The Imposter Syndrome. Simply put, the Imposter Syndrome is where one feels as if they don’t belong in their field regardless of level of success. Lately I’ve seen more articles pop up about it. Most of these articles discuss it in general terms and relate how many people in a variety of fields feel it. However the first time I heard the term was a few months ago at a writing panel I attend at ConCarolinas.
For writers it means no matter how many stories or books you’ve published, no matter if you’ve won or been nominated for awards, no matter how many best sellers you have, you still feel like an imposter. At any moment you’ll be exposed as a fraud. The source of this has no basis in the real world or truth. Instead it’s those dreaded gremlins, evil little bastards they are, who whisper or yell negative thoughts into your ear and infect your brain with crap. You are not a fraud and no one is waiting to expose you as such.
Unfortunately we all suffer from them and the cure can feel elusive. Personally while I’m nowhere near the level of success I ultimately want, I still suffer from the Imposter Syndrome. I thought a lot of what I felt was just me being my anxiety prone self, but it’s not. It wasn’t until I attended a panel that I realized it is pretty much a chronic condition. To listen to authors both established and newer in their careers discuss doubts and fears which I have still plague them was eye-opening. At first I found this rather disheartening. After all shouldn’t it get easier as one progresses in their career?
Apparently not. Anything can happen in the publishing business. After a few successful books a writer could be dropped by their publisher. Or the author chooses to leave for whatever reason. Your publisher could fold. An agent drops you. Or you drop your agent. That snazzy, awesome movie/TV rights deal falls through. Your next books tanks and is ripped apart by critics and fans alike. You run into that dreaded writer’s block.
So how does one deal with the Imposter Syndrome? What I learned is that each writer needs to somehow figure out a way to soldier on. To me it seems The Imposter Syndrome and the self-doubt we all have are one in the same. Figure out how to squelch negative self-talk and maybe you can stop The Imposter Syndrome from ever popping up.
Recently I’ve made more of an effort to combat negative thoughts. To do this I’ve written down some of the more common phrases I tell myself and have readymade positive responses. For example, when I tell myself “What if I never get a novel published?” my response is “The industry is always changing. What works or is popular now will not always be the case. There are all kinds of options for authors.” Another example is the standard “My ideas suck.” The response, “No, they don’t. They are still better than some of the dreck I’ve read. All writers think this. No need to give up.” I’ve written these and others down and placed them in spots I frequently stare at.
In the end, the Imposter Syndrome is real. It can be crippling, but only if we allow it. It will always be there no matter what because we humans tend to fall back into comfortable patterns when things get rough. The great news is there are plenty of ways to combat it. Probably the best way to combat it is to first give ourselves permission to feel it, but then to work on shaking it off. Also, admitting and discussing it with our writer friends, non-writer friends, and family so that they can show support and give us a pep talk. Lastly, concentrate on celebrating your successes, no matter how small or insignificant you believe they are, they aren’t and are one step closer to reaching a goal.