The other day was a particularly special one in my publishing journey. I revealed the cover for my debut novel The Memories We Hide. First to see were my super-reader team, and then my VIP newsletter subscribers. The feedback was so positive, it had me buzzing. Then I reveal the cover to the wider world via social media and honestly, I was blown away by the response. So many likes, comments and emails congratulating me on the superb cover (which of course all credit goes to my designer Stuart Bache). It was indeed a very special moment, one that will stay with me for a very long time.
But it also stirred something not so special; my self-doubt.
I’ve written here a few times about self-doubt and imposter syndrome. Mostly, I can keep them at bay by acknowledging their presence and then ignoring them and moving forward. But this time the imposter syndrome is sitting squarely on my shoulders staring me in the face. It’s a little hard to ignore.
I think now because compared to the early days of my writing, so many more people now know I am writing, and that I have a book coming out. It took me years before I could bring myself to tell people – even those closest to me – that I was writing a novel. And then it took even longer for me to be comfortable with calling myself a writer or, the next step, an author.
Now that I am going to be a published author with my book out there for everyone and anyone to read, the nerves have really hit me. And it’s not something I expected.
It’s not so much the people I don’t know whom I’m nervous about reading my book, it’s the people I do know.
If some ‘Joe Blow’ read my book and gave it a 1-star review on Amazon, I’d be hurt of course, but I’d move on. I mean, who is Joe Blow anyway? It’s just one person’s opinion.
But it’s those closest to me whose opinions I value. Particularly close friends and family. I know they will read the book, and I know they will tell me they enjoyed it – no matter if that’s true or not. It’s the wondering if they really did enjoy it that gets me, or if they are just saying that to be polite and not hurt my feelings.
I’d honestly be gutted, embarrassed and disappointed if they thought the book was boring or amateurish. Even though I know, they would never tell me so.
And then there’s my author friends.
These are the ones whose opinions I probably value the most. I know they can be objective about whether or not they liked or enjoyed the story, but they are the ones who will be able to technically critique my book. And that scares me. Especially if they have been horribly supportive and then read my book and think it’s awful!
This is where the imposter syndrome really kicks in. It lets out a deep belly laugh and roars something like:
‘You’re a fake. You think you can write but you’re just a phony. Your book is pathetic and lame. How boring is the story? How lame are the characters? You’ll be found out. You’ll be called out! And, you’ll be shamed. Banished and unable to ever show your face again!’
Yeah. He’s a big meanie.
So how do I get past this feeling? I guess I have to take my own advice and acknowledge the fear but continue moving forward.
I have to remind myself that all creative pursuits are subject to critique. And nothing is gained by stifling creativity due to irrational fears.
Not everyone will love my book, and not everyone will think it’s written well. And that is okay. It has to be okay.
So I’m calling on the wisdom of Elizabeth Gilbert who once wrote a book about creativity called ‘Big Magic’, and reminding myself of these magical things —
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