The scariest bit about being a writer – for me at least – is the neuroses it brings out in me.

So, here it is, the dirty truth laid bare…

I don’t believe I’m very good at anything. Truly, I don’t.

I have a deep-rooted envy of people who brim with self-confidence. The kind of people who breeze confidently into any situation, and effortlessly glide right through knowing that what they are doing is right. That what they are doing is good.

That’s not me. It never has been.

The official term is ‘Imposter Syndrome’. Here’s the Google definition…

‘Imposter syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. ‘Imposters’ suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence.’

Or for those of you who prefer a good cartoon…

Yup. That about sums it up.

I’ve felt this way for as long as I can remember, about pretty much every phase of my life. But my writing…well, that’s where things get really bad!

The Imposter Author

So, am I a writer?

Or am I an Author?

That’s the crux of the issue, isn’t it?  

Where is the distinction? If indeed there is one.

My website – the one you’re looking at now – is called ‘JonFordAuthor.com’. The word author is plastered all over it. Technically (and according to my wife and friends!) it’s true. I’ve written books, therefore, ergo, vis-à-vis… I’m an Author!

So, why doesn’t it feel that way?

I know why. Because that title hasn’t been validated by getting an agent to represent me. Or getting a publishing deal. Or seeing my book in paperback or hardback on a shelf somewhere. Or even electronically available somewhere.

I’m not a published author, and in my head the two are intertwined.

And this gets worse when I look around the #WritingCommunity on Twitter, and see literally hundreds of other writers in the same boat. Many of them struggling and striving to find that deal. That perfect agent who will love, respect and represent their hard work.

So, I talk to as many of them as I can. I enquire about their books and ideas…usually finding out that they’re so much cooler than mine! Some even share examples with me, leaving me envious of their skills. It feels like I’m a tiny fish swimming around in a huge barrel.

Yet I have no concept truly of where I am in that barrel. Am I at the bottom? Or near the top?

Now this is where it gets REALLY silly!

I have friends and peers that say:

“Nonsense, Jon, your stuff is really good! Makes me feel like an amateur! Makes me feel intimidated!”

Which, the part of my brain wired with Imposter Syndrome KNOWS is bullshit! (Still, a little teeny part of me is flattered nonetheless! Lol)

So, I’ll respond with:

“Don’t be a muppet! Your stuff is every bit as good as mine! Nay, tis BETTER than any of my mere childish scribbles!!”

And suddenly I realize I’m not alone! Imposter Syndrome is a rampant and highly contagious disease!

Also…we’re both being huge fucking hypocrites! *shrugs*

The Truth…

…lies somewhere in between all the neuroses.

In actual fact, both of our writing is very likely good. There will, of course, be people who are worse writers, and there will be people that are better. That’s the nature of things. Everyone sits somewhere in the middle of the scale, only the outliers live at either end, and I am NOT cocky enough to believe I’m one of the outliers at the top…

…conversely, I’m not as unconfident in my own skills to believe I’m at the bottom either!  A man’s got to have SOME self esteem after all!

So, in fishy terms, we’re swimming around the middle of that metaphorical barrel.

The bigger problem is how the process of moving from having your draft manuscript to getting it on a bookshelf in Waterstones (or Barnes & Noble, if you’re Stateside!) is almost custom made to make you feel bad about your work.

  • Your manuscript is not ready yet and needs editing…so you work diligently on never knowing if it’s good or not!
  • So, you get beta-readers…who will then feed back on your work. Hopefully it’s good feedback, but sometimes it might not be!
  • Or are your beta-readers all friends, family…people who would just tell you it’s good? Can you trust these people to tell you if you’re an terrible scribe?
  • And then we come to the point I’m at now… 

Jon Ford is seeking representation‘…
The Querying Process

There’s a review on Amazon – for the Writers and Artists Yearbook 2020 – that made me laugh

It’s funny because it seems so true.

This week I entered the murky, shark-infested waters of querying. And it’s terrifying me. Because this is the first time my manuscript is going before a totally unrelated, unknown entity for any form of critique. 

Rejection is coming…and I KNOW it’s going to really hurt!

It’s not even an easy process to get into. First you’ve got to FIND the Agents. Then you’ve got to find their submission criteria, which is ALWAYS annoyingly similar but NEVER quite the same! Then you’ve got to craft your query letter, your synopsis (which for my book was a bitch, I can tell you!) and then sort out however much of your manuscript they want to see (10 pages, 50 pages, 3 chapters, 5 chapters…).

