I’ve been sending out Queries on Stepping Stones for several months now. I haven’t sent all that many. Sorting through online information about literary agents to find one who might be interested is both time consuming and emotionally exhausting. Once I do find one, I then have to adjust and personalize my query letter for that agent. It is hard to convince myself that this expended effort will net me anything beyond rejection letters. A couple of the rejections were personalized and said nice things, which is about the best I expect really. I know that Stepping Stones is full of flaws. I also know that it is something of a niche book; a memoir about the ordinary rather than the extraordinary. Not only that, but it is written in a personal essay format rather than the novel format which is more common for memoirs. So, I know that the project will be hard to sell, will likely have a small print run, and be a marginal earner; hard to believe that a New York agent would get excited by that prospect. Only a persistent and pounding feeling that it was important made me write it at all. Now I send it out because that is my next job. I am responsible for sending out queries. If it is supposed to sell, it will. If it doesn’t sell within a year, I’ll re-evaluate. Perhaps it is only important to me. Either way, I found a weird sense of satisfaction in sending my first paper queries yesterday. All the rest had been via email. There was something more real about putting pages into an envelope and hand writing New York addresses on them.
I’ve been thinking about imposter syndrome lately. It is the persistent belief that one has not actually earned the recognition one has received. I think everyone experiences this to some level, the fear that everyone around us will figure out that we’re only faking and then they’ll de-mask us and ridicule. I’ve been feeling a lot of quiet and pernicious imposter syndrome lately, not so much with professional endeavors, but in friendships and relationships. “They’re just being nice because they’re nice people, not because they actually like you.” whispers the voice in my head. These voices are quiet and pervasive, like fog. I discover myself slowing down, altering my choices because of the fog. If I shine logic and rational thought onto it, the fog melts away. I just wish I could find my way back into sunlight instead of wandering around with a lantern. I think it is coming. Things are getting better as I find my rhythm in the new schedule, as we make adjustments to give me time for my creative things, and as I slowly get my thyroid medications balanced again.
Seeing the imposter syndrome inside my head naturally leads me to think back on my assessments of the quality and likely future of Stepping Stones. I was pretty narrow in my expectations during that first paragraph. Am I doing that as a disappointment management technique? Is it me being unable to accept that I have an accomplishment? Or is it an honest assessment of the book and the market? I really can’t tell and trying to figure it out only sends me in useless mental circles. Instead I need to shut out the noise and just do my job. I send out queries. I write something new. I apply faith and choose to believe that my friends and family love me. Then I keep going, headed for the light.