thehindsightletters November 22, 2010 at 3:49 pm #

      Aw! So glad you like the site! Just checked yours out- love it! I have a big burly lab mix and have flown with him many times (though domestically) and each time has had some form of disaster! I feel your pain πŸ™‚ Thanks for reading!

  26. Fighting Reality November 22, 2010 at 3:47 pm #

    I agree. Just show up and do the work, learn something, be present, be courteous and open minded. I agree with someone above who said that these times make good stories. The reward will come if you can be a little patient and put a little effort in.

  27. The Ramblings Of A Demented Mind November 22, 2010 at 4:53 pm #

    I’ll have to wait for about another 3 years to get an internship even! But this is impressive! πŸ™‚

  28. lochgarry November 22, 2010 at 5:18 pm #

    Thanks for this posting. I needed it.

    Today, the work day was one that I asked where is the sanity? Human communication was lost between floors of the building. Terrible day! I was handed a memo before I left for the day answering a question that I asked HR in September. Get to share this piece of news from HR with my office staff tomorrow before they leave for Thanksgiving vacation. Also, I will share your postβ€”they are going to need it.

    Happy holidays!

    • thehindsightletters November 22, 2010 at 9:25 pm #

      Oh no! I’m sorry to hear that you had such a crummy day at work. But I’m glad to hear that you’ll be sharing this post with your colleagues πŸ™‚ I’m honoured! Thanks for reading!

  29. prasetyalynn November 22, 2010 at 6:22 pm #

    yes..every time in our live is a work, even it a pray.
    Like u’re post u make a good story here..:)

  30. Abigail November 22, 2010 at 6:29 pm #

    I really enjoyed this article and just the overall idea for this blog. Hindsight is such an interesting aspect of life. I enjoy your perspective and believe that your hindsight directly correlates to your perspective. Good stuff thanks!


    • thehindsightletters November 22, 2010 at 9:27 pm #

      Thank you- I’m really glad to hear that you like the blog! Yep, Hindsight is a very powerful thing. If only we could always learn from our mistakes πŸ™‚ Thanks for reading!

  31. Stephen Mc Elligott November 22, 2010 at 6:51 pm #

    I agree that we must work hard and learn to enjoy it. I dont agree with giving people a reason to believe in me. by doing just that it entails be anxious and worried about what people think of me. in that case I’d rather be shameless ( in a good way ) and be happy than running around trying to please people and be miserable.


    • thehindsightletters November 22, 2010 at 9:28 pm #

      Very true! A wise television personality once said “You wouldn’t care so much what other people thought about you if you knew how seldom they did” πŸ™‚ Thanks for reading!

  32. misssheltonb November 22, 2010 at 8:23 pm #

    It’s SO easy to be a flake in our society. And it’s so prevalent I don’t think people realize how bad it looks to employers until they start looking for a “real” job.

    • thehindsightletters November 22, 2010 at 9:29 pm #

      Absolutely- there’s something about graduating and, as you said, starting to look for a “real” job that puts all your former employment blunders into perspective. Thanks for reading!

  33. notesfromrumbleycottage November 22, 2010 at 9:58 pm #

    Loved it! Great post I wish I could have sent to my younger self. Oh, and congrats on being freshly pressed.

  34. makingup3000 November 22, 2010 at 10:41 pm #

    OOoohh….. you could write a lot of hindsight letters to me : )

  35. deadwednesdays November 22, 2010 at 10:51 pm #

    I’ll live by this truth everyday. I work very hard at pretty much everything I do. I break my back because at the end of the day, I know I’ll look back and appreciate it, because I’ll see how far doing all those little annoying things helped to make me who I am. Achieving dreams, it’s about having enough passion to put forth the effort.

    I always work hard. I’ve found out that I typically always achieve my dreams.


    • thehindsightletters November 23, 2010 at 9:06 am #

      Very well put! Hard work always equals results, in one form or another. Thanks for reading!

  36. winnieswineworld November 22, 2010 at 11:18 pm #

    I wish my intern would have read this before utterly failing at her current, wait…she just got fired, job. Well done!

  37. dreamcreateexpress November 23, 2010 at 12:11 am #

    I love your post!! I feel like I have been having this exact conversation with myself at the moment. Just remember there is a reason you started the journey, with all its ups and downs, but its your journey! Try and enjoy the ups and downs, and always remember the joyous parts πŸ™‚

    Will definitely be checking out more of your posts πŸ™‚


  38. MrTwilliger November 23, 2010 at 12:31 am #

    As nice as this post is and as much as I agree with the general nature of it, I can’t help but disagree with one key point you made. You claim that life is work, that a lot of the time it isn’t fun and that nothing worthwhile is. As much as many people tend to agree with you, I can’t find myself agreeing.

    Personally, I love work. Everything about work is just amazing. Although my job isn’t classy my any standards (I work in a sawmill, I’m basically a lumberjack) I love it. I love working up a sweat, putting all my effort into something, committing myself to a task and doing it with my full potential. Just last week I was working with one of my idols, probably the hardest worker I have ever met, and he was saying to people how much of a great worker I was for outworking him. Despite not needing that style of praise, it made me feel ‘all yay about life’ to know my work is appreciated and respected but others as well.

    Work isn’t all about doing something you hate, performing a routine task and drowning in the anguish of responsibility. No, work is about putting your everything into a task that helps someone, be it yourself or another, and walking away at the end of the day thinking “Yeah, I put my all into this task today. I feel dam proud of my efforts”. That’s just what I think anyway.

