What’s The Difference Between Moving On and Letting Go?

What’s the difference between moving on and letting go?

Oof, this is a biggie. Because I just did both and we need to talk about it.

You might have feelings about what I let go of–I’d love to hear what you’ve let go of lately.

I woke up on the morning of January 9th of this year and saw that Bob Saget died. He was sixty-five. The news said, no foul play or drugs. He had just done a 2-hr comedy set and had tweeted: “I had no idea I did a 2 hr set tonight. I’m happily addicted again to this.”

I thought to myself, Wow. I don’t know Bob, but he is…was…not that much older than I am.

Then I opened the book I’d been working on for almost exactly a year. For at least fifty hours a week or more, I’ve sat at desks, in cars, in coffee shops, and wrote multiple versions. I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words. I was on contract and deadline. I had to finish it by March 18.  Yes, next month.

This book had gone astray like my chin hairs after a week without my magnifying mirror and favorite tweezers. The book was not working, and I hated it. You would too if you read it.

[Tweet “What’s the difference between moving on and letting go? Oof, this is a biggie. Because I just did both and we need to talk about it.”]

To be fair, I’ve hated a lot of things I’ve worked on—I don’t believe everything should give you unmitigated joy. Sometimes you do things for money that are not your passion and you dislike. YOLO is not a thing with me.

I considered outlining the book for the hundredth time. I felt the old frustration mount. The mean girl in my head sneered, “What is wrong with you Ann? Maybe you’re washed up. Why are you so terrible at this?”

I thought about crying. I thought about Bob.

What would Bob do? I asked myself and the answer was…Bob died yesterday.

My next thought was, I should quit writing this book. I wiped that thought away as quickly as it came. That mean girl, who might not be a girl said, “No, Ann. You don’t ever give up on stuff. It’s not in you.”

Side note: I did give up on my marriage. But, my husband lived in my basement for a while so I didn’t really give up on him.) **Therapy note: My therapist and I have talked at length about co-dependency just in case you’re thinking, She is co-dependent. I can smell that a mile off.

I had the thought, I do not want to die writing this book—I know, so much drama.

But, the mere thought of quitting filled me with relief that was bigger than my ego or fear. The kind of relief you feel when the doctor calls and says, those headaches are not a tumor.

[Tweet “But, the mere thought of quitting filled me with relief that was bigger than my ego or fear. The kind of relief you feel when the doctor calls and says, those headaches are not a tumor.”]

Then I called a friend and I practiced saying this. “I’m going to stop writing this book.”

She said, “Wait, I just woke up from a nap. What are we talking about? I told her and she listened.

I called other people and talked it out until they said, “I’m tired now, Ann.”

Then, I stopped writing that book, proposed a new one and I’m writing that book now.

What’s the difference between moving on and letting go? Moving on is when you physically remove yourself from something. Letting go is when you release the emotions wrapped around that something. Moving on is easy. Bob helped me with the letting go part-it took one year and thirty seconds to get there.

I think Bob would be both confused and proud of me. I mean we don’t know each other but I hear Bob is super nice, super supportive. Was, I mean. Because Bob died.

Xo Ann

P.S. If you want to read Chapter One of the book I’m letting go stay tuned and I will post the first chapter next month.

Big thank you to Samantha Hoffman for editing this piece. She edits all my essays. Click for her services.

If you want to read about gift giving for the trying (but also maybe nice) man in your life. Read here for a giggle. 


  1. Marjorie Nelson on January 28, 2022 at 3:43 pm

    Oh dear, this has me sitting in my recliner thinking of all the times I moved on but didn’t let go! Fantastic article!

    • Ann Garvin on January 28, 2022 at 3:58 pm

      Right? I’m so glad you liked this. 🙂 It’s so hard.

