A Peculiar Audacity
I love to sing.
I sing a lot. In the car, mostly. Also at home. Alone or not, it doesn't matter; I'll subject my friends to the whole grim spectacle without any shame.
But I would never expect anyone to pay for the privilege of hearing me.
Ditto with photography.
I really like taking pictures of things. Trains, in particular, but also outdoor landscapes, my dog, cars, cityscapes, sunsets, whatever. I have a bunch of followers on Instagram who dig what I do, and I feel pretty confident in my abilities with a camera.
But not to the point where I'd expect anyone to pay for my work.
But clearly I feel differently about writing. You'd have to feel pretty darn confident in your ability to tell a story if you're expecting some stranger to shell out thirty bucks for it.
Surely anyone who sets out to write a first draft, who sends a query letter to an agent, who signs a book deal, surely all of us feel confident in our ability to tell a story, and to convince people to pay to read it.
Otherwise, why the hell even bother sending that query letter?
But most of us, in my experience, temper that precious confidence with a healthy dose of self doubt.
We *suspect* we might be good enough to sell our stories, but deep down, we're really not sure.
Deep down, we're afraid that we're wrong.
We're frauds. Imposters.
We don't deserve to be here.
I don't think I'm the only one who feels this way. Who deals with this fundamental contradiction.
When I decided to get serious about being a writer, I quit my job and hoped that I could get a book deal before my savings ran out.
But it was confidence born of fear. My friends at work would tell me constantly that I was destined for something more than just writing about other people playing poker for the rest of my life.
I wasn't sure I believed them, but I *wanted* to believe them. I felt I owed it to them, and to myself, to try.
And so I quit my job and started writing. And lo and behold, it worked out pretty well.
Frankly, I would have been a fool to have expected it would work out as well as it did.
But the thing is, when you're an author and you wind up in a storybook situation like I did, that self-doubt rears its ugly head pretty quick.
Sure, you're gratified to have landed in such prestigious company, but, hell, these are the big leagues.
This is Tom Clancy's editor. Patricia Cornwell's publicist. These are the best of the best.
And they are.
And if you're anything like me, you start to think that maybe it's a mistake that you're here, and that you'd better keep your mouth shut so that nobody figures it out.
And so maybe you just go along with things, because after all, who are you but some fraud with a good agent who happened to land you somewhere well above your pay grade?
You forget the confidence in your work, and yourself, that brought you to these heights in the first place.
I wrote a post a few days ago about acceptance versus surrender, and the point I was trying to make was not that I feel aggrieved by anything any publisher has done or hasn't done.
I don't harbour any grievances against anyone. I feel tremendously lucky to be here, and to have been granted the opportunities I've been granted.
What I was trying to say, however clumsily and perhaps ill-advisedly, was that there were times I was so caught up in trying not to seem like an imposter that I forgot to advocate for myself.
I relinquished control of my career, in many ways, and I did so happily, because I didn't think it was my place to do anything but go along with the status quo.
I believed I was lucky to be where I was, and it was my job not to do anything to destroy this magical lottery ticket I'd been given.
But as authors, it turns out we're pretty important cogs in the machine.
We're not frauds, or imposters, or even lottery winners, and if I'd only channeled some of that confidence that had driven me to finish my first novel, to find my agent, to write seven critically-acclaimed novels for one of the most storied imprints in publishing...
Well, hell, maybe I'd have asked a few more questions along the way.
Maybe I'd even have been bold enough to make some suggestions.
The point that I was trying to make is that publishing is a business, yes, but not just for the people who print the books.
And as someone who makes his living telling stories, I'm recognizing now that there are far more options available to me to share those stories than I'd originally allowed myself to consider.
Options that might not make business sense to everyone, but that are at least worth exploring by me and my representation and the people with whom I choose to work.
I don't feel that I've been wronged by anyone, least of all the people with whom I've had the privilege of working over the last seven years.
What I've learned, though, is that it's important to act as my own advocate.
To believe in myself, my books and my talent. To see myself as an asset instead of just some schlub who won a raffle.
And to bust my own ass to blaze a trail for my brand and my business, because at the end of the day, this is nobody's business but mine.