By David E. Sharp
I recently served on a panel for the Greeley Creative District with several other “area creatives” gifted in art, music, writing, and various other ventures. The topic centered around a familiar issue: Imposter Syndrome. What is it? How do we cope? And when have we accomplished enough that we can stop worrying about it?
Imposter Syndrome is that feeling of ineptitude in the back of our minds. Feeling the anxious doubt that someone will walk up to us at any moment, ask us why we ever thought we could amount to anything in a creative field. Informing us that we’ve only had any success because of a lucky fluke, tell us we’re frauds, and leave us to our newly shattered dreams. And perhaps even more terrifying is the fear we hold that such a person would be right to tell us so.
Is this a familiar feeling for you? If not, you may be looking for a different blog post on the topic of living with narcissism. That’s on another site. For the rest of us, insecurities regarding our right to call ourselves writers are common.
Good news! You are not alone.
1. Imposter Syndrome Affects Writers at Every Level
Maya Angelou was quoted saying that after writing eleven books, she still felt like someone would find her out. Neil Gaiman has spoken numerous times about feeling like his success has all somehow been a big mistake. He tells a story of being invited to an event where he met Neil Armstrong and felt entirely out of his depth.
The astronaut also felt out of his depth. Armstrong didn’t feel remarkable being surrounded by such creative people. Armstrong told him, “All I ever did was go where I was told.” Never mind, the place he went to was the moon.
Is this comforting? Perhaps not. If anything, it tells us that even wild success may not be enough to shake a sense that you have no business putting your ideas to the pen. However, it also tells us we can stop waiting for success to say to us when we call ourselves writers. And that is freeing.
2. Define Yourself by What You Do
A writer, by definition, is a person who writes. If you have aspirations to be one, you have a single task ahead of you. Start stringing words together. Make a habit of it. The quality of the writing, whether or not you get paid for it, or how well other people respond to it are secondary qualities at best. Even terrible writers are still writers. If you are a terrible writer, keep writing. There is no method for improving that does not involve continuing to use them.
If you spend your time writing, it will become less important what people think you should be called. You are doing the work, and that speaks for itself.
3. You Are on a Journey of Constant Improvement
If you are waiting for a moment when you will have arrived, it will never come. Once you top one hill, you’ll find new ones to climb. Your goals will advance with you. And that’s good! It indicates growth. Keep making manageable goals and keep achieving them. But the next significant achievement won’t make you any more of a writer than the last one did. You crossed that line some time ago.
Be satisfied that you are a better writer today than you were a year ago. Look forward to a year from now when you will be a better writer still. And enjoy the moment you find yourself in now. In the future, you might just look back on these days with nostalgia.