Over on this really cool writers board that I'm on, there is a discussion about Imposter Syndrome. You know, the Syndrome where you feel that everyone else in your field is really the real deal, but you aren't? I think this discussion resonates with EVERY artist, and of course, I have some opinions about it, and of course, I want to share them with the world. Not only do I have Imposter Syndrome, but apparently I am also an open book.
Do I have Imposter Syndrome? Oh yes. There are days when I feel like a Japanese anime villain and I know that my writing will be the path to world domination (mwahahahaha!!!) and other days when I know that the last thing that the world needs is another writer, or that my writing voice is not necessary, or worse not fashionable. Is my writing too influenced by Victorians or classicists to actually be relevant to a modern reader? Argh, indeed, true believers.
This is exacerbated by the fact that I am a writer of longer things. My interest tends naturally toward novels. I do crank out a short every once in a while, and these stories have been fairly well received (just one didn't find a home, although I am the queen of small press and not pro-sales, mind). And I do crank out a middle grade every once in a while. (Hulk Hercules was bought on spec, and Abby Rath was last year.)
But what I really like are novels. Long, character driven, full of melodrama novels. I have mentioned that I was working on a five novel series, each a stand alone. And now I realize that this is longer, and I could potentially be looking at a series at least eight books long. And I don't care about that. Because you know, this is what I want to write and what feels natural to write to me, and it might be that I am going to be the Lois McMaster Bujold of the Gothic creepy novel, and oh, well, right?
Publishing would be nice, but writing the series is my goal. So I write and I write and I write and I write some more. Meanwhile friends publish short stories or get agents or what have you, and alone I write and I write and I write and the stories become this thing that only I and a few friends appreciate. I will send each book out, and inevitably the rejections come. And then, there are those moments when I think why write if no one wants it? And the pendulum swings to moments of confidence. This, Catherine, is the series that you were born to write, and you can uniquely tell, with your background, and your training, and your reading, and what the hell does that recognition matter if you're true to your art and you're trying to publish? Indeed, this is a better philosophy. But it still doesn't make me feel like a "real" writer, whatever that means.
All around me are people who are getting published with other works and you think, wow, none of these writers know me at all, because I'm writing this long freakin' thing which hasn't broken in and maybe never will, and sure, when I retire in a few years I will probably self-pub when I have time to learn how, and besides the odds are good that given the work I put into my writing, and the fact other people don't exactly think I suck, it's a good bet that I will get an agent when when the time is right, and blah, blah, blah, optimism, blah, blah. But meanwhile I am an egg yet to crack, and I look like a hobbyist, and everyone thinks I'm not a real writer. I'm just a person who just tweaks and tweaks and never sends out, which is not what it is, but which it looks like. Or a person who hasn't chosen to write the commercially viable. Or that somehow I'm not good enough because I haven't published. My Imposter Syndrome seems rooted in what other people think, and that sucks.
And then I think of Patrick Rothfuss and his first novel and I am strangely comforted, how he revised for years to get the novel he wanted exactly, how he kept the faith. And I think of Anthony Trollope and his constant writing of long series and dedication regardless of deadlines, or money, because of his love of the story. Susannah Clark who kept at Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and has only produced that one immaculate novel.
And I think well, if you're just in this for what people think of you, then you are the real imposter, aren't you? Chew on that, you foolish professor you.
So I come full circle in my thoughts. I loop around this circle often. There are times when my ego imagines that these books will be published and all the waiting will be worth it because they are Important books, and readers will get that. And then there are times when I think that I should just write for myself and my friends and stop bothering all those nice publishers and agents who are just going to send me rejections, but are never going to buy my books. And then I think, in my realistic moments, that I have to write these stories anyway, that my goal is tell these stories about these people, and leave this work behind me, regardless of whether it is mine or it ends up belonging to everyone.
So, that's where I'm at, kids. Writing regardless of what happens, and occasionally worrying about image. Pathetic.
And yourselves? Tell me of your Imposter Syndrome.