Imposter Syndrome

Black Blade Blues by J. A. PittsBy J.A. Pitts

It’s freaky, this concept that I’m a Tor novelist. I remember my first science fiction book I ever read: Runaway Robot, by Lester del Rey. We got it at one of those book fairs the schools had every year. I read and reread that book until it fell apart. I knew then that someday I’d write novels and thrill some future kid, maybe inspire her to write her own stories. And I understood it took work. Authors were a rare breed, full of wit and sly wisdom. That was the thing for me.

So I wrote, practiced and submitted my words and stories to anyone who would sit still long enough to read them. I started racking up rejections of all flavors, including some wonderful comments that I hold dear to my success. Then, lightning struck. I got that call from my lovely (soon to be) editor at Tor.

Suddenly, I was on the other side of the wall from most of my friends. There were some folks I knew who’d crossed over ahead of me: Jay Lake, Ken Scholes, and Brenda Cooper, just to name a few. But I didn’t realize how much it would all change for me. We call it Imposter Syndrome, when we discuss it at all; that feeling that we somehow cheated, that we don’t belong here. It’s like walking into a cocktail party with all the cool kids, and everyone nods at you, greets you like a member of the sekrit club. The problem is, I’m not sure how I got here.

Of course I know how, I wrote a good book, sent it to a good editor who was looking for a book like the one I wrote, and in a house that was interested in marketing the product I produced. It’s not rocket science, but it doesn’t take away the fact I feel like I jumped ahead of the line, cut in front of others, and generally skated my way into the best party ever.

That’s the trick of imposter syndrome. It muddles the brain; tries to convince us that we don’t deserve our hard-earned success. There are always more worthy people, better books, cooler kids. The only way to beat it, in my experience, is to keep writing. Make the next thing better than the last one.

Meanwhile I’ll continue to be amazed at the turns my life has taken, and remember the secret I learned from my friend Jay Lake—I earned this, and I should be grateful. Only leaves one more thing for me to do…that’s right, Snoopy dance!

Black Blade Blues (0-7653-2467-9) is the debut novel and first of an urban fantasy series by J.A. Pitts

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0 thoughts on “Imposter Syndrome

  1. Oh my, Runaway Robot! I, too, got that book from an elementary school book fair and read it to destruction. Thanks for the reminder – now I have to go find a copy!

    The sequence in Iron Man of Stark changing his Arc reactor always reminded me of Rex changing his battery…

  2. Reading that Runaway Robot was your first SF book sent a tingle through my spine, since it was also my first SF book. It was the first book that I had read that prompted me to seek out other books by the same author.

    After reading Runaway Robot, I avidly sought out other works by Lester del Ray and by doing so learned that there was a whole universe called Science Fiction.

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  4. Runaway Robot wasn’t my _first_ SF book, but it was pretty darn close. And I think that my first SF book was “Mission to the Moon”, also by Lester Del Rey. (Followed shortly by Tom Swift, the third “Teenage Star Trek” series)

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