I mean, really? How do we even? Is there an instruction manual, or something? As I move through this journey of publication, I find I ask myself repeatedly… how do I even do that?
And by the way, yes, there is an instruction manual. It even teaches you how to literally even.
I was told so many things when I started writing. Avoid passive voice. Figure out your target word count and get there. First drafts supposed to be shitty. But no one told me how to deal with crippling self doubt… with that dreaded sensation most writers feel at some point… the dreaded impostor syndrome.
I’ve never had a particularly high self-esteem, and I’m ridiculously shy and awkward, even on social media, so not feeling I belong somewhere is nothing new. And it doesn’t help that I’ve only been writing for a few years, while others have been toiling for years. And of course being the rare brown sheep in the predominantly white flock doesn’t help my feeling of alienation.
I made a major life decision once (outside of writing) that most people call me brave for. It was a medical decision, and I continue to spend hours each month supporting others faced with the same choice. Again, people call me brave for that. I don’t see it that way. To me, I’m just dealing with what life threw at me. It was terrifying, but the terror didn’t stop me from doing what needed to be done. I’ve approached every stage of my writing the same way.
Telling people about my secret manuscript. Joining RWA and the Toronto chapter. Showing people my work at my first critique meeting (which was led my a NY times bestseller!) Revising. Sending to beta readers. Revising again. Querying. Twitter pitches. Starting new projects. Starting this site. Talking to writers. Going to the massive RWA conference. Making friends. Signing with an agent. Going on submission.
Every step has been terrifying. At every point along the way, I asked myself how do I even? But that didn’t stop me from doing it. I kept myself grounded in my present abilities, head not in the clouds, nor in the dumpster. How did I do that? I made writers friends along the way who were struggling at the same point as I was. Contest friends. Querying friends. Submission friends. Revisions friends. I’m a huge introvert, and making friends is a challenge, but talking to others struggling with the same things told me that my self-doubt was normal. I critiqued for others– query letters, partial manuscripts and even full manuscripts. Seeing what others were producing helped me see where my strengths and weaknesses are, and told me that my witting may be better, or worse than others, but it is enough to play in this game. I sought out other writers who are like me, and connected with them. Visible minorities. Muslim women. Mothers. Canadians. Seeing them belong in this industry helped me feel my place in it. Even when the self doubt, the near certainty that I do not belong takes hold, I tell myself that I’m wrong, and I plow ahead anyway.
There will always be people who don’t feel I belong here, who tell me subtly that Romance isn’t for people like me. But it doesn’t matter. I’m just going to keep going. Whether I belong here or not is not the issue. I’m here. I’m dealing with it, so they can, too.