  2. Barb Vander Werff on January 28, 2022 at 4:03 pm

    I recently lost my best friend to pancreatic cancer. She died quickly. I knew her for 25 years and we talked almost daily. I think that what I am experiencing is you don’t move on, you move forward. All of your experiences make you who you are. The people who touch your life, give you gifts for you to grow, even when they are gone. The things or self talk in our head should be left go once they no longer serve us or we decide to no longer to carry someone else’s baggage.

    • Ann Garvin on January 28, 2022 at 4:15 pm

      I love this. You move forward. You are right where our loved ones are concerned. I’m so sorry to hear of the loss of your best friend. Heartbreaking. xo Ann

  3. Heather Bell Adams on January 28, 2022 at 4:04 pm

    Wow, wow, wow. I love your vulnerability and honesty and, well, just everything about this! Good for you for making this decision and recognizing your next right step. I’m cheering you on.

    • Ann Garvin on January 28, 2022 at 4:15 pm

      Thank you!! Ugh it was hard. But so right. Thank you so much for being in my bookish/writing life. HOpe to see you soon-ish. xo

  4. gaye mack on January 28, 2022 at 4:14 pm

    Interesting timing…I just received another rejection yesterday on The Jewel, the book I worked on with Erin, the book I love, the story I love, edited a thousand times… beta readers love it, Megan Collins loved what she read…but…I’m on the edge of letting go…. and looking for the next right step while thinking I should be happy with the success of the non-fiction and move on…as you say. GREAT post Ann!

    • Ann Garvin on January 28, 2022 at 4:16 pm

      Keep going!! I know how hard this is. I don’t know what is right that’s for sure. So glad you are here.

    • Gretchen Anthony on February 2, 2022 at 2:01 am

      Ann! This is gigantic. Epic. A little bit sick making. I’m so proud of you. I’m so sad for you. I’m so excited about what comes next for you.

      • Ann Garvin on February 2, 2022 at 1:01 pm

        I KNOW. You know I was going mad!! But, I’m so happy and working on something new!!

      • Ann Garvin on February 10, 2022 at 4:54 pm

        It is a little bit sick making. Thank you!
        I’m back on deadline…so here we go!

  5. Laurie Buchanan on January 28, 2022 at 4:20 pm

    I love it when I see “A Note from Ann” in my email. They always make me smile. Or cry. They’re all good.

    • Ann Garvin on January 29, 2022 at 1:25 am

      Laurie, thank you. 🙂 It’s a compliment even though I don’t want you to cry.

  6. Kimberly Wenzler on January 28, 2022 at 5:15 pm

    I am so sad about what happened to Bob. Thank you for sharing this.

    Ironically, my current WIP is kicking my ass and after 18 mos, I still don’t want to let it go. I question myself constantly. It’s as if you have some portal into my life.
    I love your posts and look forward to them. Thanks, Ann.

    • Ann Garvin on January 29, 2022 at 2:31 am

      I love that I’m speaking to you…I’m glad you’re here to read. I talk about my books like I used to talk about men.
      You are so welcome.

  7. Caitlin Hicks on January 28, 2022 at 5:59 pm

    Right now, everything seems to be shivering in vulnerability. It’s so scary to look forward and realize that spring comes so quickly and then you’re at the day when the sun turns the other way, and it’s another year already, and what are you waiting for? I’m working on a podcast right now called We Got One! which celebrates seconds of joy that must be cherished for all their gusto in the fleeting time they exist. Been thinking about this fragility a lot lately. We can be so vibrant and full of life, and so capable of dying in an instant. Gord says we should be watching tennis.

    • Ann Garvin on January 29, 2022 at 1:26 am

      What a great idea for a Podcast. I want joy, headlines that spark joy, sun and love. It sounds like that’s what you are doing. We should watch tennis. All of us.

  8. Kate Bast on January 28, 2022 at 6:04 pm

    You did it! And it was good. Can’t wait for Chap 1.

    • Ann Garvin on January 29, 2022 at 1:28 am

      It’s coming!! I’ll post next month. And it won’t all go to waste.

