Imposter’s Syndrome


Nineties Jay says to today’s Jay, “Wow. So. You’re a writer now… right?” Today’s Jay winces. “Um,” he says.

I have been struggling with imposter’s syndrome.

Found this in a business centric site, as a list of things to do to combat IS.

  • Don’t stay silent. Find a way to speak about your fears with a trusted friend, a coach, a mentor, your partner, a therapist, or in a journal.
  • Become familiar with your impostor. What are you trying to prove? To whom?And why?
  • Exercise your sense of humor. Try to keep a sense of perspective and to laugh as often as possible—especially at yourself.

So. Here’s the journal. And I guess you’re my trusted friend, whoever is reading this.

I remember a time when if you’d told me I would publish in Asimov’s, Analog and F&SF, multiple stories in all three places, that I would have said, “Cool! Thank God! I’ll know then that my work has value and I can put a ton of time and effort into projects without feeling like a self-indulgent dick.”

Back in the 90s, I saw these three magazines as the launch path to a career as a novelist, and when I didn’t hit these marks in the first five years of effort I quit for eighteen years.

So. Now, I’ve done it, made my 90s checklist. Time to strap in and launch that career!


Now I’m haunted by the experiences of so many friends over the years who can’t sell novel one, two, three, four, five… by people whose first big-six novels don’t earn out, by people stranded in multi-book contracts… by the experiences of indies who pour years of effort into books only to sell a handful of copies…
I do sometimes, shamelessly, call myself a writer. There’s almost always that sense from people, when you say that, that they think you’re basically unemployed and make no money and are some sort of pathetic parasite.

Um. Yeah.

I say the three names now… Asimov’s, Analog, F&SF … I can add Fantastic Stories, Interzone, and Galaxy’s Edge, too, because I’ve placed work there as well… I don’t have to tell people how much money I make writing. I do anyway, in a kind of ugly self-flagellation that makes everyone within earshot wince.

The time has come now to commit, to longer term projects, to figuring out what my voice is for. To network more effectively, and not to shudder at the word ‘network.’ To somehow make use of social media without oversharing, venting like a mad man, or being in other ways unattractive.

A successful writer / businessman friend of mine recently told me he had never seen a more self-sabotaging media presence… a friend from the 90s flamed me on twitter for how I’ve discussed my recent successes there, and only the successes. The phrase ‘head up my ass’ came up so often I eventually realized that this guy was no longer a friend. (After he’d blocked and unfollowed me, that sank in. I’m not always quick on the uptake.)

So. I have a lot of work to do.

I thought I might find a cover of each magazine and make a graphic for this post… I searched the web, before realizing, duh, just take a picture of the magazines, and in so doing I found a bunch of reviews of my work I’d never seen before.

All positive reviews.

Don’t read reviews, is one bit of advice writers give. Never respond to reviews, either, everyone says.  Today, though, I think the reviews helped.

In a discussion as to whether an Asimov’s story of mine, Strangers with Candy, was ‘really SF’ or not, the reviewer said, he didn’t care really, the story was effective. The story knew exactly what it was doing, were the words he used.

So. Maybe my stories know what they’re doing. Even when I don’t.

Time to go make some words.

Thanks for listening.

Posted in Making a Writing Life
2 comments on “Imposter’s Syndrome
  1. Yep, they know what they’re doing. The words are independent of you and your insecurities. They are confident even when you are not. Just have to let them sing. And sing they do. The novels will come. The awards will too, and so will the money. And none of that will make you feel any better. 🙂 Only letting the words out will do that. I, for one, want to read those words.

  2. Thanks for baring your experience here, Jay. Enlightening, and encouraging too. Especially for me as a writer astonished each time someone buys one of my stories.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *