Seven years ago I was invited to a dream trip for writers in Italy. It had only been six months since I made the leap to fight imposter syndrome and changed my instagram bio to include the word “writer.” I still knew very little about the industry.
I didn’t know the facilitator of the trip was a literary agent at the top of her game. (I had to ask what a “literary agent” even was when I first met her a month before at my first writers’ conference.) I didn’t know any well known writers. I had no book deal. I’d never pitched an article or written anywhere other than my own website. I didn’t realize nearly all of the other writers on the trip were agented and contracted. (Once I figured this out, I felt wondrously small and wondrously grateful, because somehow I was invited anyway.)
I gained so much on that trip. I gained friends and colleagues. I gained a stellar agent who would become like a sister. I gained vision. Confidence. Insight into an industry that seemed a mystery.
I lost a lot too. I lost some of my pretenses, a few illusions, plenty of misconceptions. I also lost a baby. (I had a miscarriage under the monastery stairs.) I lost what felt like a dream too good to be true.
This morning I was journaling about my tendency to have Imposter Syndrome and the fear that my next book won’t live up to my own expectations, and I was taken right back to Tuscany in 2014. I’m not that different now and yet in some ways I am.
Here is what I would tell that excited, hopeful, scared, rookie writer from 2014 before I was agented or published or sold my first ten thousand books:
Be kind to yourself.
Trust the process.
God will connect you.
Doors will be opened.
Even after you’ve hit some wonderful benchmarks, you will still be afraid sometimes.
You will still deal with jealousy.
You will still feel excluded.
You will still get imposter syndrome.
You will still doubt yourself.
You will still feel ill-equipped at times.
But you will excavate words and ideas you don’t yet have language for.
You will learn how to write with more courage than you’ve yet known.
You will be surprised by how equipped you actually are already.
You will craft beautiful phrases and sentences that you’re still proud of years later.
God will give you insight into scripture, and story, and life you didn’t have before.
You will discover life-changing metaphors.
You will help people grow, heal, and see.
You will help other writers go farther than you’ve even been.
You will never regret being generous.
Your work is not in vain and your worth still doesn’t rest in your achievements or acknowledgements.
You will still struggle.
You will still sometimes feel inadequate.
You will still be telling yourself: “success is faithfulness, success is faithfulness, success is faithfulness.”
You are more capable than you know.
You are doing much better than you think you are.
You will always be a teacher and always be a student and that’s the way it should be.
Enjoy. Enjoy. Enjoy.
(And get a full night’s sleep.)
Most of us are our own self’s harshest critic. What do you wish your younger self knew?