  9. Kate Fletemeyer, aka Evelyn Ann Casey on January 28, 2022 at 6:22 pm

    Oh, Ann, it’s good to have company! Now that I have my first book under my belt, I’m brainstorming for my next one. Because… of course they’ll offer me a 2-book deal and I need to be ready! — or — they’ll see I can write, but don’t like the premise of the first one and so they’ll ask what else I’ve got and I need to be ready! But with each new idea I hit a brick wall. Move on? Let go? Arggh! Thanks for sharing your anxiety attacks. I think maybe now I can let go of the monkey on my back (ahhh, I’m breathing now), and just maybe move on to my own best muse.

    • Ann Garvin on January 29, 2022 at 1:31 am

      This is why I write. To have company!!
      Boy I recognize this Arggh!! I really do. Keep going. Fight the good fight. Until you don’t. xoxoxBe you muse.

  10. Lisa on January 28, 2022 at 7:29 pm

    I love your emails/newsletters. Thank you for making them so personal. I’m a relatively new author, still in the ‘struggling to find an agent’ phase. If yours is willing to read, let me know. .

    I’ve had contest win updates to share with my subscriber list but struggle to find content for my newsletter since I rarely have fresh writing news.

    Thanks again.

    • Ann Garvin on January 29, 2022 at 2:25 am

      Hi Lisa, I understand, you are in the hardest spot. Just write about your life. People love to read about personal things–fails, wins and news.
      Keep sending your work out there. It took me 100 tries.

  11. Barbara Bos on January 28, 2022 at 7:58 pm

    I love you a little bit more now. Thank you for writing this 🙂

    • Ann Garvin on January 29, 2022 at 2:23 am

      Awwww I’m so glad. xo my pleasure.

  12. Suzi Sharp on January 28, 2022 at 8:02 pm

    Very inspiring, Ann. As you get older, it comes easier to let go of things that are not working in your life any longer. But, never wait – if it’s time – let it go now.

    • Ann Garvin on January 29, 2022 at 2:23 am

      You are so right. Never wait. !

  13. Dana on January 28, 2022 at 9:36 pm

    You always make my day!! Can I throw it out there that I’d love to be a reader if anyone needs one. How does one get involved? Thank you for continuing to write because I love to read…DM

    • Ann Garvin on January 29, 2022 at 2:22 am

      You are so lovely!!
      That’s a good question. Usually, my editor is my reader these days. I’m actually going to ask around to see how people can get involved.
      Thanks for your support!

  14. Ann on January 28, 2022 at 9:50 pm

    I had to let a big one go. It was hard but it was blocking my view of my beautiful life. And of course, it made room for what was waiting for me. What a relief when we get out of our own way. You’re the best, Ann!

    • Ann Garvin on January 29, 2022 at 1:31 am

      What a relief! It’s so hard. We need time together. You, kate, and I. xo

  15. denise on January 29, 2022 at 5:27 am

    I get it. I did the same thing. I spent years “perfecting” a book. I knew it wasn’t publish-ready, but I didn’t think it was *that* bad. I submitted it and received a really harsh developmental edit. I can take criticism, but being mean is unnecessary. There was a list of things I was expected to do to “fix” it. And I tried. I took out the things I was asked. I tried rearranging some of the scenes. But it wasn’t working for me.

    I also had the advice of someone else who had read it–a very respected person. Was told I didn’t have to agree with the changes and could submit elsewhere, could rewrite, or I could table it.

    I tried again to “fix” it, but my heart was no longer in it. I no longer believed in the story. I had written it, it was complete, and some of the changes really would have just meant rewriting it, and I was just done. I chose to Walk away. Not mad, not bitter.

    So I moved on… and I started something else… and I like it a lot. Now I need to finish it while using some of the advice and pointers I was given about the previous book. It wasn’t all bad advice.

