Lost and Found

“Once I was lost and now I’m found.” ~from the Hymn, Amazing Grace

LOST

A common phenomenon for writers finishing a book is to experience a letdown. While being interviewed after publishing his latest espionage novel, John le Carré admitted to being depressed and that he always experiences this between projects.

My writer friend Susan J. Tweit who generously gave me a blurb for my memoir just sent her recent memoir, Bless the Birds, to her agent. When congratulated, she admitted, “I’m feeling both relieved and excited, as you can imagine, and also feeling a bit of the postpartum blues to not be carrying the story around inside me anymore.”

After the initial flurry of excitement about completing what a high school classmate referred to as “the achievement of my lifetime,” — writing and publishing A Long Awakening to Grace, I felt lost. I am familiar with that feeling. I’ve experienced it many times throughout my life when I’m in a period of transition. But this time it felt a bit different. I pondered the difference.

I wasn’t asking “What’s next?” as I had done during other transitions. Inept as I was at it and totally out of my element, I charged ahead doing what was logically next … marketing my book. Between dealing with the “pecking order” among writers (self-published authors frozen at the bottom) and in the social media world of changing algorithms, I grew increasingly overwhelmed, frustrated, stressed, cranky and disgruntled…not the energy I wanted to bring to the process.

FOUND

I took a break from marketing last week and went to four movies. This quote attributed to P. T. Barnum in The Greatest Showman jumped out at me.

“I was trying to be someone I am not.”

  • I am not nor do I aspire to be “A New York Times Bestselling Author”
  • I do not have to nor do I aspire to make a living as a writer
  • I did not write and publish this book to make money though if I do, the Myotonic Dystrophy Foundation will benefit from it. I did not write and publish to be a big name in the literary field. I wrote it to be of help to others.
  • I do not have to nor do I aspire to be a marketing whiz

And yet, I am fortunate to know and interact with New York Times Bestselling authors, authors who make a very good income writing,  authors who receive acclaim widely, and authors who are willing to master the world of technology to promote themselves. And I admire them and I compared myself to them and tried to follow their example.

And that is not who I am!

Who I am is:

  • Someone who writes as a spiritual practice … to understand myself better and to connect with the best version of who I was created to be. Writing my memoir gave me a whole new perspective on my life and was transforming. I share my writing when I think what I have to say would be helpful or enlightening to others.
  • Someone who loves to connect with other kindred spirits by reading spiritual literature, inspirational memoirs, historical fiction … along with books that inform me about cultural challenges we face.  Check out my Goodread’s Book Page and you will see.
  • Someone who likes to participate in groups who share my interest in spirituality, who are committed to growing, and who are interested in being informed and active in dealing with cultural challenges.
  • Someone who is energized by connecting with people. An interesting challenge for an introvert who loves to write … a solitary activity. Sharing with interested readers and receiving their comments in this blog is enormously satisfying for me.

WHAT BOLSTERED MY SPIRIT THIS WEEK

  • Receiving a hug from Pastor Larry who appears in my book and being told that my book was wonderful and he was moved by it.
  • Receiving a long embrace from Larry’s wife, Clara, and receiving expressions of empathy from both her and Larry.
  • Receiving a post on my timeline from a Reader’s Facebook group. One of their members, Debbie, a woman from Minnesota who I’ve never met, read my memoir, called it amazing, and said she loved it. I reached out to thank her and we had a few back and forth interactions. Then she gave me an Amazon review. Made my day!
  • Seeing another woman from that Facebook group decide to read my book because Debbie loved and recommended it. Thanking her, asking her to let me know what she thinks after she reads it, and receiving a response from her that she will do that.
  • Receiving a telephone call and reconnecting with an Imago colleague to tell me she is reading my book and wants to work with me to arrange a book signing in her city. We are having lunch together this week and I’m so excited to connect with her again.
  • Receiving a Facebook message from a high school classmate who read my book, had no idea what I had gone through, called me a strong and resilient woman. She wrote this while receiving chemotherapy. Later that week she wrote an Amazon review and said she was proud of me. Brought tears to my eyes.
  • A woman who I admire but don’t know well at church sharing with me that she had finished reading my memoir. She was silent for a moment. Then she said, “You know suffering, don’t you?” She went on to share her experience reading it and the most powerful part of the book for her. She wanted to know if I had given any talks about it. I haven’t, but I’d like to … once I discern the message that would be most helpful to others.
  • A friend from church telling me that she spent time on my website this week and found a lot of good stuff there. Makes me feel like the hard work I’ve been doing updating it is worthwhile.
  • Receiving fabulous e-mails from members of the Works-in-Progress group through the Story Circle Network.

Two of those e-mails were in response to my rant to them about my frustrations with marketing and social media and my decision to do only what is enjoyable and gratifying.

