Impostor Syndrome vs. My First Book Signing

Who was I to call myself an author?

This article was previously published in The Writing Collective.

This is definitely not me. The actual signing was a lot more fraught. Photo by Hannah Olinger on Unsplash.

After a posting a half-baked selfie with my newly-published nonfiction piano maintenance book on social media, I received a text from an acquaintance.

Did I have any extra copies on hand, and would I be willing to part with one?

Did she even have to ask?

There was a short flurry of “I’ll meet you at such-and-such time” and “Don’t forget to bring the goods” type messages to arrange a transaction at a mutually convenient location.

Next thing I knew, I was in a vacant parking lot under the cover of darkness. I had pulled up alongside a van parked behind the bank for a quick cash exchange with a person I barely knew.

Now that I think about it, the whole thing comes across as more than a little sketchy. But even to the authorities, selling a book isn’t that big a deal.

Not that I wasn’t terrified.

Yikes — this might have better lighting than the real lot. Photo by Brice Cooper on Unsplash

I had met my reader once before for a similar parking lot exchange last summer — she’s a hobby farmer with a bunch of alpacas, I’m a knitter in the market for fiber— and we’ve been Facebook friends slash friendly acquaintances ever since. And the actual transaction was not as sus as it sounds. It was dark because it was 5:15 PM in January, and we were parked behind the bank because her music studio happened to be next door. She was heading home in her minivan after a long day of teaching kids to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

So why was I so scared?

She had a special request that made my blood pressure shoot up.

She asked me to sign the book.

My hyper-analytic brain launched straight into terror mode.

What if I spelled her name wrong? What if I wrote something stupid? What if my signature looked weird? For that matter, should I do my illegible signature, or just print my name?

Worst of all — what if she was only trying to be nice?

I’m no celebrity. I wear the same sweatshirt/ponytail combo every day and I eat chicken nuggets for dinner. 99% of people couldn’t care less what I do for a living. The other 1% is politely interested, but not entirely sure how I can call writing a career. Nobody’s out there collecting my signature for their scrapbook.

But maybe… maybe they should.

Most writers’ journeys begin and end here. gifimage

I wrote an actual, honest-to-god book. With a cover and pages and everything. I worked really hard on this thing and put in hundreds of hours researching, writing, editing, editing, editing, designing, publishing, and shouting into the void. I’m still clocking hours on that last one.

I have put in the work, no doubt. So why shouldn’t I accept a little pat on the back?

Most people say they want to write a book someday, but only around 15% ever start. Less than 3% get around to finishing the damn thing.

And even fewer of those rare birds write humor-tinged beginner’s DIY musical instrument maintenance guides for people who happen to have inherited old pianos.

I think I might be the only one, actually.

So maybe I should accept my tiny flicker of fame.

Probably never going to get anywhere near there, but… you know what they say about self-rejection. Don’t. Photo by Venti Views on Unsplash

After I finally reined in my impostor syndrome enough to put pen to endpaper, I handed over a physical manifestation of, if not my life’s work, then the last year’s, at least.

My first real reader (as in, not my editor or my mom) was thrilled. She was genuinely happy to support a local creative friend-quaintance and said as much.

And since she was a local piano teacher, she was willing to give me a little boost. She said that if the book really resonated and she felt like it was something she could share with a few of the musically inclined parents who sent their grubby-fingered kids for music lessons, she’d stock my book and sell it at her studio.

Wow.

For one shining moment, my work was valid and appreciated.

I did not cry.

Instead, I rode that high on the short drive back to my house, $18 richer and pricelessly more encouraged.

I’ve been a writer for a long time, but that day, I became an author.

Technically, I was an author while I wrote it, an author during publishing, and an author when my sales were stuck at zero.

But this time, it meant something. Proof positive that I was the kind of person who could put in the work to make something out of nothing. Someone who could rightfully claim that peak status so many of us crave, but so few ever achieve.

I strode into my house a new person.

Then I pulled my hair back into its usual ponytail, slipped on my worn-out sweatshirt, popped some chicken nuggets in the microwave, at sat down at my keyboard to do it all again.

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