    None the less, great post. I love the general idea, I’m sure we all had times in which we could go back in time and change the way things were. But life wouldn’t be half as interesting if we could [=

    • thehindsightletters November 23, 2010 at 10:08 pm #

      Thanks so much for reading! I really appreciate your perspective. Very well put! I’m also so glad to hear that you work in a job that you love! You are a lucky man πŸ™‚ Glad you liked the post!

  39. sayitinasong November 23, 2010 at 1:18 am #

    Some great home trhuts in this one… so many times the image of our careers and dreams etc do not match the reality… yes, life is hard work on all fronts… do not quit… put in the time… I, for one, decided I wanted to become a freelance writer- a prpper paid one… I wrote for absolutely free for a year- anywhere I could… and now after all that time I am slowly starting to get paid jobs.. Ok- they do not pay much,… but if I stick with this… you get my drift… keep at it girl!

    • thehindsightletters November 23, 2010 at 9:10 am #

      Thank you for reading!! Glad you could identify with the post. I too am working on hopefully doing more freelance writing. It’s a tough road, so I’m glad to hear you are making headway! Keep it up!

  40. Steve November 23, 2010 at 4:18 am #

    “literary wedgie” I am sure I have never seen those two words together. Priceless.
    Congrats on a great blog and a fresh press!

    • thehindsightletters November 23, 2010 at 9:11 am #

      Thank you so much! Yep, wasn’t expecting that phrase to take us to Freshly Pressed, but here we are πŸ™‚

  41. Brandy Unruh November 23, 2010 at 5:22 am #

    Interesting perspective. Great Read.

  42. breadtobeeaten November 23, 2010 at 5:26 am #

    That was so refreshing and buck-up inducing and absolutely what a young professional needs. Somebody pick this up please and send it to every recent college grad they can find.

    Kudos for being freshly pressed, but way more kudos for writing this. Thanks.

    • thehindsightletters November 23, 2010 at 9:12 am #

      Aw! Thank you so much for your kind words! I’m so happy you liked the post! Thanks for reading!

  43. swimbikerun4fun November 23, 2010 at 6:29 am #

    congrats on freshly pressed! Well written and insightful. Heck, when I was 19, I couldn’t quit by email … It wasn’t available to me until my mid-20’s! ha!!

    • thehindsightletters November 23, 2010 at 9:12 am #

      Ha! My how quickly things change πŸ™‚ Thanks so much for reading!

  44. Maha November 23, 2010 at 7:00 am #

    So true! πŸ™‚

  45. Jenn November 23, 2010 at 7:07 pm #

    “You love books so much that you want a job helping people make them”

    This is the current me.

    I love books so much I’m dreaming of being a sales clerk at a book store. Or even a security guard!

    • thehindsightletters November 23, 2010 at 10:14 pm #

      Ha! Love it! Security Guard would be awesome. You could just hang out all night and read. Bring along some snacks and a blanket… πŸ™‚ Thanks so much for reading- glad you liked the post!

  46. stellycious stella November 24, 2010 at 1:28 am #

    i love books so now i help my lecturers write his book.
    πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚
    Well, i used to regret my decisions but it’s okay they accidentally or on purpose has brought me where i am today…
    Your post is great.. πŸ™‚ Thank u,,

    • thehindsightletters November 24, 2010 at 7:55 am #

      It’s so true- as much as we might wish we could change some things, they all happened for a reason. Thanks for reading!

  47. lindsaygoodlet November 24, 2010 at 3:56 am #

    Some much needed advice, especially after a gruelling day of photocopying!!

  48. reelingintheyears.wordpress.com November 30, 2010 at 8:58 am #

    Wonderful post, and I look forward to reading many more of your letters in the future.

  49. bookjunkie December 1, 2010 at 8:32 am #

    Gosh this sounds like me…..I didn’t take a job because the interviewer said I was too young…I should have just pressed on..so many things I could learn through hindsight. Your letter – pure brilliance πŸ™‚

  50. Mental Climax December 2, 2010 at 4:22 am #

    I admire the classiness of the style used on this. Hands down.

  51. Hayidan's Intuition December 4, 2010 at 7:24 am #

    Very inspiring

  52. Francesca December 5, 2010 at 7:01 am #

    a small company publishing experimental poetry? sounds excellent… but i gave up on the idea of going into publishing, for the simple reason that i hate the idea of having to forge all those connections, having to live in the city, having to do photocopying for years before gaining any kind of responsibility… but, then, i’m nineteen, so, maybe i can’t talk at all.

    • thehindsightletters December 5, 2010 at 9:50 pm #

      Sounds like you’re at a very similar point to where I was at 19 πŸ™‚ My advice is just to follow your gut. And know that everything happens for a reason. Thanks for reading!

  53. Panda Wolf December 20, 2010 at 10:46 pm #

    Loved the post. I’m 19 at the moment, and I have a feeling I’ll drop into that same mood because I tend to think like this. I really don’t like working, but I’ll have to accept it someday if I’m going to be a big shot author some day!

    • thehindsightletters December 22, 2010 at 9:35 am #

      Thanks so much! I’m glad you like the Letter! I can’t tell you how great it is to hear from readers around the age of my “younger self”. I’d definitely recommend hanging in there. The hard work isn’t always fun, but it almost always leads to the really fun stuff. Thanks for reading, and I look forward to reading your work one day when you’re a big shot!

  54. Michelle Dee December 28, 2010 at 9:08 pm #

    It’s good to know I’m not the only fracker who messed up the entire course of their life over a stupid mistake. Although my hindsight letter isn’t nearly as detailed. You have inspired me though!

    • thehindsightletters December 28, 2010 at 9:56 pm #

      Thanks so much for reading! Glad to hear you’re inspired πŸ™‚ If you ever felt like sharing your Letter, we are always looking for submissions!


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