‘No, you are riddled with self-doubt! I am fully confident in my abilities and I know I am a great writer and everything I type is flecked with gold…’
Said no writer ever!
Oh yes, today I am going to explore the naturally occurring phenomenon that ALL writers suffer from, from noob to seasoned pro. And if you don’t, you should start question if you are, in fact a real writer! *Jokes*
Also, if you don’t suffer from Imposter Syndrome, please pass me a bottle, nae a barrel, of what you’re drinking!
So what is it? I found this definition via my good pal, Google:
Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments or talents and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.
Worth quickly checking out this great video (and if you don’t spend at least 12 hours a week watching TED videos, you’re not doing life right!):
Imposter Syndrome is the absolute scourge of a writers life. It’s like a fast-replicating virus, and once it gets into your psyche, even just a microscope degree, even a quark-worth, it grows so fast you go from Hero to Zero in a flash!
You go from believing that you CAN do this, that your work does have WORTH, that the story has VALUE and that kids will READ it…
The pits of self-doubt, the crack of self-loathing, to the abyss of anxiety and fear and worry.
This is NOT a cool place to be. Yet, as writers, we spend so much time here, starting up and out of the pit, the crack or the abyss, at others who we perceive to be above us, who we think have never spent a second of time down here with you…well I have news…
Even your favourite, and most ridiculously talented author, who you believe has never written a single bad sentence in her life, has been there.
If only we could switch it off, if Imposter Syndrome did not exist, then we’d all produce our work, be proud of it, get a publishing deal and win awards and with every fibre of our being, we’d believe we deserved it. We’d think that we were worth all that had been awarded, all the praise and good reviews.
So why don’t we?
What is the psychological, or evolutionary advantage to this?
Because as humans, as people, we don’t have something as common as this within our species, unless it also helps us in some way.
And as writers, Imposter Syndrome can help us, too.
Imagine you are Philip Pullman, or Malorie Blackman, and you’ve achieved so much success, received so much universal praise for your work. If you began to believe it all, to never doubt yourself, then what would happen. How would that affect your writing and your process?
There’s an argument to say it would help it, that doubt stops us more than it helps us. That more work would be complete and in a faster time frame.
But there’s also an argument that it would stop that nagging inner-doubt which sometimes is a good thing. It stops us believing we are already good enough, that we are at a level of competence that we desire, that we need not continue to grow and develop. That the standard of our work is great and doesn’t need improving.
And that would be a sad day, for any writer, at any stage. The day we stop growing, we stop questioning our ability and we stop searching for ways to elevate our craft, is the day that we suffer from something much worse than Imposter Syndrome.
We fail to develop, to learn and to become better writers.
Imposter Syndrome is horrible, it is uncomfortable and it rears an ugly head within our own psyche. But it’s worth remembering that maybe there’s some good to it.
And like any good tale, worth telling, there are always two sides to every story.