This month marks the one-year anniversary of my debut novel, To Charm A Bluestocking (The Bluestocking Series). For the past twelve months, I’ve been working in three jobs – writing fiction, horse racing consultant/writer, and data work in an office. Four if you count my volunteer work on the local cricket club committee. As you can imagine, juggling all these commitments, as well as family, has been quite stressful. Recently, we decided as a family that I should quit the office job to concentrate on the two writing jobs. This decision also gives me more flexibility to organise our family – not a small task with four children in school who all play sport, and have other extra-curricular activities.
On a personal level, dropping one job to focus on the other two has been great. It’s allowed me to spend more time writing, and less time worrying about deadlines, as well as invest my time into improving my craft and my writing business.
The downside is one of perception. It’s only been a few weeks since I quit my office job, and already I’ve had several comments from acquaintances about how ‘I’m not working now’, or ‘that’s right, you quit your job’. These comments have built a growing sense that I’m a fraud. Freelance equals freeloader in many people’s minds. A ‘real job’ only occurs if you go to an office.
I can frame my work positively. Working from home is still work. I’m a full time writer with two published books in 2017, not to mention the countless feature articles and interviews I’ve had published in magazines. Over the last two years, I’ve written six books, all while juggling two other jobs. How many will I be able to write while juggling only one other job?
But the doubt doesn’t go away. It ends up this cycle. How many words to do I have to write every day to justify my existence as a full time writer? How many books do I need to have published before I can point to them and say ‘look, I’m a real writer – here is my body of work’?
I asked my fellow 17 Scribes how they coped with this feeling.
KD Proctor: “I, too, have felt like a fake, fraud, phony, washed up, has been at one time or another. Worse, you see everyone churning out books what looks like every couple of months and you wonder HOW IN THE HELL DO YOU DO IT?!? I then have to remind myself–comparison is the thief of joy. Because what I have? Others dream of having that.” … “How do you make it go away? I think it’s really all in how you deal with it. You can have two authors on paper who have everything that is exactly the same. Same number of books, royalties, success, rejections and that dreaded feeling of fraud…the whole enchilada. The difference is how you deal with the shitty stuff. If you’re acknowledging it, accepting that we all have times of self doubt, and talking about it, you’ll come out farther ahead than those who do nothing but beat themselves up, blame others and the industry.”
Melodie Winawer: “If you write you are a writer. And if you write but sometimes you are not writing you are still a writer…It’s hard enough being a writer without making the criteria impossible to satisfy!”
Kari Lemor: “I read all these books where people give credit to others who have helped them with research. This police department or fire department or some clinic etc. I don’t feel like I’m a “real” enough author to ask people to give me a tour or spend time with me. I feel like if I called and asked to come in and interview people they would laugh at me. … I’ll ask people I know but have never felt like a real enough writer to go and ask strangers. Like they’ll call me on not really being an author.”
Claire P Marti: “You aren’t alone! At RWA 2016, the speaker was a psychiatrist who discussed the imposter syndrome and how women were especially prone to it. In all of my varied careers, I often felt like a fraud. When I was a litigation attorney, I felt like everyone knew I’d rather be at the beach than in court. (true) One of my favorite lines from my favorite singer, the brilliant Chris Cornell, is “I’m only faking when I get it right,” from Fell on Black Days. He was one of the most brilliant singers of all time and he felt that way. You ARE doing it. You ARE a writer. You’ve got this!”
The past twelve months, since first being published, has been a fascinating journey. I’ve learnt so much about the publishing industry, and I’ve had a taste of potential new career. One that will give me flexibility, and joy, and the satisfaction of producing stories that will make readers happy.
Plenty of people have supported me in the past twelve months, and I’m hugely grateful for their support. My wonder publisher Kate Cuthbert at Escape Publishing, the 17 Scribes, the Word Count Warriors, friends and family especially my gorgeous sister Caro who has read every bad draft of everything I’ve written. If you love sci-fi, you should try her novel, Green and Blue, about dragons and a magical heroine.
Ironically, In Pursuit Of A Bluestocking (The Bluestocking Series), the second book in the Bluestocking series is about imposter syndrome, while the third is about risk and reward (The Heart of a Bluestocking, coming September 2018). If you sign up to my newsletter, you’ll get the links for my free Olympics inspired short story.