“Real” Writer vs Imposter Syndrome

Alien invasion by Flame Tree Publishing
I’m in this book

I’ve been writing for most of my life. That’s a number of decades, if you can’t tell from my profile picture. In grade school I told my teacher I wanted to write and direct a play. She gave me the go-ahead, but I never finished the play and it never happened.

In secondary school I started drawing my own comic books – more vignettes than full fledged stories. Our school didn’t have a newspaper, and frankly yearbook seemed less about creativity than sentimentality, so I avoided that too.

Then came university… Our newspaper wasn’t particularly open or inviting to people who weren’t part of the clique. So I started my own very sarcastic one-page newsletter, published whenever the mood struck me. That might be once or three times per week. It turned out that the school newspaper was making enough enemies that another group started a second newspaper, and one of the founders sought me out about joining it, as he’d enjoyed my one sheet newsletter. So I became an associate editor of a new newspaper, wrote sarcastic editorials, news stories, short fiction, and learned all about desktop publishing, back when it was new. Eventually I became the editor. Along the way, I also wrote and directed a play (finally). It ran for five or six performances over four days (I’m not sure if there was a Sunday matinee). It sold out the Friday, Saturday and Sunday night performances. And I started two different novels, both conceived as epics, one fantasy, one space opera.

So I must be a writer, a real writer.

I’ve written a play, some short fiction, many editorials and a poem or twelve. I’ve got two trunk novels in my desk and a bunch more under development. After university, I went on to be the editor of a weekly entertainment newspaper, a copywriter for hire, and a communications manager for an educational charity. I’ve had big name clients (think pharmaceutical companies, expensive cars, large financial institutions).

So I must be a writer, a real writer.

SpecklitI’ve had six very short stories published on a curated website, and one longer short story included in an anthology published in the UK.

So I must be a writer, a real writer.

So why do I keep saying this? Because I suffer from imposter syndrome as much as the next writer. And it sucks.

I don’t feel like a real writer. I feel like a wanna-be. A friend of mine recently said of my writing career, “It’s really more of a hobby, isn’t it?” I don’t think she knows how much that hurt.

Book in book store
For sale in my favourite bookstore!

I can counterbalance that with an experience I had last year. The UK anthology that contains one of my stories showed up for sale in my local bookstore here in Malaysia. There it is, a book with my story in it, for sale to anyone who walks in. I almost cried (seriously) it was such a re-affirming experience. Hell, that one story also got me entered into the Internet Speculative Fiction Database.

So I must be a writer, a real writer.

Why don’t I always feel like it?

Character Intro: Char Osbaldistan

I doubt it’s a surprise that I’m working on a book. I’m actually working on a lot of them – a duology, a stand-alone novel, a novella and a five-novella sequence. Oh, and a few short stories, too.

The five-book sequence follows the crew of a ship as they get into a series of escalating adventures. I’d like to introduce one member of the crew here. Her name is Char Osbaldistan, and when we meet her here (in a flashback), she’s a smuggler, freshly captured by the Interplanetary Union (IU). But when we actually meet her in-universe, she’s a full-fledged member of an IU crew.

Char was first mentioned (but not seen) in the short story Dee, For the Win which you can read here.

Let’s meet Char Osbaldistan:

It was an office, why an office, Char didn’t know. Usually court rooms looked more like, well, court rooms and not office. Yet there he was the tired old magistrate sitting behind a pompous desk, flanked by an inquisitor. The room was plush, velvet and wood against gold highlights. It spoke of power and authority, order and rigidity. The inquisitor spoke first.

“How many identities do you have? Your ship … what’s it’s name?”

“Why do you ask?” Char chafed against her bindings. There was a very comfortable chair in front of her, but sitting in like this would be awkward.

“Your ship, for one, appears to have four different registrations.” Char bit back a smile – there were seven, but they’d only found four. That was good.

“For the record, what is your ship’s name?”

“What do you want it to be?”

“Don’t play with me, girl.” The judge’s contempt spoke of impatience. So, time to go slow.

“Woman. Twenty-seven. Clearly, I’m a woman.”

“I have grandchildren your age, child.” The judge dismissed her response with a wave of his hand.

“Still, woman.”

“You, yourself,” The inquisitor ignored the exchange, “appear to have five different identities, all of whom,” He spoke in an aside to the judge, “pay taxes, by the way.”

