Pretty much the first set of feelings I had as a “really, real” writer was imposter syndrome. I felt like a fake. Worse I felt like the acquisitions editor was “just being nice.”
This is laughable.
It’s not that acquisitions editors sit around drinking scotch and smoking cigars—I mean, that’s a lovely pastime, but sometimes there’s real work to be done—but they certainly aren’t the evil overlords looking to destroy the world and crush the hopes and dreams of writers. Well, not today at least. So yeah, the idea that the person trying to acquire my book was just being nice rather than being a professional trying to convince me to sign a contract is, in retrospect, kind of naïve.
But there it is, I felt like I’d somehow bamboozled my way through the gate. Largely, this was because I didn’t know what to expect or that there were even people in the world who might like my book. I had over 200 letters telling me that my books weren’t what people were looking for, that in this crowded market, they weren’t likely to stand out, and that the premise seemed engaging but the actual book was in the unenviable position of not having been fallen in love with (It’s okay, poor book, there’s a special lobster for your too).
So I thought I was a fake. And if I’m a fake, so is the contract.
That’s right, I deluded myself into believing that the whole book getting published thing wouldn’t happen, and that all of this was just a big joke. Lucky for all parties involved, I decided that I wouldn’t be the first to break and call it a joke, and that I would follow all of my contractual obligations leading up to the release of my book. In my head, it became some sort of complicated game of chicken.
You might ask why it was that I was so convinced of this was fake. There are some precedents in my life where I’d been led along like something was real and had the rug ripped out from under me, but for the most part, those were little events—right up until it was a thing I’d been working on for a decade. When that fell through, I sort of lost faith in the Universe. (Sorry Universe, it’s me not you? No wait, that time it was you.)
But I had to look at myself and accept a few things: I had some signs of classic depression, and more than a little bit of clinical anxiety. Depression and anxiety were the ones telling me that my writing had sucked and that my work wasn’t worth anyone’s time and effort. All those rejection letters had just given my anxiety the words it needed to really hunker down and make some logical sense. My anxiety and depression had convinced me that other people, the ones saying nice things about my book—the ones offering me contracts for my book!—were lying about liking it.
Clearly, they weren’t. The book got published—much to my surprise—and now there are a bunch of copies out in the world. And it’s sort of amazing and wonderful, and more than anything, I’m glad I decided to follow along and jump through the hoops to get my book published, because, I like my book. I never expected to be in a place to admit that I love my own books, but I do, and that one in particular.
So pretty much this goes down as a learn from my fail. I wasted a ton of head space and time thinking they were going to pull the plug. And pulling the plug does happen in Publishing, NONE of the signs were there. Literally none.
I’ve talked to a ton of writers and this isn’t an isolated incident. Mine might have been stronger than many, (mine might have been actually a weak case all things considered, I just like to build mountains out of mole hills) but it’s not an isolated feeling. Imposter syndrome is real, and it will warp your mind.