Tuesday, August 20, 2013

In which I go into cheerleader mode

Okay--don't go into shock, but I actually have a proper blog post for you guys today!

(well, I hope it's proper. I feel like I'm getting rusty at this whole blogging thing--but THAT is a topic for another day).

I've recently heard a number of people all say the same thing, and I'm betting it's something that some of you might be feeling as well. And it's something that makes me so sad to hear--even though I understand why they might feel it--because it's simply NOT true, and I hate to see anyone get down on themselves when what they're going through is totally normal. So I thought it was high time I clear the cobwebs and dust bunnies off this blog and step into cheerleader mode.

This is probably the point where I should tell you what it is we're even talking about (again, going back to the whole rusty-at-blogging thing...)

(ahem)

So basically, I've had a ton of friends say something along the lines of....

"I feel like a fraud."

And I realize that needs a little context, so let me explain. The people telling me this are all fellow writers. They're active in the blogosphere and writing forums and various social media outlets. They go to writer's conferences and trade shows and author signings. Most importantly, they read, read, read and write, write, write and revise, revise, revise. And they've been doing all of this for years.

Basically, they're checking off every box on the Things You Should Do If You're Trying To Get Published list. And yet, for whatever reason, they haven't sold a book yet. Maybe they're also still looking for an agent.

And because of that--and because they're so active in the writing community--they feel like a fraud. Like there's some ticking clock determining how long they're allowed to be "aspiring" before they must cross over to "published", and any second someone is going to realize they still don't have a book deal and show them to the door. 

I remember feeling the same way when I was struggling to get published. I worked with my agent for more than a year before selling a book, and I used to dread the inevitable moment when a fellow writer would ask me, "What do you write?" because then I'd have to tell them I'm not published yet and they'd of course immediately be disappointed in me and not want to talk to me anymore because I was a big old fraud.

But here's the thing: I wasn't a fraud

I was just on my journey to publication--and every single writer's journey is different. 

And I know you've probably heard that a billion times before, and that it's not all that comforting when your journey has you knee deep in the muck and mire of rejections, meanwhile tons of people you know are skipping past you to Published Authorville. I know it's frustrating and heartbreaking and how easy it is to worry that you're just not good enough and it's never going to happen and maybe you should just give up. And I remember projecting those feelings on everyone else and assuming they were all thinking: go away little wannabe, you're not one of us

But here's the other thing: No one thinks you're a fraud.

Those of us who are published remember very clearly how hard it is to get published (we all have our own war stories, trust me). And honestly, every day this business is getting tougher and tougher to break into, so those of you working at it right now have it even worse than we did. We also know how much timing and luck can play into getting an agent or a book deal, and that whether you have one is NOT a reflection of your talent. All it means is that you're still on your journey, and we are here to cheer you on as you get there.

I know that doesn't change anything, or make the discouraging part of the publishing journey any easier. But please, PLEASE don't tell yourself that you're a fraud. You are NOT a fraud. The only differences between a published author and an aspiring writer are time and perseverance. Be patient, don't give up, and you WILL get there.

And in the meantime: CUPCAKES! 

40 comments:

  1. I have actually felt like a fraud lately but not because of publishing. Sometimes when I look where I am with my writing and where I had planned to be I feel fake. I'm telling others to keep going and sometimes I myself am stuck in the mud. But deep down I know it's not true that I'm a write and I never plan to stay down.

    So thanks for this post because it reminds me that while I do believe I am a writer, there's doubts that I have tried not to face.

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    1. Awww. I know that feeling too. And we all have our doubts, even after publication. And really, I know it feels like you're stuck, but really, it's all part of the journey. You ARE moving forward. It's just about not giving up until you get where you want to be.

      Hang in there--it will happen!

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    2. Thanks for the encouragement. You're such a nice person.

      Please read this blogpost. As a published author I think it will give you an even deeper perspective on how lucky you are to find a publisher who takes care of you and your work: http://amberargyle.blogspot.com/2013/08/publisher-cancels-novel-because-author.html

      David King: http://www.davidpowersking.com/2013/08/unwoven-how-one-word-lead-to.html

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  2. I'm just starting to query my fourth novel and I am definitely feeling the insecurity and doubt. Thanks for this :)

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    1. Aw, you're so welcome. And good for you for keeping at it. Lots and lots of authors query multiple books before getting an agent. You never know which one will be the right book at the right time. So you just keep going.

