You’re better than you think. No, really, you are.
It was a long time before I admitted I could be a writer. The signs were there, pretty early, I just did my best to ignore them.
It started with a phone call when I was about 11, from Paramount Pictures. They’d read a spec script I’d written (this was back when Paramount accepted unagented submissions for Star Trek shows — after you signed your life away) and wanted to invite me to pitch a few more ideas. Don’t worry, they said, I could do it over the phone. That’s an opportunity that I would actually kill every one of you and then some for now, but my only thought was, more ideas? It took me a year to come up with that one. I never did pitch to them, but more interesting is that even after learning my age, they never rescinded the invitation.
In high school, my teachers kept taking my papers and telling other students to read them. It was horribly embarrassing, and I thought it was some perverse game to see how many times they could get my classmates to roll their eyes at me. But then it kept happening in college. By then I didn’t really care what anyone else thought, so it was less embarrassing, but I was still being dense about it. It always took me by surprise. Even on into grad school. I missed a class one night, thankfully, because it happened to be the night my professor decided to read part of one of my papers aloud. He had the good sense to not tell them who’d written it, but they all figured it out anyway and told me about it. All I could think was, that paper? Really? The one that not so subtly revealed my unhealthy obsession with the semiotics of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? I’m so not cool.
Despite this mounting evidence, and well into my adult life (and career), I still felt like a hack. An impostor. It was all just luck, coincidence. My teachers just weren’t that smart, or maybe the other students were just really, really bad? I was being over-evaluated, obviously. You see, I could explain away all the evidence really easily. I still can. I still do. But, at least now I recognize that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself.
There’s a big danger in having an inflated ego, but I think there’s more danger in having a devalued sense of one’s ability. The former sets you up to be smacked down to reality, which is okay, but the latter could prevent you from doing your best work.
And the flip side of all this is that, despite successes, rejection still comes. Ask any writer how many pitches editors turn down. Ask any actor how many auditions they go on before they get that one role. I think if you’re prone to ignoring or writing off triumphs, failures are that much harder to take because, at least in your mind, they confirm your worse fears. Don’t buy in to it. Strike a healthy balance that recognizes not just your strengths, but also the places where you have room to grow. You want to be a writer? Write. And there, boom, you’re a writer. It really is that simple.