It’s not even easy deciding what your ‘Subject line’ is supposed to be!

Maybe… it’s just me.

  • Is it just me that finds all this process bewildering?
  • Is it just me that sometimes feels on the verge of being utterly demoralized by the process?
  • Is it just me that finds all this a struggle?

I don’t think it is. I get a lot of feedback from other writers in the same boat who have the same fears and problems that I have. I’m sure the information is out there. I’m positive I’m just missing it and stumbling around in the dark when there are probably loads of people who would hand me a torch if I just knew who to ask.

So, what I plan to do is put the results of my querying here on my blog. I may even throw up a page specifically for it, tracking my progress. Mostly I’ll do it in the hope that anyone else reading this might feel a little bit better about any smidgen of ‘Imposter Syndrome‘ they themselves might be feeling!

Love & Books

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18 Comments

  1. Reply

    I feel for you, Jon. Congrats on your willingness to be so open and bare. That, my friend, takes oodles of courage; and on such a large platform!
    By the tone of your post, I take it you won’t accept my words that you sell yourself short. We haven’t “known” each other for that long, but it’s indicative in your writing that you possess talent and compassion. Hold onto that and value yourself from within. Take comfort from your family and friends… in their love, their belief and support, and their feedback (even if it’s bias, you can usually read between the words).
    Basically, don’t look at querying as a pass/fail but as a process. A rejection doesn’t define you any more than an acceptance. It’s merely another layer of who you are… a good person with a beautiful voice.
    I know, it’s easier said than done, and I hope that you will find at least one acceptance.
    So query. Sweat. Lament. Wonder. Hope. And at the heart of everything… keep writing. It makes you happy, and you do it well.
    *hugs*
    ~B.J. Frazier (@xxxBJFrazier)

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      Hey BJ!
      I always wanted this website to be my little journal of my adventure into writing. Something I can look back on myself, but also maybe something others with the same aspirations could look at and realise they aren’t alone. And if I’m successful… then it’ll be a sort of roadmap of what to expect on the route. I have to be honest here, it’s important. That means you get all my neuroses whether you want them or not! 😛
      Thanks for your kind words, I promise I won’t throw them back! I will take them to heart.
      The rejection thing… I’m gearing myself up for it… I know it’s coming. But I’m going to TRY not to take it personally.
      I’m pretty sure I’m a pretty good writer, and I don’t mean that in a bigheaded way. I’m no Neil Gaiman or Stephen King, but I’ve worked hard over almost 4 years now on Songbird, and when I read through it… I’m mildly impressed with myself. LOL
      And all the feedback I’ve had from family, friends and Beta-Readers has been mostly positive. Sometimes even glowing!
      Every little bit helps boost my author ego just a little. So thank you for adding your kind words to the pile. I truly appreciate it more than I can express.

      My biggest issue (fear), and one I’ll tell anyone who’ll listen is that my book isn’t a ‘normal’ book. It’s REALLY hard to sum up in a tweet, or a blurb… and the Synopsis was a bitch to write!
      Anything I write doesn’t communicate the story I’m trying to tell, and I’m worried that any query will get shuffled aside because of that.
      We’ll see. 🙂

      Anyway, I’m not giving up! I’ll keep writing and querying until I find that perfect Agent who accepts and believes in what I’m trying to do.
      And in the meantime THANK YOU so much for your support. And know you have mine too.
      *hugs*

  2. Mason

    Reply

    I have been told that the difference between a good writer and a good author is a good agent. I always defined an author as someone who has published their writings.

    But really, I think we all suffer from feelings of inadequacy at times and to varying degrees. It is the ability to just keep writing in spite of that, I believe, that makes people better writers. That, and not being afraid to show your works to others for the sake of constructive criticism.

    • Jim

      Reply

      True writers feel it. Writing is a solitary exercise and when you’re in the middle of it, you’re in your own head and we all know where that leads. Over-analyzation and the ensuing doubts. Bruce Springsteen said it best: God have mercy on the man who doubts what he’s sure of. You may know that what you’re doing is good, but you doubt that readers will see it that way.

    • Jim

      Reply

      We also need to remember that most writers have been doing this for years before someone even accepts a manuscript. It could take years after that to become accepted by readers and years after that to make a living from it. You need a thick skin to accept rejection and keep writing in spite of it. You need perseverance to keep writing if only for the sake of it. You have to love to do this in order to be seen as an author over time.

