So, moment of truth here – I’ve lost sleep over what I should write for this blog post. I have an enormous case of impostor syndrome. If you don’t know what that is, I’ll let Neil Gaiman explain:
“The first problem of any kind of even limited success is the unshakable conviction that you are getting away with something, and that any moment now they will discover you. It’s Impostor Syndrome, something my wife Amanda christened the Fraud Police.” – Neil Gaiman
As a writer, I often worry about whether my stories contain a solid plot, my characters possess a strong enough arc, or if my world-building will seem “real” to a reader. If I get a bad review, I hold it up as proof that my story wasn’t good enough and I’m a terrible writer. Even more troubling, if I win an award, I question the judging process or wonder if someone made a mistake, and how long it will take for them to realize that error. But since I’ve begun writing professionally and by extension, suffering from impostor syndrome, I’ve discovered a few ways to combat it.
- Talk About It. One of the best ways to address impostor syndrome is simply to talk about it. I remember what a revelation it was to sit in on a workshop headed by Jayne Ann Krentz and Susan Elizabeth Phillips, two mega-stars of the romance genre. When they took questions from the audience, one brave writer asked them, “When do you know your book is good enough? When do you feel like you are a good writer?” They asked if anyone else in the room ever felt that way. All the hands in the room went up including Jayne’s and Susan’s. They told her that you write the best book you can despite those feelings. Talking to other writers about your fears will show you that you are not alone.
- Keep a Sunshine File. Another thing I adopted to combat imposter syndrome is a “sunshine file”. Any time I get a good review or an email from a fan, I have a special folder those messages go into. When I’m having a gray day, they let enough sunshine in that I can continue writing.
- Educate Yourself. If you feel you’re lacking in a certain area, take a class. The Romance Writers of America has many chapters and most offer educational activities not just to members but to the public. Also check out Savvy Authors. There’s some great classes there as well. Another favorite is the All Writer Workshops. So many places offer workshops and classes for less than $40.
- Write Anyway. Above all, write your book. Your book deserves to be out there, on the shelf beside all the other books. It won’t be the perfect book that appeals to all readers because that book doesn’t exist. There’s a reader waiting patiently to read the exact words you’re going to write. Your book might change their life. Let go of your doubts and trust that your book will find its home.
The one thing you cannot do is let impostor syndrome limit you. Don’t let it keep you from trying something new. Don’t let it paralyze you or keep you a prisoner in what’s comfortable and safe. If you do that, you’ll never know what you might be capable of.