When You Feel Like a Nobody

I recently attended a national fiction writers conference in St. Louis. I love writer’s conferences. Nothing beats talking about writing for three days straight with other people who are as berserk about writing as you are.

Let’s face it, most of the time the normal people around us just don’t get our passion. And as much as we love them, we also need to rub shoulders with other writing geeks who get it, who understand how hard the journey is, whose eyes don’t glaze over when we start talking about our books.

Sarah Forgrave, Jennifer Hale, Heather Sunseri, ME, Eileen Watson, Katie Ganshert

If you have the chance to attend a writer’s conference at some point, I highly recommend it. They not only fill the emotional writer tank, but they provide countless opportunities for networking, meeting agents/editors, and becoming more familiar with the industry.

However, one thing I noticed this year while at the conference is that amidst so many talented writers it’s very easy to get lost in the crowd, to feel like a nobody, and to start comparing. Yes. It’s easy to feel insignificant in a large group like that, even for an author like me who has a couple of published books under her belt.

Of course I had to think through the whole conference experience. Here are a few things I came away from the conference realizing:

There will always be people who won’t know us or even care about us.

When I went to my first writer’s conference as a newly agented and contracted author, I expected to be an unknown name. But this year, even with a large social media presence and two published books, I still was relatively unknown among the hundreds of other authors. Plenty of people didn’t know the slightest thing about me, my books, or my blog.

And that’s true everywhere I go in real life too. I don’t have the paparazzi camped in my front lawn. Hoards of fans don’t follow me around town swooning over me. Quite honestly, most people I meet on a daily basis don’t even know I’m a writer unless I tell them.

What does the obscurity teach us? We can’t be in this business for the fame that it brings, because it brings very little recognition for the average author. Maybe boatloads of people won’t care about us, but that should make us all the more motivated to care about those whose paths intersect ours.

There will always be others ahead of us in the publishing journey.

As I mentioned, I went into this year’s conference with two published books. I couldn’t ask for more. I’m living the dream. I have a third book releasing next year and recently signed a contract for another three book deal with Bethany House Publisher.

But as I began to listen to the accolades of other writers, the numbers of books they’d published, the multiple awards, the numerous years they’d been writing, I started to feel pretty young and inexperienced.

What does the inexperience teach us? We will always have a lot to learn. We can’t ever think we’ve arrived. We need to remember those authors ahead of us have worked really, really hard to get to where they’re at. They didn’t magically bypass all the years of labor and writing to accomplish what they did. If we hope to reach a point of success, then we have to put in the time too.

There will always be newer writers coming along behind us.

Unfortunately, I met some experienced authors at the conference around whom I felt like a speck of dust. Maybe they were too busy, too disinterested, too caught up in their own importance to have the time for younger authors like me. Oh sure, a conference is a busy time for authors, the one time a year we get to hang out with our closer writing friends. The conference is crowded, it’s hard to visit with everyone, and time is limited.

And yet I was reminded that I can't forget newer writers and young authors are important too. Once we’re published, it’s all too easy to fall into a trap of pride and think we’re “all that.” Sometimes we can turn up our noses at others, even when we don’t mean to.

What does the tendency toward pride teach us? We can’t forget we were once new, that we were the low person on the totem pole, that not long ago we felt scared and insignificant too. If we remember where we came from, then we’ll be able to reach a hand back with genuine kindness and concern for those who follow.

What about you? Amidst all of the talented writers out there, have you ever felt like you’re getting lost in the crowd? Have you felt like a nobody? What is your advice for those further ahead of you?


Monday 10/3:
I'm on Joan Swan's blog telling who has influenced my writing the most. AND Joan is giving away gorgeous custom made bookmarks!

Monday 10/3:
Beth Vogt is hosting me over at The MBT Ponderers blog and asked me to share what I'm currently pondering!

Monday & Tuesday 10/3-10/4:
I'm visiting Making Home Work blog and sharing more about how I juggle working from home and being a mom.


  1. I often struggle with this feeling. I have to keep reminding myself that I'm in a good place right now. I wonder sometimes if I'm putting myself under too much pressure. I find it hard not to think of my life from here in terms of books written, and the waiting time involved in publishing a book makes me eager to write the next and get that one out there. It's like I'm afraid that if I'm not churning out books I'll be overlooked and forgotten.

