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Is there anything worse than imposter syndrome? Imposter syndrome accompanied by anxiety and depression that existed on their own before I began writing.

Let me clarify here: I mean before I began writing with the intent to publish.

Scrawling bad poetry in high school and short stories for my friends to read never contributed to sleepless nights or worries about my reputation. Sharing my work (and charging money) is what takes writing from a pleasurable outlet to an anxiety-producing sinkhole. So why do I write? It’s simple. I can’t not do it. It’s who I am. Maybe it’s an issue that I can’t see myself as anything other than a writer, even if it’s been years since I’ve published anything. But publishing isn’t what authenticates my writing credentials, even if it feels that way sometimes. Putting my heart and soul on the page, even on the days when I struggle to produce so much as a sentence does that. I just wish it was easier to push aside the ever-present doubts and do the thing.

More than anything, my inability to produce anything the last few years has been me getting in my own way – not a lack of ideas or time to write. Lack of focus multiplied with crippling anxiety. The two feed into one another, creating a cycle where I am making myself feel guilty for not producing, trying to force it, then worried that forcing it will produce substandard work, then going out of my to way procrastinate so I don’t have to do the thing that will inevitably fail. It’s enough to make me scream.

My struggle isn’t unique. Or an excuse. It’s simply a part of my daily reality. Some days I can work through it. More often than not I can’t.

A good example of this is a book I’m currently working on. It took a lot for me to ask for my rights back from my previous publisher (anxiety through the roof), then a couple of years before I reread it so I could see what changes needed to be made. See, because of my unpleasant experience with the publisher, I’d spent years convincing myself the book was barely readable and I was a no-talent hack too in love with my own words to be objective about it. Some version of that has been going through my head in relation to this book since 2011. That’s a lot of self-doubt to work through. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a lot of support from friends, fellow writers and readers since, but nothing shakes me like someone being indifferent about my work. Finally, I sat down and did major rewrites on the story. Fell in love with it all over again. Got myself ready to work on the cover in November and personal issues threw me way off. Between that and a return of the anxiety, I’ve been fighting against the worst parts of myself to get this thing done.

There is nothing wrong with this book. I fixed the things I didn’t like about the original version, enhanced and cleaned up areas that needed it and reintroduced content that had been previously cut. But I haven’t been able to force myself to finish the cover and get out review copies. I had been reading this book and I’d set a release date (January 8, 2018) and planned a whole promo strategy to give my baby a proper send off.

But I’m still getting in my own way. My date has come and gone, my plans for the cover have taken shape – twice – and I have yet to complete any one thing. I just need a few days when the version of me who wants this book out in the world again is louder than the voice of doubt. The problem is I don’t know when that will be. I can only hope it’s soon. I want to feel like a real writer again. Even if publishing only authenticates it for other people.