Many of us suffer from the feeling that we’re about to be found out. If someone digs a little deeper, they will discover that I’m not what I pretend to be. That I’m not as smart, talented, or praiseworthy as they think. It’s not only creative people who feel this way, though I suspect that creatives feel it more intensely.
It’s called Impostor Syndrome, and it is a very real thing. Carl Richards, an artist, gives a little background on it in his article “Learning to Deal With the Impostor Syndrome.”
Richards says that just being able to name this feeling is the first step to dealing with it. The next is knowing you’re not alone.
That’s one of the reasons I wanted to write this article. Coming off of Realm Makers and preparing for the Florida Writers Conference in October, I’m still dealing with the feelings a lot of writers have around this issue.
We’re afraid to pitch because we feel as if we don’t know what we’re doing.
When we get a request for proposal, we’re afraid it won’t be what the editor expects.
When we get a request for a full manuscript, we’re afraid it won’t measure up against others.
We’re afraid someone will discover we’re impostors.
We’ve tried to fake it until we make it, but then even when you make it, you still feel like you are faking.
I often hear editors and agents say that a large percentage of the people they request pages from never submit them. Why? Impostor Syndrome. The writers are afraid that the editor or agent will discover they’re faking it.
There are any of a number of things that may be at the root of Impostor Syndrome. Insecurity, fear, a sense of inferiority…who knows what all else.
Whatever it is for you, Richards identifies the need to understand your reasoning as the third step to overcoming Impostor Syndrome.
Let’s say that fear of failure is at the root of your Impostor Syndrome. OK, that’s actually mine. I know that I must push through my fear and submit anyway. Maybe the editor will decide I’m not ready and will reject me. Then what? I eat it for breakfast, as Avily would say, and try again.
That’s what the writing business is all about. As Richards notes in his article, the last step to dealing with Impostor Syndrome is to accept that it’s part of us, and work around it.
What we must resist is believing the lie that we’re not good enough. In an episode of Writing Excuses about this topic, Dan Wells said Impostor Syndrome “can also make you kind of self-select your way out of a lot of opportunities, because you think ‘Well, I don’t deserve to be a panelist there,’ or ‘I don’t deserve to be a guest at this thing.’ Sure you do. Of course you do. You’re awesome.”
Listen to this episode of Writing Excuses for more suggestions on overcoming Impostor Syndrome. By the way, this is the best writing podcast ever and you all should be subscribing to it anyway.
There is a chance that we think we’re ready for publication before we really are. In the above-referenced podcast, Brandon Sanderson confessed to that one. It seems to me that the newest writers are more likely to fall into false confidence, while experienced writers—the ones who’ve eaten their fill of rejection—are more likely to fall into Impostor Syndrome. I know when I was young I thought I was the best writer ever. A few rejections knocked some sense into me. Maybe once you’ve made the circuit a few times you’ve compared yourself to more people. And comparison is a great instigator of Impostor Syndrome.
Do you ever wrestle with Impostor Syndrome? How do you cope with it?