  2. Oh yeah, I've definitely felt this. I can't say how many people have "forgotten" I was in a room in the past. My first writer's conference I cried a little because I felt so alone (I was also pregnant, which might've made a difference, lol) Thank goodness for those who reached out to me and invited me to eat with them, or just walk. At this conference I never felt alone and was surprised by how wonderful it was. I tried to make a point to smile at anyone who looked alone and to learn about others. There are some fascinating people out there! When you guys took that pic, I'd just missed it! I was coming out of the bathroom. lol

  3. Great post, Jody. For me the feeling happens most either places like twitter where some writers can be very cliquy and make it a badge of honour they won't follow you back unless you're "of equal status", or doing readings at shows in London, where many of the speakers are part of the highly trendy but very small set that hang out in the capital. Thos of us from out in the provinces can sometimes feel like complete hicks if we're spoken to at all.

    Paul's got proliferation-anxiety absolutely spot on. There are so many people out there who are hugely talented, and many of them are very vociferous in their promotion, and each reader has only so much time, so it really does feel that unless you are one of the top two or three people writing in your genre (and who of us would ever think that of ourselves?) you have to be constantly in the reader's eyeline (and as important that of reviewers and media) or you'll be long forgotten by the time your next work is out

  4. Great reminders, Jody. Focusing on others rather than myself is a great way to not dwell on the insecurities. (And those insecurities hit plenty!) :) I think you set a great example of how to do this well.

  5. Bingo, Dan. That's exactly it. I'm so eager to keep myself out there. The Internet can be a fickle place.

  6. Thanks for such an honest look at what it's like. I've seen your books everywhere and figured you DO have papparazzi camped outside your door.

    I'm still a little fish and hoping someday I may be medium sized. I don't ever want to be one of "those" authors that forgets what it was like way back when.

    Great post.

  7. Hey everyone! Dan and Paul, you're so right about the feeling of urgency to "keep up." The internet has certainly changed the nature of writing and marketing. People are so much more visible in their efforts. We see it all. And so we start to feel if we're not doing what everyone else is doing, we'll be left behind. Maybe that's true, maybe it's not. But it puts pressure on us nevertheless.

  8. I just attended a conference in my field (I write on the side) as a presenter. I was definitely the person unknown. What struck me in the panel I conscripted to participate in was how different my views were. Sometimes being the odd man out is a great affirmation of distinction.

  9. My first RWA National conference I felt compleletely out of my a crazy person for attending on my own. I didn't even have chapter-mates to ease the transition. But then I met a Published Author (Cindi Myers) who asked about *my* books and *my* plans - and she wasn't just asking. She was interested! That really helped me get over the awkwardness and I relaxed enough to talk about her books and that led to a few ther writers joining us. I've found a kind smile works wonders on breaking those barriers down.

  10. What a great photo! I'm an introvert - so walking into a place like the ACFW conference is intimidating for me. But I've found that the other writers there are so friendly and welcoming. I wasn't able to attend this year, but I look forward to next year.

  11. I hope I remain that low guy on the totem pole so I can continue to lift others up.

    Another confession, I long for people to know the names of my characters more than my name. Does that make sense? I hope that's not pride.

    ~ Wendy

  12. Jody, I like your thoughts here. When I was just out of college, I spent several years working in environments with people who were incredibly puffed up and self-important. This was funny, as they really had very little reason to be that way, by most people's standards.

    What it taught me is that none of us has any "reason" to act self-important. And it's good when we have those moments of feeling insignificant, because it keeps us humble. I always tell myself, when I feel that way: "This is the real you, and don't forget it."

    It can be more painful when the people who are supposed to be supporting us in this industry treat us as if we and our books don't matter. Then, it feels like a rejection and in some cases a betrayal of trust. But from I've seen too many vain people not to think I'm going to meet more of them wherever I go, whatever I do!

  13. Hi Jody - thank you for this honest post. At what point do you think a writer should start attending writing conferences? Should they even be a thought before you're ready to start submittiting your work?

  14. Jody, Your post and the comments echo something that I think is true at all levels of all professions.
    When I was practicing medicine, there were times early in my career when I was in a professional group and tried to talk with someone who was looked on as a leader in the field. Sometimes they made me feel like a friend, sometimes they were looking over my shoulder for a "better offer." It happens.
    One of the greatest things about Christian writing conferences is the ability to network and make friends. We look for those with whom we've forged those friendships. And writers who are a step or two above us in the hierarchy have made friends as well, so they're probably looking mainly for them. Most take the time to interact with those of us who haven't made it to that level, but sometimes it doesn't happen. I recognize that and accept it. It makes me determined not to do it if I ever step up to that next level myself.
    Thanks for such an honest sharing.

  15. Just wanted to send a big thank you to Jody for remembering the newbies at conference. Not only does she post helpful information here, but she is just as kind and attentive in person. It was a pleasure meeting you!

