Why Every Author Needs Neil Armstrong

Imposter syndrome—every writer with a pulse gets it. I sure as heck do, and I’ve noticed that every single one of my author friends has been struck with it, too, from time to time. It’s when you are overwhelmed with feeling you don’t belong somewhere, even though people have invited you into that space because they recognise your credentials, talent, and [insert awesome thing here].

In the last few weeks I’ve been knee-deep in imposter syndrome. I will be sitting in on three panels at Limestone Genre Expo 2017, and though I enthusiastically entered my name for them, I’ve nearly drowned in a sea of self-doubt about my validity to attend the conference at all. I mean, I’ve only written one novel. It has cupcakes in space. I’ve edited a few manuscripts, but does that make me a person who knows things?

Then last week, too-amazing-for-words Derek Newman-Stille asked me to be the guest author on an hour-long radio show (Speculating Canada: it’s only won five Aurora awards, so, no big deal. GULP!). The topic was about writing, being a disabled writer, and writing characters who have disabilities. EEEK! I don’t know anything about that, I thought. Except maybe that I am a writer, with a disability, who writes characters with disabilities. Oh. Oh, yeah.

I’m not going to lecture you, saying, “Stop having imposter syndrome! Believe in yourself!” Instead, I’m going to advise you that whenever it strikes, think: Neil Armstrong.imposter-syndrome

Read this incredible anecdote from author Neil Gaiman (you might have heard of him):

Some years ago, I was lucky enough 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.

(Read more on the Official Neil Gaiman Tumblr post!)

Right? If Neil Armstrong feels like that, maybe we all do.

Besides screaming, “NEIL ARMSTRONG, NEIL ARMSTRONG!” I cope with imposter syndrome in the following ways:

  • Medicating with cupcakes (don’t judge me).
  • Reminding myself that people wouldn’t get excited by my presence if they didn’t feel I could contribute.
  • Remembering that everyone started somewhere, and even the seasoned ‘experts’ probably feel uneasy on occasion.
  • Taking a deep breath and writing down the things I do know about topics, or how I can offer something in the space where I’ve been invited (notes make me happy).
  • Reminding myself that I can learn a lot from the experience and make new contacts.
  • Realising that if everything goes topsy-turvy, I can always snuggle under my furry blankie when I get home, because it understands me.

So, I get you, fellow impostery-feeling peeps. I do. Would you do one thing for me right now? Would you take a deep breath and say it loud, and say it proud with me? Okay, here we go:

NEIL ARMSTRONG!

Ahhh. I feel better. Hope you do, too. You’re all right, and you deserve to do the thing and be the person. Okie-dokey?

I’ll try to remember that, too.

/cg

CGAuthorCait Gordon is an Irish-Canadian warrior princess and author of Life in the ’Cosm, a space opera about a little green guy who’s crushing on the female half of his two-headed colleague (Renaissance). Cait’s also the editor of the Spoonie Authors Network, a blog featuring writers who manage disabilities and/or chronic illness. She likes cupcakes.

 

When to Listen to and When to Ignore Writing Advice

I wrote a thing about a thing on author Louise Allan’s Writers in the AtticThis is a topic that means a lot to me as a writer, and I’m so glad Louise let me share my thoughts on this forum, which also has other great authors! (Including my homie, Robin Elizabeth!)


by  |May 29, 2017 | WRITERS IN THE ATTIC

I’m always excited when someone I don’t know contacts me wanting to be part of Writers in the Attic. That’s how this post came about, and until I read Cait’s essay, I knew as much about this Irish-Canadian author and editor as you!

Read on to learn more about Cait (pronounced ‘Cat’) and her tips on when to listen to feedback on your manuscript, and when not to. I found them spot on! Whether you’re writing your first draft or your twentieth, this essay is well worth a read.

Cait is an Irish-Canadian warrior princess and author of Life in the ’Cosm, a space opera about a little green guy who’s crushing on the female half of his two-headed colleague (Renaissance). Cait’s also the editor of the Spoonie Authors Network, a blog featuring authors with disabilities and/or chronic illness. And she loves cupcakes.

You can follow her on her personal website, her editing websiteFacebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Cait Gordon: When to Listen to and When to Ignore Writing Advice

Um. I’m not sure if I just shot myself in the foot with the title of this article. I can just picture you all thinking, Oh. Well, I’ll chose to ignore then. Buh-bye Cait. Have a nice life.

This happens to be the topic I’ll be discussing in a panel I’m leading at the Limestone Genre Expo this June (2017). The inspiration came from my own journey while writing my comedy sci-fi, Life in the ’Cosm. And what a ride it was, too. I learned the hard way that if you ever want a massive deluge of unsolicited advice, just post on social media that you’re writing a book. Holy wiggies. Everything from ‘your word count is too much, cut 20,000 words’ to ‘sci-fi isn’t really funny if it’s real sci-fi’ to ‘you’re never going to get published in Canada’ to ‘even if you do get published, they’ll slash your book to bits’.

Yeah. So that happened. I also was told to go to conference upon conference with my first draft and try to get the attention of editors before I even dared finish the book. Did I mention that none of these advice-givers had even read one word of my work-in-progress? When I think about it, every person had good intentions, but was it ever derailing from the writing process. I half-wonder if this kind of advice is akin to the unwanted parenting advice or birthing horror stories that expectant mothers receive. I’ll have to ask around.

‘The problem with listening to writing advice before you’ve even finished the first draft is that it can be so discouraging, you might stop working on your manuscript full stop.’

Read the full article on Writers in the Attic!

/cg

CGAuthorCait Gordon is an Irish-Canadian warrior princess and author of Life in the ’Cosm, a space opera about a little green guy who’s crushing on the female half of his two-headed colleague (Renaissance). Cait’s also the editor of the Spoonie Authors Network, a blog featuring writers who manage disabilities and/or chronic illness. She likes cupcakes.