In a recent Facebook post, I made a joke by declaring that my book was ranked #2 in its categories behind “some nobody called Veronica Roth.” This was, of course, intentionally absurd. Among my writer friends, Veronica Roth is well known as the author of the enormously popular Divergent series. The first movie based on her books is coming out at the end of this month.
Anyway, when I wrote my post, I thought it was kind of hilarious because if anyone is a nobody author, I am.
Later, when I was reading through the comments on the post, I realized that through my grinning, faux self-aggrandizement, I had revealed the unconscious belief that I am, in fact, a nobody.
True, my wife, daughter, siblings, and father wouldn’t think of me that way. My readers, many of whom have left glowing reviews of my books, wouldn’t think of me that way. In fact, one young reader recently wrote me a letter about Undermountain, telling me how much he loved the whole series. He even drew pictures of the characters in the margins.
“Your readers?” the voice in my head says, laughing. “Isn’t that a little grandiose? Next you’ll be calling them fans!” More laughing. “Who do you think you are? You’re certainly no Veronica Roth. You’re no Stephen King. You’re no J.K. Rowling.
Here’s the thing. Every burst of success I’ve had as an author (and it does come in bursts, it seems), I’ve found a way to invalidate. “Well, I did run that Bookbub ad, so it could have been anyone’s book they bought. Just happened to be me this time.” Or, “These sales don’t really count because I discounted that book to $2.99 for a while.” Or, “Yeah, but I lucked out and got in with some great also-boughts on Amazon.” Or, in response to a good review, “I know they said that, but they didn’t want to say anything bad because we had such a nice email exchange.”
There are zillions of folks on the internet who take it upon themselves to delineate who counts as a professional author and who doesn’t. I’m quite aware that as an indie author, I’m on the doesn’t-count side for many of them.
The shock for me was discovering that I had drawn the line in the same place they had.
Then it dawned on me. The characters in my books struggle with this exact same issue, and through their adventures they’ve been trying to teach me something. And it is this:
Someone has declared that you don’t matter. Someone has pushed you down. Someone has mocked you for your efforts. Someone has weighed you on a scale, and found you wanting. Someone has stacked the flimsy pages your accomplishments next to the towering reams produced by greater minds and laughed out loud at the comparison.
These oppressors do not want to let you into the elite clique. And the worst offender, the one shouting the loudest, spittle flying from his or her lips . . .
. . . is you.
You do it because you’re afraid to accept this simple truth: your worth is intrinsic and it is infinite.
Why won’t you accept this power?
Because you’ve insulated yourself in the armor of self-deprecation. Take it off and you don’t get to apologize for showing up. You don’t get to make fun of yourself before someone else does. You don’t get to make sure everyone knows that you know you’re a nobody.
If you accept the responsibility that comes from your self-worth you’ll be utterly naked. You’ll stand exposed to the derision of the trolls, those poor, fearful souls who tear down others in order to build themselves up.
It’s scary, but you can survive it.
How else are you going to stake your claim among the pantheon of your heroes? Are you waiting for an invitation? Are you waiting to be chosen?
My novel was #1 in its categories, ahead of Veronica Roth, for a couple days.
It deserved to be there. I deserved to be there.
And I will be back.
Eric Edstrom is the author of the YA science fiction series The Undermountain Saga and The Scion Chronicles
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