  16. Cindy on January 30, 2022 at 11:40 am

    Oh, how I love this article. I worked on my dissertation for a long time. My goals were tied in with plans my late daughter and I made so we could be physically near each other. I even had my study completed, just had to write the last 2 chapters, but my heart just wasn’t in it any longer. It was a hard decision due to the time, emotions, and money that was invested in that, but in the end, it was best to let it go. I was able to let it go mentally and physically and felt such relief. I spent years working on that, but I didn’t want to teach at a college any longer. I still don’t know what I want to do, because I had to find new employment in the fall, but I am ready to explore my options..once I get other things in order.

    • Ann Garvin on February 10, 2022 at 4:53 pm

      Oh that is soooo brave of you. It’s so hard to leave something like that.
      Maybe a break? I hear you though.
      Here’s to you!!

  17. Cheryl Tessier on February 9, 2022 at 1:52 am

    I’m a little behind in my emails but I know you understand. 🙂
    You hated that book from day one and I’m quite thrilled for you that you have scrapped something that was definitely NOT bringing you joy and turned something that can – and will. And I can’t wait to hear about it. Speaking of, when will that be? Are you here for a bit? Let’s connect. Please?

    • Ann Garvin on February 10, 2022 at 3:04 pm

      It was hard to write and hard to scrap. Let’s get together and we will chat it up, girl. xo

  18. Colleen Lemkuil on February 13, 2022 at 4:30 am

    Bob Saget died of head trauma. Bob Saget had covid in December. He had reached 65 and when you are 65 you have more injuries. Poisoning and motor vehicles take many lives but head trauma is the number 3 cause of deaths due to injuries in those over 65. 646,000 die each year of head trauma or falls. 29 million each year have injuries due to falls. Be careful. Bob Saget died with his boots on by dying suddenly laying in his bed. When did he fall? We all loved him in his many TV shows and he will be missed by his fans and his family. He got to bring laughter to his audience just days before he died. He had finished his book of life. Do what you can each day because we never know when we will have a stroke or die suddenly. My grandparents both died walking to the mailbox to mail a letter. We have the letter my grandma wrote to her cousins. My niece died at age 57 and she wrote on many of my Facebook messages and her name keeps appearing in my memory Facebook column and reminds me to keep on chugging. We hope we can be here tomorrow for our family and friends. Take care and get everyone vaccinated and be careful. Pick up rugs so you do not trip on them and I give you all encouragement. Nurse and health educator, Colleen Mae Cleveringa Lemkuil, R.N. P.H.N.

    • Ann Garvin on February 14, 2022 at 12:40 pm

      Colleen, you are so right. These are my thoughts as well. We must all be careful. Thank you 🙂

    • Ann Garvin on February 23, 2022 at 2:39 pm

      I’ll be careful. xoxo

  19. Lorraine Kleinwaks on February 23, 2022 at 3:12 pm

    After all the time, heart and soul, you put into that novel, letting it go speaks volumes about you.

    I save all the books I’ve reviewed, and in one grouping I keep I Thought You Said This Would Work on top to remind me of how good fiction and friendships can be in coping with a life-threatening disease. The fragility of life has never felt so life-affecting. You feel like a friend, so all those gifts expressed through your fiction are felt reading that marvelous book. So, I join all the others in saying can’t wait to read the first chapter of your new novel next month. Another gift you’re sharing with readers. Inspiration to us all.

    • Ann Garvin on February 23, 2022 at 3:58 pm

      Thank you Lorraine xoxo you are so lovely to share this with me. It helps so much, we writers, as you know, are both fragile and strong. Wise and unwise. IT’s lovely you are here to cheer me on.

  20. Sara Braas on February 23, 2022 at 4:18 pm

    Tough choice. You sound lighter and better for making it. I’m happy for you and excited to see what comes next. Thanks for sharing such a personal dilemma. It is nice to read an authentic newsletter.

    • Ann Garvin on February 24, 2022 at 2:19 am

      Thank you Sara! I love writing this next one, so I’m so happy I let the other one take a rest.
      I hope you are writing!!

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