My granddaughter takes a great deal of joy in the act of completion, of accomplishment.
“I did it!” she exclaims after catching a ball, stirring the pancake batter, or picking up her toys. If someone else is involved,, she shares the triumph: "We did it!"
People say they see a bit of me in my granddaughter. But in one big way, she’s very different. She doesn’t spend one second being upset over her "failures." She exuberantly keeps on going. She never doubts herself.
I, on the other hand, doubt myself a lot. Last Monday, I received four rejections. I spent the rest of the week doubting, feeling lost, not knowing what to do, not knowing where to turn to get out of that deep, dark den of doubt.
Yet I know if I’m ever going to say, “I did it!” again, I have to pull myself out of that den. I have to open the door to my office, sit down, and look at the blank page again...or even worse, wade through the messy manuscript I’ve been working on for months.
Educators tell me they love my school visits because I inspire both them and their students. I’m known as “the writer who inspires.” But inspiring myself is so much harder than inspiring others.
Rejections and failing have always been part of the writing game. My first book, Heart of a Tiger, which went on to win the Ridgway Award for "Best First Book by a New Writer" and remains my top award winner, was rejected 13 times before I found the editor who loved it as much as I did. Doubt dragged along with that story and me for years.
But there is light at the end of the dark den, though the darkness may be thick. Here are three women I greatly admire who move through doubts in their own way, with their own style, until they can shout “I did it!”
Yet, Thelma has often had her doubts, which she shares here: “As writers it is sometimes hard to continue to believe in the beauty of your dreams. Daring to get started, actually putting your words on paper and then having the courage to share them with others is hard. And receiving a rejection for all that daring is like a kick in the arse. It is not for the faint hearted. I got, and still receive, my share of rejections.”
“It was a cold, dreary, sunless day when I received a letter from Lee & Low regarding my submission of HULA HOOPIN’ QUEEN. I was at a low point in my writing path. I was literally at the bottom of one of those steep hills. I had just come home from a critique group meeting where one of my friends was sharing her newest book. While happy for her, I also felt despair of ever achieving that same dream.
Feeling sure it was just another rejection, I tossed the letter from Lee & Low aside without even opening it. Several hours later, I noticed it sitting on the table and I actually started toward the garbage with it in hand. I was in such a spot that I felt I couldn’t take another rejection. But suddenly without even thinking it through, I had opened it. It was two pages of things the editor liked about my story and also things she wanted me to think about working on for the possibility of Lee & Low accepting it. And suddenly my mood and the day became all sunshine and warmth, because that two-page letter was actually the beginning of my dream coming true.
Highs and lows; twists and turns. But through it all, even at the lowest point, you have your words and the magical thing that happens when your words become a story. You have the dream of having those stories touch a child’s heart.”
Salina Yoon is a "superstar" writer and a writing friend. I got to know Salina when she championed my book Lost. Found. Salina is always championing other writers’ books as well as writing her own best sellers. Many know her through her popular Penguin books (Penguin and Pinecone, Penguin’s Big Adventure) or Be a Friend. She always creates adorable characters that you can’t help but love.
Salina was in the middle of writing Book #3 in her Duck, Duck, Porcupine series when I contacted her, but she still had a strong statement about doubts.“Battling doubts and distractions are a way of life for this author!” Yes, even "superstars" have doubts.
In order to get to “I did it!" we must first say, “I can do it.” That takes admitting that there will inevitably be doubts. Writing is hard. Competing with thousands of other brilliant creators and getting that contract is hard. We have to always keep our minds on what we want, not what we don’t want. We must have no doubt that we will push through the doubts with discipline, patience, and courage to get to something we can celebrate with a joyful “I did it!”
Marsha Diane Arnold is an award-winning author with over a million books sold. She has doubts every day, but when she is slipping toward that deep, dark den of doubt, she pulls out this photo with her "rock star" editor of Lost. Found., Neal Porter, and says "I did it!" Then quietly and determinedly, says "I can do it again." Rise up with me Doubters, so we can shout together, "We did it!"
Meet the Friday Blogonauts
First Fridays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer , man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
Second Fridays will feature awesome multi-award winning author Marsha Diane Arnold who will be writing about character-driven and/or nature-based books and/or anything she likes :)
Third Fridays will feature independent Aladdin/Simon & Shuster editor Emma Sector who has helped bring many books into the world.
Fourth Fridays will feature the great Christine Taylor-Butler who has published over 70 award-winning fiction and non-fiction and nonfiction books including the acclaimed new middle grade series - The Lost Tribes.
Fifth Fridays will feature the fabulous Carl Angel award-winning multi-published Illustrator and graphic designer.
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