Miles, Pages, and Imposter Syndrome: Owning What You Do

This year, I’m training for my first marathon. I’ve talked here about what running means to me, and what the marathon and the Boston Marathon in particular means to me, but running an actual marathon always felt more like a bucket list item than an actual achievable goal. But I figured that if I was ever going to do it, I needed to try sooner rather than later, so over the last several weeks, I’ve been fitting weekday runs into my schedule and adding long runs to my weekends.

IMG_9985The other day, a coworker asked about my weekend, and I mentioned going for a long run and my training. She said, “No way! I didn’t know you were a runner.”

“Eeehh…” I said, and mentioned that I was really slow and still training and made all kinds of excuses for why I wasn’t like a ‘real runner.’

This weekend, I hit my longest ever distance of over 14.5 miles. What distance will it take for me to call myself a runner?

I get the same way about writing. If someone asks what I do, a lot of times I mention my day job first. Most of the time I follow up with, “…and I write YA novels,” but not always. Inside, I make a lot of excuses for why I can’t tell people I’m a writer: I don’t support myself entirely from writing, I only have one book out so far, I don’t always write every day, I don’t have a magical unicorn who helps me through the revision process, etc. etc. etc.

It can be hard to claim your identity as a writer. It means that you’re dedicating your time and energy to something–something that might not pan out the way you hope it will. And unlike a lot of other careers, there’s no way to know when you’ve ‘made it’ as a writer. Writers don’t have a test to pass or a certification to get in order to be a writer–which is great, because it means that stories can come from anyone and anywhere, but it can also be hard, because how do you know when you’ve really made it? And what if someone catches you calling yourself a writer? What if they find out that you’re really just trying to hold it all together?

The thing is: there is no point at which you know for sure you’re a writer. So many of us feel imposter syndrome, like someone is going to ‘catch us’ calling ourselves artists and call us frauds instead. Hell, even Meryl Streep has said: “You think ‘why would anyone want to see me again in a movie? I don’t know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?'” Meryl Streep, guys.

There’s no number of miles you can log, no amount of words you can write, that will tell you if you’re a runner or a writer. You’re a runner because you run and you’re a writer because you write.

You can spend your whole life making excuses for why you’re not a ‘real’ writer or runner or whatever you’re putting your time and energy into, but when it comes down to it, you’ve got to claim your identity for yourself. No one can tell you how many hours you have to put in or how many books you have to write or how many awards you have to win to really ‘make it’ as whatever it is you want to be.

So I’m going to put the time and effort in, as a writer and as a runner. And when people ask what I do, I’ll tell them.

Friday Fifteen

Happy Friday, guys! I’ve had a good dose of creative connectivity this week, and I’m looking forward to even more creative time with my lovely crit group members over the weekend. In the meantime, here’s a look at what I’ve been reading and writing in fifteen words or fewer:

ReadingBig Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
Encouraging, open, and conversational book about living as an artist. Definitely what I needed.

Writing: “You can’t sleep through my cross-country playlist,” TJ said. “It’s rhythmically impossible.”
Hoping to finish up with this pass of revision over the weekend; psyched to dive into something new, but I’m going to miss these characters (for the time being, at least).

ARCs, Feminism, Thin Mints, and Librarian Friends: a Weekend at ALA Midwinter

collage-2016-01-12 (1)This weekend I got to go to ALA Midwinter–aka where librarians, educators, authors, publishers, bloggers, readers, and general fans of books and media come to learn and engage and share Girl Scout cookies. (Seriously, bringing Girl Scout cookies to a conference is a way to ensure people love you.) I’d never been to an ALA event before, and I only got an exhibit hall pass, but it was such a fantastic weekend. Some highlights:

  • Meeting librarian and writer and blogger friends from the Internet in real life–you get to hug them in real life!–and seeing lovely librarian and writer friends from the Boston area.
  • Seeing adorable baby pictures of aforementioned friends. (Or adorable pictures of their babies or their nieces/nephews.)
  • Having writer friends in from out of town meant an awesome panel at Brookline Booksmith, one of my favorite places to both meet readers and buy books. Awesome questions, thoughtful/hilarious discussion, fantastic audience.
  • Saying hi and the Candlewick booth and snagging an ARC of A Tyranny of Petticoats: 15 Stories of Belles, Bank Robbers & Other Badass Girls.
  • Listening to thoughtful discussions at the We Need Diverse Books panel and the Class of 2K16 Debuts panel.
  • Seeing ARCs for friends books and getting excited about all the future readers who will love these books.
  • Sharing Thin Mints with friends old and new.
  • Talking about reading, writing, publishing, teen readers, feminism, graphic novels and more with people who get it.

collage-2016-01-12This is the kind of weekend that reminds me why I love being part of the book community. People are so enthusiastic and smart and talented and kind and thoughtful and funny. They’re pushing the boundaries in all sorts of fields and making a difference for readers everywhere. I cheered along with the webcast of the ALA Youth Media Awards this morning, and was so proud to be part of this larger community.

