Staying Found when you Feel Lost
My newest book Lost. Found was released last week. It was the first time I’ve had a publishing house truly assist with PR, coordinating a blog tour and gently pushing me to be more active on Twitter. I was interviewed and wrote blogs for some of the finest educators around, and I had a great time. Lost. Found. is a Junior Library Guild selection and it’s received starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and School Library Journal. You’d think I’d feel confident. You’d think I’d be looking forward to selling one, two, or more new manuscripts very soon. That’s not the case. Instead, I feel anxious, worried, and doubtful. We writers stare at a blank page, alone, when we begin work every day. Often, we feel like the red scarf in Lost. Found. – abandoned and forgotten.
Lost Found is a story of only eighteen words, two words repeated. It’s about...well, being lost and found again. Like many, I sometimes feel lost, both personally and professionally. There were seven long years between my last book and the offer on Lost. Found. I could say that it was a drought for many writers. I could blame it on the changes happening in politics, culture, and publishing, causing a maelstrom for many. But the truth is I was too often afraid...afraid to approach my desk, afraid my writing career was over, afraid to hear that troubling phrase, “You’re not good enough.”
When I visit schools I talk a good game. I talk with the students about the perseverance of Joshua Summerhayes in The Pumpkin Runner. We explore the big dreams of Little Four in Heart of a Tiger. I share a three-by-four-foot board covered with lots of big no’s, with one tiny yes in the middle. “It only takes one yes to be on the way to where you want to be,” I tell the expectant faces. I want my young readers to be strong, to stay determined, to believe in themselves. Oh, yes, I talk a good game, but in truth, I often don’t play a good game.
It’s not uncommon for even best-selling authors or the highest award- winners to doubt themselves. Is there anyway to overcome this writer’s malaise - our anxiety, our self-doubt?
It turns out that the lessons I share with young readers from my books are actually very useful in helping us stay calm and content on our writers’ journey. Run all your races with joy, like Joshua. Or we might say, write all your stories with joy. Follow your dream like Little Four. Even though you’ll never be a Bengal Tiger; you can still be a wise, powerful kitten. Or like Little Skunk in The Tail of Little Skunk, be true to yourself and your nature and you’ll know just what to do. Whether you feel you’re on top of the world or on the bottom, you can still be happy on your journey, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It doesn’t mean we don’t lose ourselves sometimes. The positive part is that we can always find ourselves again. Getting lost and then finding ourselves is part of how we learn.
What doesn’t help us? Comparing ourselves to others, always. Judging – others and ourselves.
What helps us? Remembering we are writing our story, no one else’s, personally and professionally.
I remember supporting my friend, the amazing Teri Sloat, while she was writing her book, I’m A Duck. I always adored this story, but as I recall, Teri had doubts about it even though Duck is an exuberantly happy and positive character, constantly celebrating life and himself.
Duck revels in life. “By some magnificent stroke of good luck, I’m a duck!”...”It gives me a thrill when I open my bill and I QUACK!”...”And wings – I’ve got wings! Just think, I grew both of these things!” How can we not love Duck?
Duck is a creature on a wondrous planet, spinning through space. He was meant to be here and do his thing! So are you. So am I.
As Glinda the Good Witch tells Dorothy at the end of The Wizard of Oz, “You’ve always had the power to go back to Kansas.” Dorothy was never really lost. She could always find herself, if she really wanted to. So if you’re feeling lost, go find yourself, right now. Nothing was ever lost, that can’t be found.
11/16/2015 08:32:25 am
Thanks for great post, Marsha! I can't wait to read your book, Lost, Found.
11/16/2015 10:12:19 am
Excellent post and great timing as I procrastinate on some manuscripts that are feeling a bit lost and disoriented! "Lost. Found." looks like a beautiful book in both its message and illustrations.
11/16/2015 10:15:00 am
Wonderful post, Marsha. So true. Thanks for sharing your doubts and how you persevered. Inspiring!
11/16/2015 12:04:20 pm
thank you for a truly inspiring post. A great reminder to believe in our stories.
11/16/2015 12:20:29 pm
I look forward to reading Lost. Found. Great concept!
11/16/2015 01:52:11 pm
The book looks great, Marsha, but what really struck me is how awesome YOU are in sharing this. <3
Ave Maria Cross
11/16/2015 02:20:46 pm
I need to read LOST. FOUND. right now! And thanks for sharing your words of inspiration as well as your thoughts and feelings...
11/16/2015 03:25:01 pm
Marsha, I can't wait to read your new book. It sounds like something we can all relate to! We can build each other up by sharing our vulnerabilities. Hope you sell a bazillion copies!
11/16/2015 03:58:09 pm
11/16/2015 05:18:08 pm
Such a wonderful well written blog. You should never have spent any time in the wilderness.
11/16/2015 06:48:12 pm
Great post Marsha. Thank you for writing this book! Looking forward to reading it.
11/17/2015 01:19:34 am
Thank you Marsha, for sharing your inside story. I feel encouraged to continue with my story making.
11/17/2015 04:08:01 am
Just what I needed to read today. Thanks for this thoughtful, honest and inspiring post. Lost, Found is on my holiday shopping book list!
11/17/2015 05:37:38 am
Wow! I came over to check in today and found all your lovely comments. Thanks so much, everyone! Mary, I hope Lost. Found. sells a bazillion copies too. Elizabeth, actually, I rather like the wilderness. :) And yes, everyone, like Justine, continue on with the story making.
11/17/2015 08:08:54 am
Enjoyed your blog comments so much! I remember how you used to sign off "With joy" and how uplifting that was for me. Perhaps some of that joy will return with this recent publishing achievement!!!
11/17/2015 08:12:52 am
Thanks so much, Jan. I do too! But we really need to find that joy, achievements or not, don't we? So nice to have reconnected with you! BTW, did I share that I'll be in Wichita on Feb 25th for the Kansas Author Dinner? I think I have two school visits lined up, but am looking for more, if you know of any librarians/principals/educators in that area. Hugs on the wind...
11/17/2015 09:52:16 am
Thank you for your sweet message and inspirational push. It felt like it was just what I needed.
11/17/2015 09:53:39 am
I'm so glad, Pam. It was just what I needed too. :)
11/17/2015 07:30:34 pm
Yes, indeed. We all have a pair of ruby slippers--that we never really needed to find our way.
11/17/2015 08:35:54 pm
True, Karen. We never needed those ruby slippers, but they're still nice to have - so shiny and sparkly. :)
11/19/2015 04:16:04 pm
Glad it supported you, Laura. And thank you for supporting my book!
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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 :)
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