I'm in the middle of a five-day World Con binge as I write this, a fully immersive brain-dip into science fiction, fantasy, and fandom that has temporarily landed in the California Bay.
I'm attending this year's event as both a fan and as a writer. While I am fully confident in my capacity as a fan, I am less confident in my capacity as a writer. I am self-published, after all, and there's nothing like being surrounded by Hugo nominees to provide a self-proclaimed writer with a healthy dose of imposter syndrome.
I've got imposter syndrome so bad, I attended a panel yesterday called "Imposter Syndrome: You DO Deserve To Be Here." Yep, they had that. It's like they knew I was coming.
The panelists gave sound advice, but the most meaningful take-away came from acknowledging how large the audience was. It was a reminder that I am by no means alone in my concern. It was also a reminder of how many people want to break into the Big Time. While many writers are happy to keep their diaries and first drafts to themselves, for most of us, there is that ever-present desire to "make it."
Making it, by the way, is officially achieved when:
• You sell a million copies.
• You have been interviewed by Neil deGrasse Tyson.
• You have your own Wikipedia entry.
• You win a Hugo Award (or fine, a Nebula).
• You are only two degrees from Kevin Bacon.
• You get to call J. K. Rowling "Jo" when arranging for tea.
Because that's the deal. Those are the end goals. There's us and then there's them, and it's easy to convince yourself you're a fraud up until you walk off a stage with a rocket ship.
But if you take your eyes off the spotlight and let them adjust, there are other achievements worth noting, other things to take pride in. Things like:
• Self-publishing your own book.
• Seeing people's eyes light up when you describe that book.
• Discovering positive reviews for that book on Goodreads.
• Contributing flash fiction to a local journal.
• Getting nominated for a humor award at a writers conference.
• Hearing back from a handful of readers after you write a self-indulgent blog.
And it occurred to me, as I sat at my vendor table among talented authors at the world's largest science fiction convention, that perhaps when I told the nice editor in the "Amazing Stories" booth I was a writer, I wasn't even lying. For a moment, I stopped wondering when I'd make it. I looked out over the exhibition hall, and realized I already had.