Writers of the Future Part Two: Get Over Your Impostor Syndrome

The Writers of the Future contest is quarterly, costs nothing to enter, and has the coolest prize ever–you get flown out to Hollywood, put up in a swanky hotel, and participate in an intense Writers Workshop with working professionals who teach you the ins and outs of being a pro writer.

“You all have the tools you need,” Tim Powers told us the first day of the Workshop, “or you wouldn’t be here. You wrote professional stories, and you’re all capable of writing more of them.”

Here’s a funny little term that pops up when you learn about people becoming suddenly successful at something, even if they had worked at for a long time: Impostor Syndrome. I think everyone one of the 2017 winners had it at one time or another. Usually it took the form of a wide-eyed stare, or a self-deprecating joke. Sometimes it was subtle, other times it was as obvious as a lighthouse on a starless night. It was like we were all just waiting for someone to notice us, to look down at a clipboard, and to frown and say, “I don’t see YOU on this list.”

I felt my Impostor Syndrome the worst when I had to explain the contest to my family. My wife and kid knew how much of my day was filled with words and ideas, but the rest of my family knew I liked books and writing, but I don’t know that they really understood how big I had been dreaming. Once I won my spot in the third quarter, I really had to start OWNING it.

I know it sounds weird, but it was actually really hard to admit I was, like, a real WRITER. I was going to get PUBLISHED, you know, if the contest judges didn’t figure out that I was an impostor first . . .

None of my family gave me any shit when I told them. Turns out, they all kind of knew I was into this whole writing thing a whole lot more than I gave them credit for, and they all agreed that it was about damn time I was finally published.

See, the Impostor Syndrome was in me from the first rejection letter I ever received, back in 2003 from John Joseph Adams. It was a personal rejection–something that isn’t all that easy to come by–but I took it hard. I spent years self-rejecting, or sending out stories that were only partially me because a rejection wouldn’t hurt so bad if I knew I was trying to write like someone else. This creeping doubt made me feel, deep down inside, like writing was for OTHERS. College graduates, or world explorers, or geniuses with magic fingertips and expensive laptops. It made me question my abilities and my imagination.

The Writers of the Future has changed all of that. My inner critic is sitting back to watch what I do next, and he’s grinning. I’ve got stories to tell–lots of them!–and I’m looking forward to getting them down on the page and connecting with more readers.

The best part is, in this anthology I’m in some terrific company. No impostors here, just award-winning writers with imagination and heart, doing what we love.

JM

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