  16. HI Jody,
    Your blogs are always so meaningful to me! I sat between you and Kim Vogel Sawyer at lunch one day at the conference and was delighted to be rubbing shoulders with two published authors! On the other hand, I felt left out by the groups of people who were part of a clique because they all had the same, popluar agent, and I don't have one. But I won't give up hope!

  17. I didn't know that so many HOT women attended writer's conferences... Yes, it would be nice to go to try and get noticed by an established agent. But--the women... ;^)

  18. Absolutely fantastic advice! Very needed. Sometimes I do feel so young and unknown and inexperienced, but its all about what each writer wants for themselves and how hard they're willing to work for it, regardless of how they are treated by others. Thanks for the encouragement :)

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  19. I think this goes doubly for those who can't attend's a tough market, always has been, and it's harder now. I will keep writing what and when I can, and if I ever get to go to a conference, great. If not, it's not meant to be.

  20. Beautiful post today, Jody! Thank you.

  21. I hope when I attend my next conference I can learn from those further ahead of me. I often feel like a wallflower in these writing situations. Always nice when someone makes the effort to make you feel welcome:)

  22. Thanks for this post, Jody! This was my first conference, and saying it was overwhelming was huge understatement. I guess I was surprised in an opposite way from you. So many wonderful, well published writers were kind and took time to talk with me. I was amazed!

    I'm still not sure if I'm looking forward to attending another one, though because of how overwhelming I found everything.

  23. Jody, good stuff shared here today, and so much of it I've experienced, too. I think it reaches further than the writing life, though. I think the truth here is really what real life is about as well -- not forgetting where we came from, and that we are always going to be very small when compared to the One who brought us into being. Humility breeds love, acceptance, and other good things, in my opinion. I pray I might never lose sight of my place, even as I realize I'm living my dream. This is still nothing compared to the life that awaits. :)

  24. Jody, this statement made me sad for you, "Unfortunately, I met more experienced authors at the conference who made me feel like a speck of dust. Some were too busy, too disinterested, too caught up in their own importance to have the time for younger authors like me."

    Like Naomi, my experience was the opposite of yours. I was blown away by the kindness of those further along the writing journey than I am. Many multi-published authors took time to talk with me, encourage me, and answer my questions. I think writers are some of the most generous people I've met, especially those I've met through ACFW.

  25. Jody, I could relate to this post. I constantly remind myself to save all of the painful parts of my journey so that a newer writer who might need emotional support can be encouraged.

    A few big name authors have really stood out for me with their humbleness, generosity, and honesty--Lori Foster and Madeline Hunter.

  26. Hi Jody! I'm not a writer, although I love writing. And, even more so, I love reading. I recently discovered you and your book The Preacher's Wife.

    I knew nothing about you or the book when I found it among NookBooks that were available. (I still prefer an actual book to the ways technology can offer us books to read. But, the Nook was given to me as a gift and I was looking for some things to download and read while on a trip).

    All I had to go by was the brief book description I read. But, I was hooked shortly after starting to read. I slowly started to realize too that I was reading Christian fiction.

    As a Christian I'm often disappointed by a lot of Christian fiction. It usually glosses over difficult or messy aspects of the story. And, it usually comes off very fake to me.

    Your story was so different! Your writing conveyed the reality of your characters! And, I loved it!

    I immediately looked you up online to see what else you've written. I found that you have one other published book and one to come.

    Well, I can tell you that you have a new fan. And, let me encourage you to keep writing! We need fresh voices in Christian literature. You are just the type of voice we need.

  27. Nancy Sima asked: At what point do you think a writer should start attending writing conferences? Should they even be a thought before you're ready to start submittiting your work?

    My thoughts: Hi Nancy! I think if you asked a hundred different writers this question, you'd probably get a hundred different answers! But here's what I think. There's no rush. I personally didn't attend my first big writer's conference until I was agented and had a contract. I got along fine before that and wasn't left behind in anyway. They're incredibly expensive and the information you learn in workshops isn't anything you couldn't learn elsewhere (i.e. a fiction how-to book).

    If you're ready to start querying and nearing a publishable writing level, then it might be worth the investment to meet with agents and editors there. I know plenty of writers who got their big "writing break" at a conference as a result of meeting with an editor or agent. But again, I don't think the big conferences are necessary too early in a writer's career. The smaller local ones would probably suffice.

  28. You know, even as a published author, I feel like I get lost. I'm always scrambling to keep up with my book with marketing. It's crazy! I know that isn't the kind of lost you're referring to. But I still look at other authors and sometimes I wonder why they will endorse other books, but not mine?