“Seriously?” Char always left the money laundering part of the operations to the experts. All she knew was that she got paid her share, and it was a nice share.

“Yes, it’s an efficient way to look legitimate – pay taxes on income earned from fictitious jobs to cover that it was actually earned illicitly.” As if he needed to explain it to her. No, he was stating it for the record. This was being recorded, surreptitiously.

“I pay my taxes. Still, you arrest me?”

“You pay taxes for five people, at least four of whom are fake. Before we finish, you will tell us exactly how and from whom you got those identities.”

She chuckled. “Probably not.”

“What’s with her ship?” The judge asked.

“It’s a little planetary system slug modified with a hyper drive.” The inquisitor read from a note screen. “Slugs are everywhere, working boats that might move cargo pods, align construction segments, move a hulk around. They often hitch rides with cargo carries from one system to the next. It’s so common, and so universal, that a new one in a star system would never raise suspicions. It’s the perfect smuggling vehicle.” He turned back to Char.

“From your vessel’s logs, we’ve learned that you’ve worked in the Hadriatik Republic, the Triple Alliance, the Non-aligned territories and around Melakka. The ship’s history appears to suggest that it originated in Melakka, which would tie you to the identification of Char Osbaldistan.” The inquisitor nodded toward the judge. “Thus we have determined that for the purposes of this hearing, you will be identified as such. Miss Osbaldistan, do you object?”

“Of course.”

“Then what name would you prefer?”

“No, any name will do. I object to being captured. I object to being tried. I object to my ship being confiscated. I object to it being the bloody useless Interplanetary Union that arrested me and not some respectable government. This isn’t a real judiciary, you have no authority. This is a kangaroo court.”

“Char Osbaldistan, you’re charged with illegal operation of a vehicle, four counts of impersonation, smuggling, piracy and theft. You will learn to respect this court’s authority and you will do so quickly.”

“Oh, please.”

“What?”

“You want me, you want people in general, to respect your authority? You don’t know the difference between smuggling and piracy.”

“Both act outside of the law.”

“So does speeding. You don’t equate it to piracy … bloody kangaroo court, full of amateurs.”

— 30 —

Nurturing the spark (or not)

lightbulb with ideas

I only ever took one creative writing elective in university. The course was supposed to be taught by one professor, a respected author and editor, but she had to pull out, so we got a new guy instead. This professor wasn’t great. Hell, he wasn’t even very good. I couldn’t tell you a single thing he actually taught us. I haven’t retained any lessons learned or insights garnered from that course. Continue reading “Nurturing the spark (or not)”

Books You Hate

stacked books

Have you ever been so disgusted with a book — the story, the editing, the whatever — that you’ve felt the desire to chuck the book against a wall? I have. As a reader, I’m annoyed, dissatisfied. As a writer, it’s an interesting lesson on what can go wrong, and pulls on the fear that maybe I won’t see the problem.

I’ll give you examples, but I’m not going to name names. In both cases, the book was traditionally published, and the author is a respected writer in their genre. Continue reading “Books You Hate”

Walking away from a sale

typewriter

The hardest thing for a new writer to do is to walk away from a sale. I should know, I just did it.

I sent a short story to an anthology. They accepted it. The money offered is not much, but then again, I’m not a ‘name’ writer (yet!). The exposure, or at least having another publication to list, was worth the money.

Then the contract arrived. Continue reading “Walking away from a sale”

Finding blog topics – Star Wars Logo edition

Star Wars early logo

Every writer is told to ‘build a platform’ (get your audience started) before publishing. How do you do that? Well, they’ll tell you to be active on social media and have a blog —

Great, I can do both of those.

— and have fresh content regularly.

Oh. One thing that can be hard to do is come up with topics for a blog. Harder still is finding a topic that someone else hasn’t already done better. Continue reading “Finding blog topics – Star Wars Logo edition”

On Willful Suspension of Disbelief

Black Panther

I just saw Black Panther, and it got me thinking about willful suspension of disbelief. I?ve got no problem with Vibranium, or a hidden African nation that is superior to western nations in all ways. I don?t have a problem with clothing that defies the laws of physics. This is Marvel?s Comic Universe, I?ll suspend my disbelief for these. But there was one thing in this film that tweaked me, pushed me out of the film for just a moment. Continue reading “On Willful Suspension of Disbelief”