What Now?: Impostor Syndrome Is Real

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Second in my #WhatNow? series chronicling life after publication, is an unfortunate condition called “Impostor Syndrome.”

Wikipedia calls it a concept describing someone who’s unable to internalize their accomplishments and feels a persistent fear for being exposed as a fraud. This Fast Company article talks about the five types of people most susceptible to it, and this piece from The Guardian calls it a confidence-sapping form of anxiety which only grows more acute when one achieves more external success.

Well, not to get into semantics or anything, but since Tea in Pajamas was published, this whole people will soon find out you’re useless monologue has been playing out in my mind ad nauseum.

Despite all evidence to show the book’s been generally well received, I keep undercutting and downplaying my success (even writing the word ‘success’ gives me the heebie jeebies) to all and anyone who’d even think to praise it.

Typically included in my litany of self-abuse is the strong assertion that I’m in fact not a writer—and that my sequel’s gonna expose me for the fraud that I am—as well as the fixed idea that no one in the literary community would ever take me seriously because I self-published.

That’s pretty harsh, wouldn’t you call it? And that voice sounds suspiciously like the lizard/dragon creature from a time not so long ago. In my ED recovery, I found that the tried-and-true way of getting it to shut up and get lost is first to tell it to do that, and next do the exact opposite of what it claims you can never do.

It’s a pity, therefore, that have I haven’t exactly been standing up to the negative mind chatter. Instead, I’ve been pleading “writer’s block” and “lack of time” — legit reasons by themselves — when for the most part, I’ve been passively allowing it to get to me.

When Tea in Pajamas was published, I truly thought the hardest part was over. I didn’t even begin to imagine the weight of pressure I’d put on myself for producing a sequel that would do the first book/my readers/myself justice.

On the whole, most people felt the first book was a light-hearted read, but a good number also shared with me their desire to see a heavier hand in the adventure sequences. And the sequel needs to and absolutely will have that, but I’m also not gonna  throw in a bunch of dragons, knights, and wizards for the sake of it. My present challenge is injecting the right amount of adventure, mystery, fantasy, and—dare I say—darkness, without jeopardizing authenticity or distracting from the essence of the storyline. And it’s tricky and time-consuming, and boy does it take quite a bit of guts to pull off!

I am now five and a half chapters in, and maybe that might appear to be the midway mark, but we’re only just moving into the crux of things. A lot is going on both in the sequel and in my head, and Impostor Syndrome sure doesn’t make it a smooth ride.

Will it all be worth it?, I often wonder. What does this book want to achieve? Do I have anything to prove by writing it? Wouldn’t it all be easier to just be happy that I published Tea in Pajamas and left it at that?

It is my earnest hope that in calling out Impostor Syndrome for what it is, I am taking my first steps toward recognizing the problem and finding a way to move forward constructively. God knows the number of times I’ve taken the mental diatribes at face value and seriously considered aborting the sequel and shutting down this website altogether.

And yet something has always kept me from doing that.

As I finish up this post, I’m thinking of the odd possibility that the voice behind Impostor Syndrome is right—that I’m not a real writer and I’m only trying to pass off as one. That I’d be shunned and ridiculed by real publishers, and my sequel would be an embarrassing legacy long after I’ve passed on.

And actually I think… so what? Even if I produced a laughably awful sequel—though I’m working hard to diminish that possibility!—I’ll know at least I bothered to try when I could’ve easily called it a day. And I have yet to meet an author who was hauled into prison for bad writing.

Perhaps at the end of the day, writer or no, I’m OK with just being someone who loves to write. Is writing easy? No. Will I get there? I don’t know.

But do I consider it my honor and privilege to breathe life into another world and bunch of characters I’ve grown to know and love deeply?

Yes absolutely.

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