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  3. Thanks for the pep talk. My problem is more that with working and a busy daughter to get to where she needs to go that I just don't have much time for writing. I have something to query but am holding back until I get more time because I don't want more deadlines. It's frustrating not to start querying after writing for 10 years, but I know I need to do it. And it's okay. It's important to keep priorities straight.

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    1. You're definitely smart to wait until you can handle the deadlines--they're intense. And really, when you're finally ready you'll be so ahead of the game from all you've learned over these years. Take the time now to learn and enjoy.

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  4. Thanks for this, Shannon. I have an agent, an editor, and a book deal, but because we're STILL revising a year later, and because I'm still fielding the "when does your book come out" questions with nothing in the shape of a real answer, I say those very words to my editor all the time: I FEEL LIKE A FRAUD. She giggles, says that's normal, pats me on my head, and sends me on my merry way. It's still nice to know I'm not alone given this most solitary occupation. <3 P.S. Kendon cannot WAIT for EXILE!!!

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    1. Oh yes, the general public has no idea how LONG and SLOW the publication process can be. I remember having the same problem when people would ask me why they couldn't find my book in stores yet. But you're not a fraud and it'll be out in the world soon enough. So glad you have an editor who helps you laugh it off. :)

      AND YAY--I CAN'T WAIT FOR EXILE EITHER!!! I really hope it lives up to the first one for everyone. *meep*

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  5. You're so right, Shannon. And for the vast number of published authors it's never the 'overnight success' that it can seem from the outside. We put in the work, sometimes for years, but it's that one milestone that makes it seem legit to everyone looking in.
    My published book was the 12th (and 14th, because I rewrote it completely before it sold) that I'd written. It's a hard business but like you say, everyone's journey is different; there are as many paths to publication as their are writers.
    To everyone struggling with feeling like a fraud--you're not; you're just like the rest of us. Seriously - we've all worn the same shoes.

    p.s. I'd like to add that now I have a book out, my own self doubt has changed from "I'm a fraud" to "It (getting a book published) was a fluke"--the doubts never end, but we must train ourselves to push past them and work harder.

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    1. Yes--THIS! It's so true, you talk to any writer and we all have our story of struggles and doubts. And it really doesn't go away. There's reviews and critics and like you said, the worry that nothing else we write will ever be as good. It never really gets easier. It's just about doing what you love and believing in yourself and not giving into the doubt.

      PS: I can assure you, you're most definitely NOT a fluke! :)

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  6. Yep. I needed this today. I don't necessarily feel like a fraud, because I know all the things you pointed out.

    But this: "worry that you're just not good enough and it's never going to happen and maybe you should just give up." is 100% exactly how I've been feeling lately.

    And I think it's the hardest feeling to battle. I worry that it's like me with singing. I am a good singer. I was a voice major. But I'm not *good enough* to become a professional.

    *sigh* It sucks. And there are no answers except to keep trying. So, onward!

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    1. ((hugs)) I know that feeling too, Larissa. But don't give into those doubts. Writing is a craft that really can be improved and learned with time and dedication and practice. So like you said, ONWARD!

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    2. Onward and UPward! :D:D:D:D Sorry, Narnia fan here.

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  7. Thank you, Shannon. This is EXACTLY what I needed to hear this week.

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  8. Thank you for this great post. I can definitely relate! I haven't even finished my first book yet. Which means I haven't even started querying or anything. I definitely feel like a fraud! I have met some really awesome writers but I still haven't really connected with anyone yet (I guess I'm hoping for a writer BFF). And I feel like it's because I haven't finished a book yet. It's like you said, "go away little wannabe, you're not one of us." That is how I feel. Sometimes I think I'm more worried about being rejected by other writers than I am about getting rejections from agents. I always worry that I'm not good enough & that I should give up, but then I'll read a really good book, or read a post like this & get inspired again. So thank you!

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    1. Hey--the thing about "everyone has their own journey" is that we also all have our own pace. Obviously you don't want to let fear slow you down, but if you need more time to finish your book, take it. And I'm so glad you enjoyed the post! :)

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  9. You're an excellent cheerleader and certainly know how to put things in perspective. Thanks! ;)

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    1. Ha, I'm only a good cheerleader in words. You should see me try to do the splits. Actually, no, no one wants to see that. ;)

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  10. Most professional endeavors you take on in life have a fairly definite beginning, middle, and end. Writing and publishing a first novel not so much. You see the finish line, but there are so many hazards to trip you up along the way. Thanks for the reminder to keep pushing forth.

