Be True to Your Inner Imposter --- Reb MacRath
The world never tires of telling us that we're not Real Writers now and we never will be.
In the beginning, we all were Too Young...when we dreamed of writing books like the GOATs we loved.
Then, when we'd written scores of stories or poems and had finally chiseled our own voice and style, the rejections began coming in. We encountered a chorus of form rejections convincing us we weren't Real Writers. And the charge was echoed by everyone we met: if unpublished, we couldn't be Real.
In time, against all odds, we actually sold a book to a traditional publisher or to a small press. Either way, the initial rush and sense of validation crashed: the book had a limited press run, appeared on no bookstore shelves, gathered almost no reviews, and sold seven copies. The next book did not better, leading our publisher and agent to conclude they'd been wrong: we weren't Real after all. We were dumped.
But even if our books enjoyed limited genre success, strangers lost interest in us quickly when they learned we wrote Mystery, Horror, Romance, or Science Fiction. For these aren't Real Books if they haven't been optioned by Netflix, HBO Max, or Amazon Prime. How much money have we made? And how can we be Real if that's true?
We may be driven to self-publish, turning out beautifully designed, professionally edited work. But it's no use telling anyone of well-known, fabulously $ucce$$ful books that had been first self-published: from Fifty Shades of Grey to The Martian to The Tale of Peter Rabbit to The Celestine Prophecy...
You'll have as much luck as with convincing a brother, sister, or childhood friend that you really are a Real Writer.
As depressing as all of that sounds, think of this: say you've written masterful genre-bending novel that's well-received by critics, loved by great numbers of readers-- but is viciously trashed by your peers. You're slimed and shunned and left for dead: the fact is, you're not a Real Writer at all, just a sad imitation of others who were. And God help you if you fail to put a free copy in the hand of every stranger who won't read it.
And yet here I am, still in the arena after all these years. And the reason for that, friends, is simple. The many joys of the writing itself far outweigh the griefs. Moreover, in whatever form or time all writers must transcend the Imposter Syndrome: the haunting sense that their work doesn't belong in the same ball park as that of their own heroes.
We must always keep in mind Leonard Cohen's counsel:
'Act the way you'd like to be and soon you'll be the way you act.'
Or, updated for literary Imposters:
Write the way you'd like to write....and soon they'll like the way you write.
And, at all costs, remember: Those who are throwing the I-word at you may be the least Real of all.
This is my report.