Imposter syndrome, the sequel

12 January 2022

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my early career as a developer. Getting a CS degree was hard – harder than it needed to be. My classes were filled with C++ and (mid-1990s) Java. Those languages were neither easy or pretty. I learned HTML and CSS on my own. (It was the 90s. Web development degrees didn’t exist then.) I struggled with (presentational) JavaScript.

Early career options

My favorite thing about the web was its immediacy. I could imagine something, write some code, and see my imagination appear on the screen. It was magic.

For a while, I thought an art degree was more my speed. I got that degree and promptly realized that art was definitely not for me. So, I started working in tech.

Over the years, I wrote code. I learned new languages. I re-learned JavaScript alone at least 3 times.1 I moved from a purely front-end developer to an application / functionality layer developer.

However, through most of my career, I had imposter syndrome. I had it so hard. It was worse early on, when I was working with developers who were clearly more senior. I was expected to produce the same quality code. Mentoring would have been awesome, but my jobs were mostly a learn-as-you-go kind of situation.

Alright, fake it ‘til you make it, right? Over time, I got better. I wrote better code. I felt better about my code. Imposter syndrome minimized!2

Oh hey, you’re back…

Fast forward to today. I wrote a children’s book.3 It is a book that has been brewing in my brain, and more recently in my computer, for years. It’s not a big book. A picture book in 152 words. But it tells my story of how my daughter came to be. It says things that I say to her all the time. It says things that I have been craving to exist in book form since she was born.

I wrote and revised and revised and revised. I hired an editor to review it, and then revised and revised and revised some more.

I hired an illustrator and we are starting to put actual pictures in my picture book. We are at the beginning of the illustration process, but we have talked about so many things already. Personal things. Who am I, really? Who is the child in the book?

The book illustrations that exist in my brain have always been more abstract. I have yet to see myself or my family in a picture book, which is why I wrote one. I want to stay away from things that are specifically me because I want to cast the widest net possible in this very small pond of single parents with donor conceived children. However, the excellent point that being more specific will make the book more authentic has been made. Is that what I am supposed to do? Sacrifice broad strokes that I hope will make the book more inclusive for the sake of authenticity?

Anyone who knows me, knows that I have been overthinking this. Am I supposed to treat the book as art or as a small business? I don’t write much. Am I truly a writer if this is the only thing I have written?4 I have tech degrees from a school that barely had an English department. Why do I think anyone is reading what I am writing.

Oh! Hello imposter syndrome, my old friend. It’s been a while.

Fake it ‘til I make it?

All of this has led me to ask myself the hard question: Why am I publishing this book? I am not querying. I have no publisher. I am self-publishing, so everything is on me. That includes convincing the universe that this book is worth reading, among so much else.

So… why? The entire reason I wrote my book is that it needs to exist.

I have been looking and, while there are so many books about single-by-choice parent families, there are none that talks to the newborn. Those books talk to the slightly older kids about how they were conceived. The “welcome baby” books talk about their 2-parent families. The “families come in all varieties” book talks about, well, all the varieties.

I am craving a book that says, “Hey, kiddo! Welcome to this tiny family! Here’s the deal.” So I wrote one. This is the book that I would have loved to get at my baby shower. And, hopefully, other parents or soon-to-be parents will love it too.

So, here I am. Advocating for my vision (to myself and others). Researching the logistics of self-publishing. Pretending I know anything about marketing. Convincing myself to be loud.5 And, as always, fighting off the imposter syndrome monster.

  1. At least, it feels like I have re-learned JavaScript 3 times. The language has changed so much, I barely recognize my early code now. 

  2. Let’s face it. Imposter syndrome never completely goes away. Minimal imposter is the best case scenario inmy book. 

  3. Don’t worry. I’m still a code nerd. I also wrote a book. 

  4. Yes, I know blogs count as writing. Not where my brain is going right now. 

  5. That is definitely not something that comes naturally.