It is seven years this month since my last full-length novel, To Have and to Hold (currently on sale at a bargain price in Waterstones!) was published.
During that time I have written innumerable blog posts, both here and on sites like Selfish Mother and Mother of All Lists and completed my third full-length novel, but I have also struggled to describe myself as a writer. In fact, when someone asks me what I do, I normally mumble something about being a stay-at-home mum and umm, er, umm, yeah I kind of do some writing. It’s not exactly selling myself or my work.
So, why do I do this? Is it because I don’t earn (anything like) enough to make a living as a writer? But then, I am a school governor, which is an entirely voluntary role, but I am happy enough to tell people that that is one of the things I do.
Is it because I haven’t had a new book out for years? Well, possibly. But then I still own my English degree even though it is coming up to 20 years since I last read any untranslated Middle English.
Mainly, though, I think it is imposter syndrome. A worry that I will be tapped on the shoulder and told I am not really an author because I didn’t become a best-seller, or get on Richard and Judy’s Book Club or win the Nobel Prize for Literature!
My littlest girl wrote a ‘book’ recently, and took it into school to show her teacher. She proudly explained ‘I am an author now, like my Mummy’. She is totally happy to own her achievements, and she is proud of me. My eldest girl, when I completed A Thoroughly Modern Marriage last year, instantly started planning the launch party. She is proud of me. This doesn’t come easily to me, but I am going to try and be proud of me too. As my girls get older I don’t want them to undersell themselves or their achievements, I want them to have self-belief, I want them to have confidence in their right to take up space in the world, and how can I ensure they do this if I, as their most important female role model, don’t demonstrate that behaviour myself?
When my eldest was born I decided that if I could help it she would not grow up with hang ups about her body. I would not adopt restrictive diets or count calories in front of her. I would not castigate myself for being fat or putting weight on, and I would not allow any of the other significant women in her life to do so in her hearing. I still think this is the right thing to do, and I hope it helps both my girls to have confidence in their bodies and to understand that their looks are the least important thing about them. But maybe I now need to adopt the same approach to my career?
So here it goes. My name is Helen. I am 40 years old and I am a writer. And a mother. And a newly qualified doula.
I am a writer and I am publishing my new book, A Thoroughly Modern Marriage as an e-book and print-on-demand book on Amazon. Publication date is 21 July 2021, but it will be available for pre-order very soon. It is the perfect feel-good summer read, a story about complicated families and relationships and most of all about the triumph of hope and unconventional happy endings.
I hope you buy it and love it and review it, and tell your friends to do the same, and I hope that in admitting to my own imposter syndrome and trying to overcome it I can encourage my readers to do likewise.