Writing: Impostor Syndrome

Photo by Aleathia Drehmer

Last night I attended an online workshop put on by the local library, which featured a writer who was also once a literary agent in NYC. This was a grand opportunity to learn some upcoming steps I will have to make to shop the first novel I completed this year.

The business end of traditional publishing is overwhelming and I can understand why many people take the time to write novels but never publish them. Or how they never quite finish their novel so they don’t have to think about the process.

During the session, the audio messed up when it came time for me to explain what I was working on and this started my frustration and anxiety. I never really got another chance to get the same attention the rest of the writer’s received, so I felt let down. Technology is not always our friends.

This workshop has two parts, and she assigned us the task of finding five current writers (within the last five years) who we feel have some relationship to the novel we are working on whether it is style, subject, journey etc. Trying to figure out where your work would fit among those already published is hard enough. Then to ask you to compare your raw, unpublished work with those who have sold millions of copies is daunting.

If I’m honest, I never thought I’d finish the novel, anyway. I had started it ten years ago and would take it out every few years, add a few paragraphs and put it back. It was something I attempted but failed in my mind. My background has always been heavy in poetry and I have been writing since I was ten years old. My father was a poet, and I spent my life trying to capture every beautiful moment I saw to connect us in our estranged relationship.

When I started publishing poetry in the small press, both online and in print, I met other writers and began dabbling in flash fiction, short fiction, and micro fiction. These always felt like extensions of poetry to me and I didn’t consider myself a fiction writer until I attempted the novel. Because of this, I never thought about finding an agent or ever moving beyond the small press.

Having my work published was satisfying if one person told me they experienced something from the piece. This has always been the basis of my desire to publish. I want the reader to feel something for a moment… to pause or look at the world in a unique light even if it doesn’t change them profoundly.

Somehow, I lost grasp of this last night. Being vulnerable and rejected repeatedly for a novel I’ve worked so hard to complete put me over the edge. I had a sudden wave of imposter syndrome which made me want to give it all up. The thought of doing all the business side truly makes me not want to write anymore. This is sad because writing is all I have ever known. It saved my life on so many occasions and has brought me to the dearest people in my life.

After the workshop, I locked myself in my room and cried while crocheting. My best girlfriend talked me off the ledge with her kind, matter-of-fact positivity. My boyfriend asked me a series of questions to tease out the genuine reason for my fear. Together then brought me back to center. Things always feel impossible until you begin them. The thought of what it will cost you emotionally and mentally are often less than the high price tag you place on them. 

I have spent a life overcoming impossible odds. Now is not the time to give up trying. For all of you folks out there feeling down or that you are the biggest impostor in the world, just know we are all there with you. Be kind to yourself. Dig a little deeper. Work a little harder. You’ve got this.

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