Wow, I can’t believe it’s been a month since I last blogged! I’ve been running on low spoons for weeks because of all the huge changes in my life—namely, moving across the country and starting a new job, plus many Adult Tasks and adjusting to living with my sibling’s family. So it’s been a lot!
Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about imposter syndrome.
I don’t have a lot of confidence in myself. There are many reasons, I’m sure, including the fact that as a neurotypical-passing autistic, I’m always faking around other people to a certain extent. I always feel like an undercover detective or spy, acting like someone I’m not and being worried about tiny tells that could “give me away.” On a certain level, I’m always worried and obsessed about not being good enough (which I hate because it’s so bad for anyone’s mental health, you know?).
I got a new job (which I just started this week) that is so much better than my previous jobs, and yet for days now I’ve had this weird feeling of imposter syndrome, like I don’t think I can actually do this and my boss will realize and kick me out, based on no real rational evidence (and my position is considered an entry level position anyway).
Now I’m feeling that with regard to my writing, too, which has only heightened my overall anxiety.
I pitched my book on Twitter this week for #DVPit, an event for marginalized creators to pitch their work for agents to express interest. I did it as kind of a “why not” gesture, and also to gain experience regarding how best to pitch books on Twitter in general—since, aside from Twitter contests to find agents, I also pitch my own work a lot for marketing purposes, and I’ve realized there’s an art to that as well.
Then I got a fair amount of agent interest—not a ton, but more than I’d expected. And some of them were huge agents in the publishing world.
And now, weirdly, I’m panicking.
I’ve tried to temper my expectations for my third novel, after the hard lessons of my first. It was the book I never planned to write, the queer romance after I swore to myself I would stop writing in this genre, the scarily autobiographical story about an autistic, mentally ill Chinese American like myself (and for a long time I’ve steered clear of writing autobiographical characters because they could turn out either well or VERY terribly). It’s all about the Chinese American experience, but not at all catered to the white gaze, and it’s very obviously critical of the performative allyship I saw so much of from white authors in my community, because that’s what hurt me for so long as an author and what was literally driving me out of the genre I started in. And that’s a choice I definitely fear some white agents may not like.
I consciously tried to remove any expectations for this book. I thought I would try traditional publishing, but constructed detailed backup plans for indie publishing, as well as plans for the next novel I’d write in case Third Novel failed the way First Novel did.
So to see interest from phenomenal literary agents…I feel like I should feel validated, but I’m terrified instead?
Disappointed hope is what nearly destroyed me when I queried my first novel. I started with essentially no experience regarding traditional publication or the querying process, but confident that I could get an agent, and I found out how utterly wrong I was.
It’s so, so tempting to see those likes from agents and hope they’ll all turn into full manuscript requests and numerous offers…but if I want to go through this process with my mental health intact, I have to temper my expectations. I have to.
I have to be prepared that maybe all these agents will reject me after seeing my manuscript.
Because that’s where the fear comes from—being terrified of rejection after witnessing the initial interest. I literally rewrote my opening scene after seeing the results of #DVPit because I was convinced it wasn’t good enough for these agents. But the thing is, I just don’t have enough time to rewrite this novel substantially.
I hate not having full confidence in my work. It’s an unavoidable artifact of having drafted this novel in two months and revised on a deadline specifically to be able to catch #DVPit (for reference, my other two novels so far each took almost a year to draft and revise to a form I was comfortable with. A year!), while also simultaneously juggling way more life changes than I had during previous novels. I wish, so badly, that my prose were more polished for this book, because there’s a part of me that’s afraid it’s not going to wow agents enough, and that I had more time to review the novel for clarity. I’m starting to second-guess myself on all my creative choices.
But these are factors that are out of my control at this point.
And I have to remind myself, too, that I’ve also seen plenty of authors on Twitter who received sky-high agent likes and yet who didn’t seem to end up with offers of representation. So even if that happens to me, I wouldn’t be the only one.
Is my novel good enough or does it suck? At this point, I don’t know anymore. All I can do is jump in headfirst and make sure I’m mentally prepared for whatever my journey with this novel will bring, be it success or resounding failure.