Today, I don’t think I’m a good writer; I know I am. I’ve worked on my craft for many moons now. My strengths range from tight prose to realistic characters to strong voice. And I know it. I developed my skills through short fiction, and have moved on to writing strong novels. And I know it. My ability to create professional-level short stories has taken off. And I know it.
I did go through a period–a years-long period–of imposter syndrome. I swear it! I despaired that my short fiction would be anything but formulaic. While completing my first polished novel, which I am now submitting, I fretted that it would never be finished, let alone any good. Perhaps, without all the elbow grease and concentration and time investment, that imposter syndrome phase would have remained relevant. Yet I put in the work, developed my craft, and became a good writer. I know I did. So why in the hell am I still getting rejected all the time?
During the holiday season, I had three short story acceptances and a request for the first fifty pages of my novel, all in the span of a seven-day period. One week, one glorious week, that told me that 2017 was going to be my year. My breakout year, wherein all that hard work would be vindicated, and I would join the ranks of professional writers. My novel would sell, I’d have another one in the pipe, and would be working on a third. I’d churn out sort stories and flip them to e-zines and anthologies at least once a month.
Well, fast forward to June, and I’ve had exactly zero short story sales, few nibbles, and zero full requests on my book. Needless to say, the rest of my novel wasn’t even requested, let alone bought. I’m being told my 55,000 word fantasy novel is not only too short, but too hard to sell based on content. What gives?
Success in this industry can be slow, no matter how talented a writer you are. Stephen King has some poignant tales to tell on the topic, as well as on imposter syndrome. Time and again, I’ve been advised to be patient and to keep at it. No worries there, as I doubt it’s possible for me to give up. I came into this ready for rejection and, though it’s getting rough right now, I’m still plugging away. Sure, I’m getting incredibly tired of reading those incredibly kind and complimentary rejection emails–but at least I’m getting those. I remember a time when a kind rejection would have been a thrilling occasion. So there’s progress, however slow.
The point is, just because you reach a high level of confidence as a writer doesn’t mean you’re automatically going to succeed. Defeating imposter syndrome is an exciting achievement for a writer, but it doesn’t equal sales. You’ll continue to be rejected, even if and when you become successful. The battle against reverting to imposter syndrome and allowing yourself to become dejected is constant. The struggle is real. If you know you’re a good writer, just keep banging out words. Maybe you’ll get there. Maybe you’ll never achieve success, whatever your metric for success may be. Either way, you have stories to tell, so tell them.