Recently, several people have told me that I need to put myself out there more, particularly when it comes to marketing myself as an editor. I tend to be a “let the work speak for itself” kind of person, but that, apparently, isn’t how things are done anymore. If I want to get more people to subscribe, support us on Patreon, or even consider anthology pitches, I’m told I need to take the stage… at least occasionally.
I find the concept frightening. Aside from it going against my severely introverted tendencies, it requires me to confront my own impostor syndrome. People seem amused when I tell them this.
“But you have three Hugos, a World Fantasy Award, one of the most popular genre magazines, and a year’s best series…”
That’s not how this works. If anything, those accomplishments contribute to it.
“Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.” (Wikipedia)
Looking back at old interviews, I’ve routinely credited luck and timing. I’ve described myself as stumbling into this field at age thirty-nine with no credentials. My background is in computer science and I took one (required) writing course in college.
It’s easy to start something when people have little or no expectations from you. I can’t tell you how many people told us Clarkesworld would be “dead within a year.” Somewhere around the third year, that changed. Being taken seriously was intimidating. Success felt great, but I was always ready for the rug to be pulled out from under us.
And then, four years ago, I had a near-fatal heart attack. It’s the sort of thing that reshapes your priorities and forces you to examine what you’ve been doing. I think that might have been the first time I honestly admitted to myself that I was a professional editor and deserved to be paid for my work, no matter how much I enjoyed it. That said, I’m still very good at ignoring the voice that says “you earned this.” That list of accomplishments… that’s what my childhood heroes did. In that light, it’s often a case of “I’m not worthy.”
That brings us to today. I can’t quite say that I’m a recovered impostor, but that I can blog about it is a promising sign. I can see why hiding behind the magazine has worked for me and I also understand why others feel I should “own my brand.” Perhaps I can step out periodically and see what happens. As I said, frightening, but maybe I’m ready.
If there’s one thing I find reassuring, it’s that all of the impostors I know have absolutely nothing to fear. They’ve earned their place. In that light, it’s possible I have too.