Believing Your Own Hype

Today I got selected as one of the first Amtrak residents. The original pool was narrowed down from sixteen thousand to just over one hundred, and then again to twenty four. This event makes it increasingly difficult to push away the idea that I might actually be a good writer.

I was flattered, but not all that surprised, to find that I was one of the semifinalists. It was easy to believe that most applicants weren’t even writers, and that the hook of me being a Time Magazine top blogger was enough to make it to the next round.

Looking at some of the others in the pool, though, I couldn’t help but be proud of the company I was in. Besides little old self-published me were highly distributed published authors and columnists for major magazines. Even a lot of the people disappointed they weren’t chosen were really impressive.

Time Magazine chose me as one of the best bloggers. Amtrak chose me as one of the best writers. Derek Sivers, whose book list I look to for inspiration, emailed me to tell me that he loved my book and was going to publish a good review of it on his list.

So maybe I’m a good writer. I don’t feel like an imposter in most fields I’m skilled in, but for some reason I do feel that way with writing. Maybe it’s the strange cachet of being a writer.

As I thought about what I’d write on the residency, I thought about the novel I started. Immediately I discount it, thinking that it’s not a real novel, it’s just a bunch of pages I’ve written. Maybe the plot is too thin. Maybe there aren’t enough characters. Maybe I don’t really know what I’m doing.

Or maybe that’s just what it’s like before you write your first good novel. Maybe most are filled with doubt because they know they’re imperfect and can’t reconcile that with the praise they get. And if that’s true, maybe believing your own hype has some value. Maybe that’s how you get motivated to do good creative work.


Very excited to be part of the Amtrak Residency! I think it’s a really cool and forward thinking program.

As this posts, our ship is pulling into Tokyo Bay. The two plus weeks of the cruise flew by– I can’t believe it’s almost over. Already thinking about the next one.

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