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    1. That's so true. And the thing is, there really is no "finish" line. Even when you're published, there's still a long journey ahead. We're all just moving forward the best we can, trying to do what we love. :)

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  11. What a great post and thank you I so needed this today, I don't feel like a fraud per se what I feel a lot is maybe I don't have it in me to be a writer, I know I have the perseverance but when I read books, many out of the genre I write I feel like I am wasting my time and maybe I don't have the gift to write...then I stop beating on myself and say its all part of the process and the more I am willing to learn the better I will be, I have heard many stories of published writers that made it huge and some may say their writing is average, I think my focus is to find my own voice to be unique so my stories will be identified. The publishing world your right is very challenging and I think once a writer becomes published more challenges occur such as sometimes authors books are not chosen to be in particular book stores, so one has to always ride the wave so to speak and hope for the best. I wish you all the best Shannon.

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    1. It's so hard not to compare yourself to others and think you'll never live up. But really it is like you said. You have to be you. Write in YOUR voice. Once you find it, the other pieces do slowly fall into place. Just keep swimming!

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  12. Thank you so much for this, Shannon. It really helps to hearit from someone like you and not just your CPs/friends, who will of course tell you to keep going anyway. Plus hells yeah, it's gotten harder. But what can you do? *noms on cupcake*

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  13. I don't get this modern trend of unpublished writers downgrading themselves as mere "aspiring" writers. I've always considered myself a writer, period, published or not. There's nothing "aspiring" about actively writing! And given how long I've been writing, and how thick some of my books are, it's very possible I've written far, far, far more words than some writers who are already published.

    It can feel a little uncomfortable when I get an occasional comment on my blog asking where someone can find or buy my books, since they enjoy the excerpts or descriptions they've read. I really need to get proactive about indie-publishing my doorstoppers and trying again to query my shorter books!

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  14. Great post Shannon and something we always need to be reminded of. Writing is HARD. So so hard. People not in this world just don't realize it and it sucks to have them ask, "why aren't you published yet?" and to have no short answer to give. Thanks for this post. It's great to be cheered on every once in awhile!

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  15. Ms. Messenger,
    Thank you so much for this post. For the past three years I've been searching for an agent and failed miserably. I've been considering quitting. I lack a support group to talk to. My husband gave me 4 years before I have to go back to work. My parents laugh when I tell them. My community is small and I haven't found a descent writers group to give me critiques. The person who did read my writing only told me they wanted a signed copy when I got published. I loved the compliment, but it didn't help me get better. I've felt so lost and alone. This post was wonderful and encouraging. I don't know if I'll ever make it. I can't make it to conferences and I don't know anyone in the industry, but it was nice to know I'm not the only one. Hope one day my dreams come true!

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  16. I love you in cheerleader mode! Though not a writer it still is motivating to me.

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  17. Now you need to write a cheerleading post for authors who have sold a book but still feel like a fraud! haha, but seriously ;)

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  18. Thanks for the post! I'd love to say I am so self-confident and sure of my writing that I never need reinforcement, but I do.

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  19. Thank you so much for this. I chuckled at the "meanwhile tons of people you know are skipping past you to Published Authorville" part, because it does feel that way sometimes, even if deep down we know that no one is an overnight success, we just don't see the years of hard work and struggle that came before.

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  20. Greetings Shannon,

    Firstly, I note your confidence. You write to an audience. I prefer to write to just the one person I visualise on the other side of my screen.

    A very enlightening, informative post. What I would add and echo is that nobody who writes should ever consider themselves a fraud. Simply put, if you write, you're a writer. And the next person who asks me what a "real" writer is, will be beaten with a wet noodle.

    I came by way of S.P. Bowers' blog. Like you, most remarkable.

    Be well and continued fulfilling writing.

    In kindness and good wishes,

    Gary :)

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  21. I love this post. I also love cupcakes! Well, next to cookies. I also think you are inspiring!

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  22. Self-doubt is my middle name, so I really appreciate this post!

    I'm digging in to persevere,and hoping for the best.

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  23. Great post! We aren't "aspiring" writers - if we are writing, we are "writers". And it doesn't matter whether the books are published or not, because they have been written. Just like if a painter has stacks of finished paintings in her attic, she's still an "artist", not an "aspiring artist". Maybe we should call ourselves "perspiring writers" because of all the sweat we put into our work?

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Yay-I love comments! Thank you so much! (But please remember to keep your comments spoiler-free. Also, I try to keep this a happy, positive place. Friendly debate is fine, but always be kind to each other). <3