I am waiting to get found out for being a fraud. Thinking about it, I’ve had this feeling my whole life. It’s not a major downer or anything, just that whatever I’ve done, I’ve always had a niggling wee feeling that plenty of other people can do and are doing it better somewhere else, and I don’t really know what the hell I’m talking about.
When I was studying physics, I kept waiting for someone to realise I didn’t have a proper grasp of the subject.
When I was designing radars, I couldn’t believe people were taking my word for it and trusting my work.
When I play drums, I pictured Neil Peart shaking his head. When I play guitar, J Mascis is weeping. When I sing – Jesus, don’t even go there. When I write a song, Mark Linkous is turning in his grave.
When I started as a music journalist, there were always folk out there better at writing, with a broader and deeper knowledge of bands and music scenes.
Same when I began reviewing books and interviewing authors. Who cared what I thought, eh?
And I still feel the same today, the day my fifth novel is out. There are vastly superior writers and books out there – in a world with Cormac McCarthy and Willy Vlautin and Megan Abbott and David Gates and Sara Gran and William McIlvanney and all the rest, who the hell needs me to write another stupid book?
And yet, I keep writing them. Strange, huh?
I kind of realise now, at the age of 42, that this feeling isn’t ever going to go away. In fact, it’s quite healthy and useful – it helps drive me on to do better next time, to try to improve at whatever I do. What’s that thing about ‘fail, but fail better’? That.
Ian Rankin has an Iris Murdoch quote on his wall: ‘Every book is the wreck of a perfect idea.’ I like that, like it a lot.
Come and help me launch my latest wreck tonight, at Blackwell’s in Edinburgh, 6.30pm.