My Experience with Imposter Syndrome from Acceptance to Print

I was at the library, intentionally taking my mind off my recent submission, looking for inspiration on a new writing project. I scanned the shelves for an Atlee Pine book by James Baldacci and checked my email for the umpteenth time. I was waiting on news, good or bad, concerning my writing.

Book and phone in hand, heart in my throat, I had a new email. The one I’d been waiting for like you might watch water boil, but nothing happens. And you think, forget it, I’ll order out instead. But it boiled, baby, it finally boiled.

It read, and I’m paraphrasing, your short story is accepted for publication. I’m 99.9% sure the library patrons watched me jump up and down while I re-read the email again. I mean, I had to be sure.

I anticipated an open and closed process along the lines of, I bequeath you my short story, and now it shall be published — the end.

However, for me, being selected for submission meant revisions and edits. And a good deal of time between acceptance and seeing my work in print.

I completed the revision solo and editing together with the publishing company.

Of course, I was elated to have my first short story ever accepted to be published. Yet the process brought with it doubts in my writing ability. And my high-flying feeling of acceptance was beginning to wane.

As I re-read what I’d submitted, my mind made up all kinds of non-reality versions of why it wasn’t good enough. Perhaps the editor felt sorry for me and accepted my story out of pity. Or the email they sent me was a mistake? My imposter syndrome — I’m not good enough, I’ve got no talent, no business writing kicked in strong.

The editor wanted me to revise my work, so my story must suck, right? I don’t have what it takes, and she knows it.

Imposter syndrome isn’t new for the writing community or me.

Neil Gaiman has experienced imposter syndrome. The author who wrote “Good Omens” with Terry Pratchett. A book I read every year. And I can’t say enough good things about it. The voice that comes through on those pages is like a funny old loony friend, who makes very good points about a number of things, and takes me where I want to go every time.

Even the late Maya Angelou experienced imposter syndrome. “Each time I write a book, every time I face that yellow pad, the challenge is so great. I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now.”

At least we’re all in good company.

This syndrome doesn’t seem to diminish as I continue my writing journey. Maybe it’s not supposed to, and perhaps it’s there to keep me on my toes.

I wallowed for a bit in my self-doubt, long enough to process what enhancements I needed to re-write or add, and ate several bowls of ice cream brownie sundaes.

And rolled up my sleeves and got back to work.

I gained a few pounds and added about 4000 more words to my short story. Because I listened to the editor, a new depth to my main character was added, which elevated my work thanks to the publishing companies’ encouragement, calls, and meetings with me.

The final review of amendments happened in July, with, the publishing company completing line edits. Here I was asked to review my story for final edits, and this piece of the process was time-consuming but easier to accomplish and didn’t require self-pitying comfort foods, but coffee was helpful.

Then the fun began, and marketing materials for social media were distributed. Instead of feeling ecstatic at posting about my achievement, I was indifferent, and as if I was attention seeking. Who would read my story anyway, a little voice inside my head said. In the end, I pushed through my discomfort — I find I have to do that a lot with writing — and reasoned, posting about my short story certainly wouldn’t be the worst thing displayed on Twitter or Facebook.

If I’d been worried about social media discomfort, I was in over my head when it came time for the Anthologies book launch. However, I went all in and participated, reading an excerpt from my short story. It was terrifying but thank goodness I embarrassed myself in front of very few people. My parents were among them. The event was one I’d never attended or participated in before, and I was happy to have experienced it in all my jittery, nervous, adrenaline-filled state. And I have a beautiful copy of the anthology with the signatures of the other authors who attended. But I couldn’t help wondering if I belonged among the others, who had not just the Anthology on display, but stand-alone novels set up for sale.

Acceptance of my short story to publication took about seven months.

My abilities and psyche were tested, and I doubted myself throughout the publishing process. In the past imposter syndrome has stopped me dead in my writing journey and stunted my growth.

Even if it’s here to stay, I know I can’t give in to it. If I did, I’d never write again. And I enjoy it far too much to stop creating.

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