I just ran into a neighbor/aspiring writer in the supermarket and our conversation left me shaken. No, that's not quite it. Flummoxed is a better word (and one that I've never actually written before).
He's an aspiring writer—quit his job to write full time. He's been doing this for a couple of years and seems to have found some success as a freelancer, which is great. But no matter what I said, he knew more. More about publishing, marketing, freelance, books . . . the list goes on. Even though I've had books published and have worked in publishing for years, I was consistently not in the know.
And that was the ego blow. This guy was talking to me like I was an enthusiastic high school senior looking to move to the big city. While I wouldn't go as far as to say he was condescending, he was completely disinterested in anything I had to say. The more ambivalent he was, the more I felt I had to prove myself. I've written 10 books. I design for publishers. I worked in the promotional department for a major publisher. I have an agent. I've put proposals out there. I've been paid for my work. All were met with something he had to say that proved me wrong.
I got more and more insecure, asking about his writing teachers/writing groups, convincing myself that I've been doing everything wrong and if only I was doing what he was, I'd actually be successful. But, once I escaped the vortex and got back to my living room with my milk and bananas, I came back to my senses. It's not me, it's him. If he needs to be the expert, ok. I just don't have to have that conversation again.