  3. Mason

    Reply

    Those are good points Jim, but does the feeling of inadequacy ever truly go away? I’m talking about as you’re writing. It can be like stage fright in a way for some people. No matter how good you get, you can be on top of that mountain, you can still get a bit queezy right before showtime.

    You can be reading as you’re typing and be convinced that it is the best thing anyone will ever read, but in the back of your mind you’re thinking “I know I’m going to screw this up. I just know it.”

    Or is that just me?

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      Not just you!
      It’s truly taken me until reading it back recently at actually be kind of proud of what I’ve written. Which was a huge step for me.
      Book 1 has a little distance in the rear view mirror to me now, allowing me to read it again with a more neutral eye, and I find chapters I truly enjoy reading. I just hope real readers feel the same. LOL

    • ShelbiI

      Reply

      No, it certainly is not just you Mason. I feel the exact same way many times while writing. Even when the words are pouring out on paper (yes, at times I use paper and pencil), I still feel like I suck! Do you think this will change once I get published? Notice I said once, I’m confident that I will!

      • Jon Ford

        Reply

        Keep that confidence Shelbii, we can all do this! 🙂

        Funny how you mention paper and pencil, i still do a load of my outlines with a pen and notebooks. I love scribbling stuff. I might actually put a few piccies of the notebooks up on a blog one day…

  4. Sean

    Reply

    The process from manuscript to sales is a rough one indeed. Remember Jon, there are millions of writers looking for a break. You could be as good as Steven King, but the competition keeps you all but invisible.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that aspiring writers shouldn’t take rejection personally. The rejection itself isn’t personal. How could it be?

  5. Melina

    Reply

    They say a writer is his own worst critic, and I believe it. All the writers I know never think what they’ve written is good enough; they always want to make the piece better somehow. I am sure this insecurity isn’t helped by all the rejection that comes with the territory. The writing world is fierce. You try to stand out, but are so often rejected. How can any writer be confident in his or her work with all that rejection going on?

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      I’m finding that it’s one of the toughest things about this process.
      It almost feels like there are books out there that are probably wonderful that we’ve never seen simply because they got rejected by the wrong agents and then the author gave up.
      I’m feeling it truly is a test of your determination, among other things, to try and push through till you find that ONE person who will give your work a chance…to believe in it.
      That’s currently who I’m looking for.

    • Sean

      Reply

      Good points Melina. I think this is why it’s so important to have professionals in your circle that have experience in your genre. If you write character study fiction, for example, don’t get beta readers that do mostly science fiction.

      I don’t doubt my abilities as a writer, but I do have doubts in getting the right people to surround me.

  6. Simon

    Reply

    I wonder if Imposter Syndrome is just a thing for authors, artists, musicians, and other creative types or if it exists in other professions as well. Do people who work in customer service, IT, teaching, or medicine wonder if they are good enough at their jobs?

    Have you found any ways to build your confidence? Are positive affirmations helpful to you? Do you trust strangers who tell you your writing is good? I’d love to hear any thoughts you have about boosting your confidence. I believe we all have wisdom to share.

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      Oddly I believe strangers MORE than I believe my friends.
      There’s an unbiased nature to feedback from strangers, where you feel like friends would try not to hurt your feelings.
      I’ll freely admit though, that self-confidence is a problem. I wasn’t gifted an abundance of it, so it’s always a struggle.
      And yes, I think that Imposter Syndrome can hit you whatever profession you’re in. I just seem to hear it mentioned more frequently in artistic circles where work is more subjective I guess.

      • Simon

        Reply

        That makes sense. It’s like when your mom says you are a good cook, painter, musician, etc. It’s like she has to say that because she’s your mom! Strangers are more likely to say how they really feel about your talent. So, do you use strangers as beta readers? I’ve seen groups on Goodreads where authors can find beta readers. It seems like a great place to find some feedback.

  7. Robert

    Reply

    Part of the Imposter Syndrome that I have noticed is the social aspect of being a writer. People who are not writers or authors seem to have this pre-conceived notion of what we are and where we belong on the social ladder. Those opinions can have a negative effect on us that leave us questioning whether or not we are truly writers, or imposters who are trying to be.

    There is no “one size fits all” type of author. For instance, JK Rowling and Hunter S Thompson are about as different on a personal level as you can get, but both were, and are, wildly successful.

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