Blog post by Iris Carden
This week I ordered some business cards, because people sometimes ask where they can find my stories, and in that situation it’s easiest to just hand over a piece of card.
As I described myself on the cards as “author”, I started to wonder; do I really have any right to call myself that? It’s not the first time I’ve wondered that. I call myself “author” on this website, and on social media, so I’ve asked myself the question a few times.
Sometimes I wonder, if I really qualify for the title. Sure, I’ve written some books, but they’re self-published. No-one with any authority ever said they were worth publishing. Sure I’ve written lots of short stories and poetry and such like, but anyone can do that.
I call myself an “author” rather than a “disabled pensioner who does some writing”, because it’s easier to say, and it feels more like I have a purpose.
However a part of me always feels like a fraud, as if I’m about to be called out for using a title I haven’t actually earned.
This isn’t a new thing for me. I’ve got a couple of degrees, and worked in a couple of very different professions pre-lupus. In all of those, the degrees and the jobs, I always expected someone to call me out, to tell me I was a fraud, that I didn’t really belong or didn’t earn my place.
(Once an Academic Dean asked me if, instead of a second Bachelor’s Degree, perhaps I could move to a Graduate Diploma-Masters program. I asked if he was sure he had the right student, because I was sure I wasn’t smart enough to do that.)
Actually, come to think of it, I’m a mother, a grandmother, a sister, a daughter, and a friend and quite often feel I’m going to be caught out as not good enough in those roles as well.
It’s only recently I’ve heard of “Imposter Syndrome”, that so many people feel like this that it has a name. I learned about it from reading this quote from Neil Gaiman:
Some years ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to a gathering of great and good people: artists and scientists, writers and discoverers of things. And I felt that at any moment they would realise that I didn’t qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things.
On my second or third night there, I was standing at the back of the hall, while a musical entertainment happened, and I started talking to a very nice, polite, elderly gentleman about several things, including our shared first name. And then he pointed to the hall of people, and said words to the effect of, “I just look at all these people, and I think what the heck am I doing here? They’ve made amazing things. I just went where I was sent.”
And I said, “Yes. But you were the first man on the moon. I think that counts for something.”
And I felt a bit better. Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an imposter, maybe everyone did. Maybe there weren’t any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for.Source: Neil Gaiman’s Journal, Harper Collins Publishers
Forget the bit about Neil Armstrong, because he’s in a completely different field. Neil Gaiman, a “proper” author, one whose work has been published by traditional publishers, whose books have been turned into actual movies, also feels like an imposter at times.
That tells me I probably wouldn’t feel less like a fraud if my books had been published through the traditional system, been popular or even turned into movies. Because if Neil Gaiman can still feel like that, I’m not going to think I would do any better.
Maybe I’ll never make a living from writing. But I’m doing this thing as well as I can, and perhaps that’s all it takes to call myself an “author”. Besides, it gives me something to do on the days my brain works.