Monday, January 28, 2019

Bailey's Beat Box: Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome

I have a confession to make.

I’m not who you think I am.

I’m not a writer. 

I mean, to be a writer, you have to be able to create characters that the reader can identify with.  Or write stories that people will want to read.  There’s time involved.  And talent.  And a half a million other things that I just don’t have.  You have to be good.

I’m an imposter.

At least, that’s how it feels most of the time.

The thing is, I think this is how a lot of writers feel.  A lot of the stories we write are personal to us, in one way or another.  Some of us draw inspiration from the world around us.  Or, in order to give the story some authenticity, we draw from our own lives.  We use our writing as a catharsis of sorts, working through issues from our pasts, rewriting our own histories in order to give us the happily-ever-after we desired.  Yes, it’s fiction, but sometimes reality slips through.  Some of my own personal experiences have made it into the books I’ve written, and I’m sure there will be more to follow.  In a sense, it’s like baring open our soul for the world to see.  And because of that, there’s an enormous fear of rejection.

These characters, and their situations, mean a great deal to us as writers.  You often see an author talking about the book they are currently working on, and how much they are loving their characters.  That’s because, by and large, these characters are living with us day in and day out.  They are almost literally begging for their stories to be told, and, until they are, they take up residence inside our head.  Yes, to some degree they begin as pieces of our imagination, but soon, they take on a life of their own, complete with voices.  In a lot of ways, they become our children, of sorts.  We created them, nurtured and cared for them, and then sent them out into the world in hopes that others would love and nurture them as much as we do.

But, as a result, there’s this overwhelming sense of “Why?”

Why am I doing this?

Why would anyone really want to read about this?

Why would anyone care?

But you push through all of that to write the best damn book you possibly can, and hope beyond anything that it connects to at least a few readers.  That connection not only validates the long hours of coffee-soaked work you put into it, but it also bolsters the idea that you actually can do this.

I had some fantastic help from a couple of other authors when I was writing my first two books.  They freely gave me advise and critiqued my work long before the books reached publication.  But I went to great lengths to ensure those conversations were kept private.  I never told anyone of their involvement for a couple of reasons.  One, I didn’t want it to seem as if I was riding on their coattails for success.  If I was successful, I wanted it to be by my own merits.  And, two, (and most importantly to me), if I failed, I didn’t want my failure to tarnish their reputation.  My fear of failure, of not being good enough, has been a driving factor in a lot of decisions I have made.  It has also prevented me from enjoying some of the successes as well.  As an example, the day I released my second book, Looking Forward, it earned one of those coveted Orange ribbons from Amazon.  My first instinct was to assume it was a fluke, or a glitch within Amazon’s systems.  There was no way that one of my books had gone on to become a best seller.  It wasn’t until months later, when I was having a conversation with another author friend of mine, that they convinced me that no, it wasn’t a fluke or a glitch, it had legitimately become a best seller.  I was a best-selling author, and I couldn’t wrap my head around it.

I’ve received a number of messages since beginning my writing journey (please note, I can’t even bring myself to call it a “career” yet.  In this market, you’re only as popular as your current book, and I’m a slow writer, so who knows how long this “career” will last).  A lot have been by way of email or private message, and inevitably the crux of these messages has been about how much they as the reader connected with the characters.  I’m not ashamed to admit that some have brought me to tears.  I have felt an enormous sense of pride with each one of these messages.  Partially because that meant I did my “job” well, but also because, to a very large degree, these characters are different aspects of my own personality.  In liking these characters, and their stories, they’re liking me as well.

All of this brings me to a decision I have to make.  One that I have labored on for close to two years. 

You see, there’s an event coming up in October called GRL.  It’s an acronym for Gay Romance Literature.  The event is a conference of sorts, a place where readers and writers of the Gay Romance genre all congregate for one giant meet-and-greet.  Readers get the opportunity to meet their favorite authors and have their books signed.  Authors get to meet their readers as well as network with other authors, bloggers, and industry professionals.

It is arguably THE largest event of the year for the genre.

Registration for this event is coming up soon, and I have to decide if I’m going to attend again as a reader, or will I make the giant (and, quite frankly, terrifying) leap to Author.