    I think it's never-ending, this comparing stuff. But one thing is for sure, it's damaging to a person to compare because we are all beautiful notes that belong to a HUGE symphony--not one is better than the other. <3

    Please join my Darskpell Launch Spookfesta October 31st!

  29. Well, let me tell you, if I had been at conference I would've been screaming your name the instant I saw you and smothering you in hugs and maybe even throwing glitter over your head because - yeah - your books are amazing as are you! In fact, I'm making sure you're a well known name in my church, yes I am.

    Of course, you're probably glad I didn't come now, I sound a bit like a crazed fan.

  30. I was at the conference, and I did practically scream your name. Jodie, as one of those still low on the totem pole, you made me feel comfortable. Thanks!

    I love writer's conferences. Each year I learn so much about the craft and make wonderful connection. But some years, like this one, I come home feeling like a bit of a hack. I want to be further along than I am, and I wonder what I'm doing wrong. The true is, I'm right were God wants me to be. I know He knows the best timing for my writing career but it's still hard to be in the waiting.

    Thanks for the wonderful post.

  31. I had a major case of this at my last writing conference. It wasn't so much that I felt I was a nobody, but people were pulling out their English degrees right left and center and I was feeling like me and my puny little science degree didn't belong in the room. No one was doing it on purpose, but it was definitely the result for me. But I had to look at it the same way - I don't have a degree in English lit, so there are some technical things that I still need to learn as part of my journey. And that's okay. It's all part of the process of moving from a newbie to an experienced writer.

  32. I am a nobody, and I'll honestly admit that. Not published. Engineering degree. Slow at writing. Making the standard beginning mistakes.

    Well, at least I thought I was. I started going to cons for the first time this year, and, well, a mid-list and best selling author both came up to me and told me they wished they could have talked to me more. I guess I asked a lot of good questions in the various panels I'd gone to. I'm not exactly a wallflower.

    That floored me. Then, a few cons later, people I'd not even met started using my name. Stuff like "to answer Roxanne's question" or "I agree with what Roxanne said."

    I also tend not to 'fangirl.' I suspect that puts one in the 'generic fan' category instead of the 'an interesting person' category. And I also talk about things other than writing.

  33. Thanks Jody for writing back, I appreciate the advice!!

  34. When I do get noticed, it's usually for the wrong reasons. ;) I've always been an outsider.

  35. I so understand where you're coming from. In my own local writers' group, most of the people don't even realize I have a pretty big blog because they're not into the blogging thing.

    Then I have the opposite experience at other times when I go to a conference and random people come up to me and are like--"Are you Roni? I love your blog!" And I want to look behind me, like--wait, you know ME? Lol. It's an odd feeling. Awesome, but odd.

    But I think in the writer community especially, there are very few "celebrities." I've gone to RWA Nationals twice and have managed to sit next to people at dinners and such only to realize later that they were BIG DEAL authors, who I had a never heard of.

    So I think it's always good to remind ourselves when we start thinking "I'm kind of a big deal" that we aren't, lol.

  36. Thanks Jody, this post (and the comments) have been helpful. I especially appreciate your advice to Nancy Sima about when to attend a writer's conference, as I had always wondered the same thing.

  37. Great post Jody. We're all relatively well known in certain circles but in-truth we're but a small fish in a much larger pond. I'm more startled when a random person does recognize me than that they don't. Writers are relatively unknown even JK Rowling isn't widely recognized in person. It's a case of your work and name speak more than you. Not necessarily a bad thing ;-)

  38. Huge congratulations on the new three book deal! That's amazing.

    I always feel this way at conferences. I've only been to a couple of local one day events, but even still, it's a weird feeling. But you make excellent points about keeping it all in perspective.

  39. LOVED this post. Your points are excellent. May God grant us the ability to champion each other and each other's work, praying all the words that go out serve His purposes in the hearts of readers!

    I hate that invisible, "left behind" feeling in the big circle of writers, but (after a brief wallow in self-pity) it always brings me back around again to review whether I am right where God wants me at the moment. If I am, there's no better place to be. Maybe I've gotten away from the vision for the current work that's been given to me and that's what has allowed the "nobody" feeling in. "Without a vision, the people perish."

  40. My antidote to invisibility: Stay at the top of the food chain. If I'm not presenting, I volunteer. People quickly seek out those "in the know." In addition to name recognition, you've played an essential role: if we stop offering to lend a hand to those struggling along behind us, the arts world will stop spinning and we'll all go flying off.

  41. Funny you blogged about this and I'm just reading this AFTER I posted a similar thought on m blog. I used the SAME word! Insignificant! Funny how we probably all feel that from time to time!


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