Monday 10 December 2018

Imposter Syndrome - The Creative Process


As someone who's been writing a number of years, has been published for a while too, I wanted to do a piece on imposter syndrome. Because I wanted to make it clear that it happens to everyone. It's not limited to writers either, though of course that will be what I focus on today. In case you've not heard of it, imposter syndrome is that feeling that you're faking it. That everyone around you is a professional and you do not belong. That people are gonna eventually find you out and expose you for what you are. It's common in writers and other creative pursuits, but it happens outside of that too.

So what can you do about it? I wanted to give you some tips to work through it. I've personally had trouble with it for the majority of my writing life, and even before that. It's part of writing life and I think the majority of writers and authors would admit to having it happen at some point in their career. It doesn't make you weird, it's just part of being creative.

One of the big things with imposter syndrome is that you're only in the position you are because of a mistake, whether that's a mistake made by readers, or an agent or publisher. Or even your own mistakes at thinking you could do this. The best thing you can do when hit with this kind of feeling is reach out to the people you trust and talk to them. This means fact checking. Did you land that agent by luck? Probably not. Do your readers love you work by some misconception, or is there more to it? Whoever it is you go to and whoever it is that you talk to, I guarantee they will be able to point out solid facts that will help bring you out of that cycle.

If you've fact checked, it might be a good idea to keep some kind of record of the good things people have said. I personally have a random good things folder on my computer that contains screen shots of nice reviews, of letters I've been sent, of fan reactions. I keep it so that when I'm having a moment of imposter syndrome, I'm able to remind myself of what people are saying. These are people who I don't know who have sent me random praise. And it helps so much! It can be the thing to lift you up when you have a bad writing day or even just when you feel like patting yourself on the back - which y'know, is okay to do!

This ties in to both points one and two, in that you'll need facts from friends and colleagues, but you'll also possibly need to do some digging for your own random praise. If you look back at where you started and look at where you are now this can be a big help with imposter syndrome. Because it reminds you that you didn't get here by accident, you worked hard and managed all your achievements because of that work. It can be a nice way to ground yourself and kick that gremlin and imposter syndrome to the kerb.

It can be an isolating journey being a writer. A lot of what we do can be done behind closed doors and in solitude. Some writers thrive better in that environment, but having said that, remember that you are not alone. This isn't some gigantic mistake that happened to you and put you where you are today. You did the hard work and you put in the words, the hours, the struggle of the journey. So give yourself a break, breathe and just remember that you're not alone and you will get there.

Imposter syndrome can be something that pulls you down, and it's never nice to feel like you don't belong. For a long time I didn't have a group of writers that I felt like I could go to with this kind of stuff. It's only been in the last 12 months that I've had that and I can't advocate enough for making the time to connect and find that group for yourself. You are working hard and you deserve to be here. Remind yourself of that and keep writing. Good Luck!

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