I have attended the last two, strictly as a reader.  I had just released my first book before the 2017 GRL, and my second before the 2018.  I was asked by a number of other authors and readers why I wasn’t attending as an author.  My answer was always the same:  my catalog wasn’t large enough to justify it.  But there was always something else, something I left unsaid because it’s deeply personal.

You see, while I had the absolute best time at both events, there was always one question nagging at the base of my skull.  I would look around at all of the other authors in attendance, and, inevitably compare myself to them.  My books and covers aren’t sexy.  My stories aren’t always lighter.  My characters often have to deal with a tremendous amount of pain in order to get to their deserved place of happiness.  So, the question that I would always ask myself is:

Do I deserve it?

Yes, I’ve written books, two full length and one novella, with another full length on the way.  But when I look around that room, I realize I don’t write like they do.  I see the achievements of those other writers and my achievements seem to pale in comparison.  I question if I’m as good as they are and do I even deserve to be there as an author.

I feel like an imposter in a room full of professionals.

I’m sure I’m not the only one that feels that way.  I’m sure there are probably some authors that have been in the genre for years that feel the way that I do.  But if that was the case, I wish I knew who they were, because maybe it would make the decision I have to make little easier.

I’ll be honest, I still don’t know what I’m going to do.  I would love to take that leap, to register as a Supporting Author.  I would love to attend some panels and discuss where my ideas and characters come from.  I would love to discuss my “process”, such as it is.

But do I deserve it?

Or am I really an imposter?


  1. Yoyr willingness to bare your soul, here and in your books is one of the reasons I fell in love with your writing from the first line I read. You may feel like an imposter, but let me assure you, YOU ARE NOT. Love you!!

  2. Imposter Syndrome is so very real. 23 books later and I still feel this way. Attending GRL made me feel very much an imposter. Who was I to sit on a panel with these REAL authors? I won’t be able to attend this year, but I’m glad I attended last year and I’ll look forward to it again in the future.

  3. I had to share this on my FB wall because it spoke my heart so clearly. I think we all, no matter who we are and what stage of our writing career we're at, suffer from Imposter Syndrome. It's particularly strong in the debut author, yeah, but I think it's present in every writer at whatever stage in their careers. Thanks for posting this, Michael!

  4. "But when I look around that room, I realize I don’t write like they do."

    I wonder. I used to think that until I stated reading what other authors wrote about the way they write. You aren't as fast, maybe. Me, either. But what about all the other stuff? That characters that hang out with us? The crying with them and laughing with them all alone with them and a keyboard?

    We're writers because we write. It's so not about "deserving" anything. Go hang with the other authors. I'm betting you find yourself in them.

  5. You are so talented, you deserve to sign up as an author. I read a lot of books and have become a little hardened to some emotions when I read, your stories touch my heart and actually make me cry. Keep up on your excellent writing and really you are great.

  6. I have written ten books and I still feel this way. Especially when days or weeks go by without me writing a single word.

    I fake it until I make it.

  7. Imposter syndrome is real, and it’s not pretty. I completely understand where you’re coming from. I’ve wished my book was paper so I could set it on fire before because that’s how terrible I thought it was. I’ve been convinced for a short period of time I should never write another word by a bad review that cut to the bone. I doubt book 2 can live up to book 1 every time I open the manuscript to write. It’s terrifying sharing these small glimpses of our souls.

    Your differences are what shine. You are amazing, and you deserve a place at that table. <3

  8. You totally deserve to be there as an author. I have read your books and they are equally as good as any other author I love. I see where you are coming from, but you need to know you have a lot of support out there, your writing is awesome.

  9. I think this here is shared by many of us. I think you deserve it as a writer you write. But more so as a author that makes the connection to your readers.
    Its that connection that puts you in a different category than that of a writer, your characters your idea's your book.
    Because of that connection I feel the author you are you deserve to be there as a Author with the others, that to me makes you who you are and not just a writer..

  10. I have 20 full length books and several novellas under my belt and I still feel that way sometimes, especially when it comes to my MM books. I have written 7 of them, and even though I received that orange stripe as well, I'm not well known for my MM books. I write them because they are as important to me as the MF.

    I love your books, and you aren't an imposter. You are an author whose books I adore. And I adore you. Please don't ever stop telling your stories.