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!

14 comments

  • Diana

    If your reason for writing is, “…to understand myself better and to connect with the best version of who I was created to be.” I would say you have been incredibly successful!!!!

  • Jen

    Sometimes taking time off to relax and enjoy movies and follow your bliss can be enough to get you over the next hump of what isn’t so fun. Thanks for sharing.

    • How true that is, Jen, Hope to make it to see the Post this week and I’m having lunch with a friend I haven’t seen in 8 years … weather permitting. Two fun activities this week to balance things out.

  • Good, solid blot, Linda. I’m so glad you found your comfort spot. You sound much more self-confident in the role you’ve chosen, and you appear to have overcome one of my pitfalls: comparing oneself to others. In the writing game, and a lot of other areas, it’s hard not to do. I’m not sure total self-acceptance is what we want–it might keep us from striving for improvement. But feeling you put your best self at the moment out there is a tremendous thing. Cheers.

    • Comparing myself to others has been a pitfall all my life. I don’t do it nearly so much anymore, but when I’m stressed out I fall back into the trap. Glad I didn’t stay there this time as long as I used to. The way I see it, we can totally accept our “true self” but the part of us that falls short of that is what keeps us striving for improvement. And I agree, it is a tremendous thing to put our best self out there, even if it is only for a moment. Hard to maintain full-time. Thanks for your cheers.

  • I love it when you are unabashedly you. I do appreciate your willingness to be vulnerable and show those parts of yourself that are less than stellar.

    For me, each new book takes me on a journey and has a life all its own. I’m daily thrilled at the doors my books open, how they touch people’s lives and by extension, circle back around to touch my heart.

    From what I can tell, your heart is near as big as Texas, and you ain’t done growing yet. Never stop being you, you’re really the only one who can. Except, of course, when you’re channeling me. And from what I’ve seen, when you do thaf, you’re an even better me than I am. Go figure. Keep up the amazing work, third-place-winner-writer-sister!

    Oh, an owl just started hooting outside my window. An auspicious sign indeed. Big love headed your way from Texas!

    • Because this is my first book … at least the first I’ve put my heart and soul into, I’m still learning how to navigate this marketing stuff. But this week felt great with all the thrills that came my way. I love how you language this and that is something I want to keep foremost in my mind. You are so kind, but I’ll never be a better you than you are. But I do love channeling you and stretching myself beyond my introverted comfort zone. You are such a sterling role model for me. Big love back to you. I’m eternally grateful you are in my life.

  • Linda, Your honesty and courage just shine through all you do. You’ve discovered at least some of what what fuels your writing and what rewards you–those person-to-person connections. Now that you know those things, you can let go of what isn’t important and look for more opportunities to make more personal connections, whether through speaking or readings or whatever. And you’ll continue to grow and stretch and reach readers. You’re already helping people with this book, and that’s what matters. You go!

    Hugs from snowy Wyoming to you…

    • Your support and encouragement helped in my discovery process, Susan. Yes, helping others with this book … that is what really matters in the long run. I must keep my eye on that. Hugs back to you from snowy Ohio. We’re getting a lot this year, too.

  • Nita Leland

    So good to hear you have found what works for you, after all your hard work writing the book. Your story needed to be told so othhers who suffer know they are not alone.

    • Which means, Nita, readers need to find it. The impersonal path just doesn’t work for me, and with some of the feedback I’ve received, I have hope for the more personal approach. Thanks for your support.

  • Good for you Linda! Just keep allowing your light to brightly shine, we are all better for it!

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