Battling Imposter Syndrome

Thanks to all of you who are still here after my little hiatus. A friend of the family passed away, one of my nephews graduated high school, and my husband and I took our boys to the beach for a few days. My time away was jampacked with both joy and sorrow, but it was good. And now I’m ready to get back to my routine.

I intended to spend some of my vacation time writing. I like to write, so it doesn’t feel like work. But I didn’t get nearly as much done as I hoped. Part of it is because two kids under five at the beach are wonderfully exhausting. But part of it is because I felt like I shouldn’t.

Guilt wasn’t what kept me from my keyboard. After all, I saved writing time for after the kids were asleep, so it’s not like they were missing out on time with me. No, it was something far more difficult to conquer. Imposter Syndrome.

Every writer encounters it eventually. That voice in the back of your head that whispers–or yells–you’re not a real writer. You’re a hack with delusions of grandeur. You’re wasting your time. Give up. Give it a rest. Nobody wants to read your dumpster fire anyway. Throw it all in the trash.

focus photo of yellow paper near trash can
Photo by Steve Johnson on

That voice is powerful. It can be hard to ignore. But you have to. Because if you listen to that voice for even a few days, it’ll get to you. It got to me. Oh boy, did it ever. But just when I was about ready to throw in the towel, something pulled me back. Before I left for vacation, I gave some pages to a CP of mine and just at the right moment, I got her feedback. It wasn’t glowing. On the contrary, she had numerous comments and questions. But suddenly, I was excited to work on my project again.

Seeing my work through someone else’s eyes helped tremendously. It’s not hopeless. I’m not a hack. My work was (and still is) unrefined. Now that I know where the problems are, I can fix them and make it better. And editing is an important part of the writing process. I’m a writer. For better or worse.

This isn’t the first time imposter syndrome has reared its ugly head to me. And each time, I’ve dealt with it in different ways. Everyone copes differently, but I’ll share a few of my more successful tricks in hopes that perhaps it will help one of you.

  1.  Writer Twitter. More than just a great way to procrastinate, this is a great place to see that I am not alone. I see at least one post about imposter syndrome every day. They may not call it that, but the sentiment is the same. Sometimes it is enough to know that I’m not alone in what I’m feeling.
  2. Critiques. As I mentioned before, sometimes just knowing where the problem is can be a big help. I can stare at my work so long that I go word blind. I want this scene or this chapter to work and can’t figure out why it doesn’t. Fresh eyes help. Then I can attack the issue. Also, if I’m the one doing the critiquing, it can help too. It makes me feel like I have something to offer the writing world, even if it’s just a few comments here and there to improve someone else’s work. It reminds me how far I’ve come as a writer already.
  3. Reading. A writer needs to read. Reading can give great inspiration, it can be an escape, and it can serve as a reminder that your manuscript doesn’t have to be flawless. I’m not saying you should skip editing. But if there is a typo on page 79 that a well-known author, her editor, her agent, and her publisher all missed and the book still sold, just knowing that can take a little pressure off. Breathe. I can do this.
  4. Write something else. I’m going to let you in on a secret. Part of the reason I like writing this blog is that I get to switch gears and step away from my fiction projects. A quick post that doesn’t take weeks or months to write gives me a small sense of accomplishment. I started something and finished it. Now I can go back to my long-term project without feeling like I haven’t completed anything.
  5. Listen to a podcast or read a crafting blog. Sometimes the advice I see or hear on my favorite sites can remind me that other people need help too. I get excited because if a whole podcast, or series of podcasts, addresses an issue then I can’t be the only one struggling with it. And then I’m excited to try out the advice offered to see if it helps me.

Are there any ways that you battle imposter syndrome? I’d love to hear them. Maybe I’ll add it to my bag of tricks for the next time that little voice comes calling.


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