I want to talk about imposter syndrome because I've decided to give up on this phenomenon. The whole idea. It's trash, and I want nothing to do with it. We writers are a funny lot. We are arrogantly optimistic while also possessing soul-crushing insecurities. We praise and criticize ourselves equally as a way to fumble through this experience called creating.
In Blake Snyder's Save the Cat Strikes Back, he says, "We are forever falling in love with ourselves, and our inspiration. It's the very best reason to be a writer, to find meaning where others don't, to see things the rest of the world can't. It charges our lives with a sense of the divine. It tells us that, yes, in fact we are special." We keep going because we feel a calling to do so. We also have an intense need for others to approve of us.
Enter the perfect storm for imposter syndrome. I've spoken quite a bit on this blog about my first inclination to be a writer. I was 25 and I told myself, Who do you think you are? You can't be a writer. It would be a nice addition to the story if I learned to say something different to myself, but alas, I didn't. I put my short story away on a hard drive, embarrassed that I had this ridiculous idea. Until 15 years later, when I had that ridiculous idea again. Oh, damnit. This thing again? Doesn't my brain know that I can't be a writer?
Except that this time, I kicked back. Truthfully, the timing of my life finally clicked, and I had had about enough of circumstances and people telling me what I could and could not do. (That includes my own self, in case you were wondering). I was going to finish this book. (And promptly shove it back to the hard drive without telling anyone). But it would be done! Except that my need to get this story out in front of people and my need to charge my life with more of the divine took over. To hell with it, I'm going to be an (ASPIRING) writer!
And so I started aspiring. I guess that's where it starts, you know? I say all the time that admitting to myself what I wanted was the hardest part of the whole process. I think this can be applied to a whole host of life struggles. Start by telling yourself what you want.
But then, this thing became bigger. I wanted more. I want to be published. There, I said it. I want a big-time publishing contract, and I want to see my books at Barnes & Noble and Costco- and then, I want another book and another book. I want to spend my life writing stories that other people are excited to read. And here we go. It's out there. Who's the imposter now?
So here's the thing, are we still writers even if we haven't signed with an agent or been cut a check from HarperCollins? You bet your ass we are. I wake at 5 am every day, usually after dreaming about one of my stories. I write feverishly until the kids wake up and life takes off. I take my lunch breaks with audiobooks and fiction books that inspire me and instructional books on how to be a writer. I edit when the kids are taking a bath. I inundate my husband with character development and plot ideas over happy hour. I live and breathe storytelling.
I simultaneously write, create, edit, and query agents, juggling several stories at a time (all of which I love and came from a piece of myself that I didn't know I had in me). We take these little gems from our deepest hopes and fears and send them into the world, hoping they find a home that loves them as much as we do. Sometimes they don't. Often they don't. And we kick ourselves and have a giant pity party and then we get back to writing, because it's what we do.
I started a twitter page last year when I self-published my first novel. My bio said, "aspiring writer" of historical fiction. Recently, I erased it and just wrote, "Author." Like I said, I'm done with the idea that our art means nothing until an agent picks it up. I AM AN AUTHOR. I plan to be a published author someday, and will fight like hell to hustle that dream to reality. But in the meantime, I'm balancing that self-doubt and starry-eyed optimism. It's a complicated life that takes unwavering commitment, and I wouldn't want it any other way.