My first sarcastic impulse is to answer that question with “Duh.” Writers have to be somewhat delusional to pursue a career that has such a minuscule chance of financial success. (Not to mention that fiction writers exist in a constant state of make-believe.) But there are different styles of delusion.
There’s the unconsciously incompetent phase we go through when we first start out, when we don’t know what all we don’t know. This stage is dangerous for those considering self-publishing because it’s so easy to delude ourselves into thinking we know what we’re doing.
There’s the diva delusion of thinking that because we have X number of followers, published books, dollars for an advance, etc., we’re better than someone else. Being published doesn’t suddenly mean that we have nothing else to learn, as Tawna Fenske so eloquently put in her blog post, Who has the right to say you suck? (Answer: Everyone.)
Unless we’re JK Rowling, even most best-selling authors aren’t as big of a deal as we think they are. Millions of non-writers, non-readers, or casual fans couldn’t tell us who Stephenie Meyer (of Twilight fame) is or identify her in a lineup. Most best-selling authors are known by name only among readers of their genre (and sometimes not even then).
In other words, the phrase “a big fish in a little pond” applies to writers especially well. Big fish can feel little if they’re put in a different pond, and vice versa for little fish.
For example, Tuesday night I went to my first meeting of a local writers group. I spent the evening with 50 or so writers who aren’t on Twitter, checking out writing blogs, or hanging out in any of the same places I do.
They automatically assumed that I, as the newbie to the group, knew nothing about the publishing industry or writing in general. I don’t fault them for that in the slightest. After all, it’s not like we were exchanging our writing qualifications. But the experience sure made me feel like a know-nothing little fish. *smile*
The next morning, I woke up to several comments on Tuesday’s blog post about the Ask Jami idea, where I offered to answer people’s writing questions. I could really relate when Todd Moody mentioned that he couldn’t ask people to guest post because he felt like a wannabe.
After Gene Lempp commented:
“You are one of the few people I’d consider taking advice from, so I think this is a cool idea.”
“I need a disclaimer: Why are any of you here at my blog? Don’t you know that I’m not published yet? Why the heck are you listening to me?”
And yes, I put LOLs all over that comment, but the fear is real. Self-doubt, thy name is Jami.
Luckily for me, Gene came back with a pep talk that was echoed by Jenny Hansen, and then Kristin Nador volunteered that my advice to her actually *gasp* hit the nail on the head. So I splashed back into my home pond, happy with my delusions that I might know some stuff.
Or were they delusions?
The awesome-dipped-in-glitter (TM) Kristen Lamb has a series of posts on the three types of people to get to know for building our social media network. Yesterday, she described the second type of movers and shakers, Mavens, people who accumulate knowledge. And in a sense of cosmic timing I want to hug her for, she listed me as a Maven:
“Mavens are pathologically helpful. We are collectors of data and brokers of information. Not only do we collect vast stores of information, but we hold a rare ability to put that information in a useful context. We are unparalleled pattern filters and can spot trends and changes that others don’t or can’t yet see. And, not only do we have all this information, but we long to share it to make the lives of others better. … And, since our only agenda is to be helpful, many people listen to us.”
Huh. I am pathologically helpful, I’ve mentioned before how I have hundreds of writing blog posts open at a time, I retweet the best of the best to my Twitter followers simply to be helpful, and I do analyze the big picture of the publishing industry for patterns and trends.
So while I know I still don’t have all the answers, Kristen helped me see where my strengths are. And I think that’s what we all have to do.
Being delusional about how much we know is bad, but as writers, we’re equally likely to suffer from self-doubt delusions by focusing on our weaknesses. On both ends of the scale, we have to learn to see through the delusions. Overconfidence and under-confidence are equally destructive to our ability to grow.
Do you ever worry about being delusional on the overly optimistic side? What about delusional on the too-negative side? Has that caused self-doubt or other problems? Do you have any tips on how to figure out if you’re delusional or not? Have you ever experienced the shock of changing ponds? How did you react or cope?Pin It