Writer’s Wednesdays: How to put a beat down on imposter syndrome

I feel like I’ve already talked God’s Play to death, even though it’s only in the middle of its blog tour! I’m very excited about it, but honestly, pre-publication, I had a lot of reservations if God’s Play deserved to be published (shhh…I know it’s called imposter’s syndrome). My day job, which I love, isn’t considered ‘creative’. What right did I have to write a publish a book? What kind of nonsense idea was this that I couldn’t give up?

How I feel whenever I present my work to anyone

How I feel whenever I present my work to anyone

That’s the key: I couldn’t give it up.

Obsession has a way of pulling you back in; there were times I thought this story was crap–that’s a ringing endorsement to buy the book, I’m sure. But the struggle was real. I rewrote scenes, only seeing the problems and feeling none of the love I initially had for the work. There’s a lot of evil in editing, and it’s a slog. But any good project is a struggle. It wouldn’t be a project worth doing if it were easy. That’s what I tell myself anyway, and it often feels like bullshit.

But back to God’s Play. The day I held the contract in my hands (or on my computer screen, as it were), I immediately leaped into the annals of the internet, searching for all the warning signs that I was signing a bad deal. Hahaha, yeah…don’t. This was A Mistake, maybe The Mistake. I’d written the book and sold it, and yet, I felt that I’d done some nebulous wrong thing. Did I screw up my career by going small press? There are people who would most certainly say ‘yes’ to this. But I knew I hadn’t sold the book to a vanity press but a legitimate small press. It didn’t help that I undertook my little research project around the time of the infamous Hydra scandal with SFWA.

Basically how I felt doing research on publishing

After sitting with the contract for weeks and combing over it, I realized the problem: I’d gone down the rabbit hole. I was in too far and too deep. So I approached it like data analysis. Objectively, there was nothing flag worthy about this contract. It’s a pretty standard small press contract, honestly, which ticked off all the boxes (especially concerning rights reversions). Business isn’t my strong suite, so I sent it to a lawyer friend and asked if they’d sign this. They recommended a couple changes in wording, but in general, the answer was ‘yes’.

And yet, I was still unsettled. I’d signed the contract, but I still didn’t feel like a writer. Hell, I felt more writerly when I was an unpublished n00b happily spewing out rough drafts that’ll never see the light of day. I had a professional team behind me! A cover artist! Even a marketer who actually responded to my emails! Why wasn’t I doing cart wheels? (Hint: some of this is because I was editing, which is a whole new can of worms for another week.)

Let’s circle back around to imposter syndrome. It’s pernicious, and being the stone-cold decision maker and high-achiever I am, I never thought I’d suffered from it. But life is sneaky like that. It wasn’t until a good friend told me that they thought I had a bad case of it did I stop and think, ‘Crap. They’re right. I’m in absolute denial about my young professional life.’ (I seriously can’t even type ‘young professional’ without smirking. That might be the stupidest noun cluster in modern English.)

-Lucille Bluth

So I dealt with imposter’s syndrome the same way I’d been living with it: I pretended it didn’t exist. (If believing in yourself fails, denial is a solid plan B.) If it’s not real, if it doesn’t effect me, then it can’t hurt me. Right? Sigh. I was still miserable, but I kept working and pretending that this thing would work itself out and that I hadn’t made some colossal mistake trying to be a real author.

Maybe this is where the story of Pinocchio comes from; he wants to be a real boy and misses the life lesson that he’s already real and loved. This was never a favorite story of mine growing up, and that’s probably why the lesson didn’t stick. There’s part of me that just wanted to say, ‘Get over yourself! You’re alive, right? And it’s rad to be not made of flesh because then you can’t fall and bleed everywhere!’ Yes, this is another example of colossally missing the point, and yes, I’m allergic to learning moral lessons.

Since God’s Play came out, I’ve been getting more comfortable with feeling that it’s a thing that exists in the world now. I’ve been excited to talk about it, but it took some warming up before I told most of my friends and family about it. There’s still an edge of doubt in the back of my mind.

Did I really do everything right? What did I miss?

Paranoia can go on forever and ever if I let it; this is why I get a lot of writing done at night, too, because paranoia is BFFs with insomnia, and if I’m going to stare at the ceiling anyway, I might as well be writing. This might be the most depressing pep talk on the internet, but for everyone out there who’s inundated with self-doubt, don’t give up. You can beat it down or at least trick yourself into ignoring it. Remember to laugh because that’s the best line of defense against paranoia and fear, too.

I’ll let Chvrches play you out.

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