Impostor syndrome, or ‘no, you really ARE a writer’

This blog needs the dust blown off it, eh? I’ve been a bit swamped with work and editing, plus this week’s been a strange mix of VIP events I managed to get into, from the Science Festival launch to a book launch featuring several Floris authors. And when I went to the latter, I was struck with the thing all writers dread: impostor syndrome.

I’d been incredibly lucky at the weekend. I was planning to go to my beloved Kelpies in Falkirk because spring had sprung and Lari Don was reading from her new book, Secret of the Kelpie – and really, as a mad kelpie lady I needed no more excuses. Unfortunately, when we got there it seemed like all of Scotland had the same idea. We’re talking Mad Max levels of apocalypse, with cars abandoned willy-nilly and paths hoaching with families and dog-walkers. By the time I got to the venue, I was too late. I consoled myself by buying some kelpie cookie cutters and putting them to use at home, thus cementing my commitment to mythical Celtic beasties in delicious double chocolate.

 

Deadly and delicious!

 

Now, Twitter is a wondrous thing, and when I got back I saw I’d been messaged by none other than Lari herself, asking if I’d like to go to a launch/Q&A event featuring her book and other lovely Floris authors. Well, that was even more lucky. I jumped at the chance, loaded up on business cards just in case, and trundled off to a gorgeous church hall near the Grassmarket. And when I got inside, I naturally had a massive panic attack for the first time in nearly a year. Other than the stars of the show, I didn’t know anyone in the room (welcome to the world of every networking event ever). I’d not had much sleep for various reasons, and my social skills shrivelled to nothing. I tried to strike up conversation with a visiting author, but when he heard I wasn’t an eminently published writer, literally walked off mid-conversation. Of course, I did what anyone would in this situation. I hit up the free wine.

 

I FAIL AT EVERYTHING.

I FAIL AT EVERYTHING.

 

What was I doing here?, I thought. This was a writery event, for proper writers with books and everything, not for simpletons like me. Fortunately, a lovely lady from Floris started chatting to me. She got awfully excited when I talked about the day job – hey, if in doubt, why not wow ’em with the low-cost, credit card-sized computer that’s super easy to use? </plug> But she listened to me talk about my book, the Literary Salon, we talked about the market for YA and short stories, and suddenly I was getting into my stride. I still wasn’t a proper writer, though. Oh no. I mean, it says it on my business card along with ‘copyeditor and proofreader’, but still.

The Q&A was fantastic, and I duly bought a few books. One of the other Floris people (who I later learned was Lari’s editor) asked me if I was published. I was about to go ‘err, umm, not quite’, then my stroppy writing muse stomped up, smacked me in the face and said TELL THEM ABOUT THE TWO BOOKS YOU HAVE STORIES IN YOU MASSIVE IDIOT. That seemed to go down well, so once all the excited kids had filed out I hovered by Lari’s signing desk. Not for the first time with local children’s authors, I opened with something like ‘Hi, I’m from the internet’. And she got up, reached across the desk and gave me a massive hug.

 

Which was kind of all I needed, really.

Which was kind of all I needed, really.

 

Not only did she recognise me from several political events, she was a big fan of my happy Christmas kelpie avatar (doodled in a drunken haze years ago, by the way). ‘Oh, I’ve read one of your chapters,’ she said. ‘Your selkie swimming up the Water of Leith was great – though I was worried about health and safety!’ My first thought was ‘he’s a bit worried about the state of the water too’, swiftly followed by ‘OH CRAP SHE’S READ BITS OF MY ACTUAL BOOK AND STUFF’. Then I mentioned my short piece in the Scottish Book Trust Stories of Home anthology, and she perked up even more. ‘I love those collections! I take them on my travels and ration myself to two stories a day. Which one was yours?’ I told her, and she pointed at me. ‘I knew it! It was the one about moving back to Edinburgh and writing. It was all about writing. I loved that one.’

Well, I was a bit flabbergasted, to be honest. More so when she asked if my manuscript was finished, where I was submitting it, and said she was looking forward to when she could come to my book signing. Which would completely validate my existence as a writer. Apart from being published in Stories of Home. And having my work in a museum (which you can still see). And having another of my 26 sestudes published in an anthology. OH ALRIGHT, I AM A WRITER THEN.

 

Not gonna lie, I was pretty pleased.

Not gonna lie, I was pretty pleased.

 

So it was that I wandered off into a rain-slicked evening, through bits of Edinburgh I’ve written many thousands of words about, with some beautiful picture books on Celtic myths and legends in my bag and an enormous sense of being part of the Edinburgh literary family. And, as an added bonus, I discovered in Secret of the Kelpie’s introduction that we’ve been consulting the same textbook on our fictional kelpies. Take that, self-doubt ❤

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