This group member who makes her living writing said, “There was a time when you were discouraged about the writing, and you persevered nonetheless. I think the hardest part of being an author/publisher is that you wear all the hats. But you’re right to do what you enjoy or at least can tolerate. What I read in your posts is that the human connection is what fuels you the most. … Those person-to-person connections may be the most effective form of marketing for you, and they’re clearly the most rewarding.” I felt really seen and understood.

And this prolific and award-winning author said, “Linda, rejoice in your ability to sell books one-to-one. Booksellers will tell you more books are sold that way and by word of mouth than all the advertising in the world.” That helps me feel better about my choice.

These e-mails came through this weekend and addressed the challenges all authors face. In comparing myself with this group of women writers, I unintentionally distanced myself from them. I didn’t feel worthy of belonging. It is nice to be back in connection:

One group member, a New York Times Bestselling Author said, “…it’s simply nonproductive to make comparisons between genres/audience communities. The writing universe (and now, the publishing universe) is broad enough to include all of us. We don’t have to live (or die) by others’ preferences and judgments. We can just set them aside, do our best work, and move forward on the paths we choose.”

And another is committed to literary citizenship — supporting her sister authors and, in my experience, does it extremely well. She has an Amazon Author Central Page that is quite impressive in my opinion but looked down upon by some who are “snooty” (not her word or mine but made by a writer who could be and thankfully isn’t).

This group member did a rant of her own when she said, “Sometimes when you hang with writers you forget about the non-writers who are simply dazzled by our output, not busy saying ‘Well that’s good but not quite enough yet.’ … I work to be as transparent as I can about my growth and progress as a writer. I want to celebrate every step of the journey. I am so glad to be able to do this here (in the WIP group) but also want to do it publicly both as joy and as encouragement. … What I am striving for is to do work that comes from my heart and that I can give to the world with the intention of reaching others. I can’t tell you the number of times my heart has been soothed or uplifted by ‘light fiction’ or, and this one grates at me when it is used in a diminishing way, ‘women’s fiction.’ I love a beautiful piece of “literary” work AND I love ‘light fiction’ and ‘women’s fiction’ and all the other genres that get sniffed at. Don’t even get me started on the folks dissing memoir as me-moir!  Those me-moirs have been life changing and life affirming for me, sometimes a hand out that’s pulled me out of the muck and given me hope.

I say “AMEN!” to that!! I am so fortunate to be a part of this stellar group of women writers and to be accepted and supported by them.

And I’m so fortunate to have had such a spirit bolstering week … even though I took a couple of days off.

And I’m so fortunate to have come home to and be back in connection with “myself.” I have much for which to be grateful!

THRIVE

A couple of years ago, Jude, one of my local writer friends, invited me to her solstice gathering. She had been holding these for many years. I was honored to be asked, and as an introvert, a little nervous about meeting and interacting with new people. I set an intention to extend myself beyond my comfort zone and reach out. On my half hour drive home, I patted myself on the back for my new behavior and for the connections I made.

At the winter solstice, Jude asks us to share our word for the year. My word for 2016 was “JOY.” For 2017, I chose the word “OPPORTUNITY.” My word for 2018 is “THRIVE.” Then she gives us a reminder to position in a prominent place in our home as a prompt to be on the lookout for evidence of our word materializing.

The major OPPORTUNITY that manifested for me in 2017 was being gifted by April with her expertise to publish A Long Awakening to Grace.

I choose THRIVE for 2018 because I have never been satisfied with calling myself a survivor. I want to do more in life than survive. I want to THRIVE. And now that I’ve accomplished what a high school classmate referred to as “the greatest achievement of my life,” what’s next? It will be hard to top 2017.

In November and over the holidays, while we have been experiencing frigid weather and I wasn’t feeling well enough to go out, I made use of this time with a major cleaning out the old. My office is reorganized and I have a pile of papers and records I no longer need (I tend to be a pack rat) waiting for the recycle bin. I already feel lighter and love how much more accessible my new office arrangement is.

It occurred to me that letting go of this old stuff is a part of making way for the new … the new that promises to fulfill my intention to THRIVE. I still have more I want to do, but I am well on my way. And seeing these actions as my commitment to THRIVING in 2018 increases my enthusiasm and curiosity. It will be interesting to see how THRIVE materializes despite whatever rejections and disappointments as a writer and author may come my way. (Rejections and disappointments come with the territory and we THRIVE when we keep plugging away and noticing the gifts we receive despite them.)

To celebrate these surprises and gifts, I’m going to record everyone of them as a celebration in my THRIVE journal.

If you are willing to share, I’d love to hear your word for 2018 and how you are preparing to live into it?