Thanks to all who helped make this such a fun and inspiring weekend. Here’s to another awesome year of our bookish community!

Real Teen Lives Panel This Friday!

I’m so excited for ALA Midwinter this weekend–so many awesome librarians and writers in town? Aw yeah! And what better way to kick off the weekend than with a great YA panel featuring some wonderful contemp YA authors? The details39e45766-c4c3-41b0-b7e1-4eefd92fcb2d

Real Teen Lives Young Adult Panel
Friday, January 8th, 7pm 
at Brookline Booksmith
YA authors who are keeping it real–Marieke Nijkamp, Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, Emily Martin, Jen Malone, and I talk about crafting real stories for teen readers. Also book signing and hilarity.

Come say hi and chat with us about writing, books, and being real. Looking forward to an awesome start to a bookish weekend!

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Bookish Resolutions for 2016

I love reading the Top Ten Tuesday series around the blogs, but I don’t often take part. What better way to kick off the year in blogging than with a set of reading and writing resolutions for 2016? I’m not a real resolution person, but I like the idea of focusing in on book-related plans for the here.

So here we go–my reading and writing resolutions for 2016!

Reading Resolutions

  1. Finish book series I’ve started: I’m the worst at series. Even when I love the first book, I have such a hard time finishing the second and the third. Usually it’s because I finish the first and want a book with a different feel (eg, contemp vs. fantasy, historical vs. sci-fi) immediately after. but then I feel like I can’t remember everything about the first one and I put the second off and start a new one and the cycle continues. This year I want to finish all the series I’m enjoying but just having finished yet before starting any new ones.
  2. Read a few books for grown-ups: YA is my thing. I love YA. But sometimes you gotta see what the adults are reading, right?
  3. Add some non-fiction to the list: I tend to read fiction, but straying toward non-fiction has been great in the past. I want to keep that up in 2016.
  4. Pick from books already on my shelves: I know, it’s hard to go to the library and not get a book or two or five. But there are already so many great books at home I haven’t read yet, and several of them could also help with resolution #1.
  5. Read more, tech less: it’s easy to get caught in the laptop/phone futzing cycle. Any time I spend at home, looking at a screen is time I could be reading.

Writing Resolutions

  1. Finish my current WIP: I wrote a full draft last year and am diving back into revisions now. I’d love to get it in a solid enough place to send it out on submission within the next few months.
  2. Complete a new first draft: I dipped my toe into another WIP at the end of last year, and want to have a complete draft finished by the end of the year. This one is still very much in the early phases, so we’ll see how it actually goes.
  3. Write when I think I don’t have enough time: even if it’s half an hour, I can get something done. You don’t need a huge chunk of time; little blocks of time add up.
  4. Start outlining new projects: because it’s easier to write the first page when you already have an idea of where things are going.
  5. Have fun: because writing is hard, but it should also be joyful. No matter what happens with publishing, it’s a joy to spend time with characters and stories.

Thanks to the Broke and the Bookish for putting together the Top Ten Tuesday series! Have bookish resolutions of your own? Share yours in the comments or in a blog post!

Real Teen Lives YA Panel – January 8!

After last winter and 100+ inches of snow in the Boston area, there are only two things that could have me looking forward to January: ALA Midwinter and a panel with delightful fellow YA authors at the wonderful Brookline Booksmith! Details for the event:

Real Teen Lives Young Adult Panel
Friday, January 8th, 7pm 
at Brookline Booksmith
YA authors who are keeping it real. Come see Marieke Nijkamp, Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, Emily Martin, Jen Malone, and me, as we talk about crafting real stories for teen readers.

Librarians in town for ALA, please join us and share some high fives for contemp goodness!

A Community of Artists

Once is a touching movie about musicians and art and connection. It’s now a stage musical, and recently the touring company invited amateur musicians in to sing “Falling Slowly” with them.

Walt shared the video with me this morning, and it got me kind of teary, seeing all these musicians of all ages and backgrounds and levels of professional status in the same space, sharing their art and making something wonderful together as a little community.

Writing and publishing as a career can be hard. But one thing I’m always grateful for–the people. I’m so grateful to be part of a community of writers and readers and librarians and educators and bloggers and fans. From across the world, from all kinds of backgrounds, from major bestselling authors to first draft-ers, from experienced bloggers to people who have just found YA, it’s uplifting and exciting to share our stories and our experiences, either in person or online.

So no matter where you are in your writing journey or your reading life, thank you for being part of this community. Your voice matters.