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My Two Cents on Imposter Syndrome

Hello there my lovelies!!! It’s Sunday, and while I know it’s been a couple weeks since my last post, it shouldn’t be a complete shock given my last post was about taking a break. 😂😂😂 Anyway, today I’m giving you my two cents on Imposter Syndrome. 

As is becoming a pattern, I’ll give you a definition. Imposter syndrome is defined by Harvard Business Review as “a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. ‘Imposters' suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that overrides any feelings of success or external proof of their success.”

So if you’re a writer, or as so eloquently pointed out by HBR, it can happen to any specialty, you’ve probably felt this. And the “imposter” feelings can come at any stage of your writing journey. The definition above makes it seem like you have to have some kind of measurable, recognized, ‘success’ but I’m here to tell you, this ‘success’ can simply be the fact that you’ve written. Anything. 

Here’s the thing, when you start writing, your work isn’t going to be as good as it will be after you’ve been writing for a year, or ten years. And I’m not talking about ‘I’ve always written for fun,’ or ‘I used to write twenty years ago in college but I’ve never shared that work with anyone,' because while that's valid for filling your creative cup, it doesn’t really count toward making you a 'better' writer or development of your craft. If you want to measure your progress as a writer you have to compare it to your end goal. 

Here’s what I mean. If your end goal is to complete a full manuscript but you don’t care if it ever gets published, or if it’s ever ‘good’ by the standards of the consumers or creators of your genre, then success is achieved when you complete said manuscript. That’s it. And that is a reasonable goal. Not everyone wants to be recognized for their work, or cares if anyone else likes it and that’s perfectly acceptable. Don’t let society or the writing community convince you it isn’t valid.

But here’s a caveat. If you’re not putting your work out there because you’re feeling imposter syndrome before it even leaves you, then that’s where you need development. Fear is an intelligent response, but it isn’t the same as your goal being to ‘just’ finish the manuscript. Let’s face it, your first attempt will never be your best. The longer you write, the more research you do, the more practice you have at taking and giving critiques, the more developed your writing will be. So even if you’ve been writing for ten years, if you’ve never shown it to anyone else, or you’ve never tried to fit your work into a category or compare it against another standard, it won't be 'good' to you and can easily convince you you're an imposter. Your first draft of the first manuscrispt you write won't be comparable to books that already out there in the market. And it's not reasonable to assume it will.

And if you’re suffering imposter syndrome before your work ever leaves the nest, my suggestion is to find someone who knows the genre, who you trust will tell you the truth and who will do the least damage to your ego when they give you their opinion. A family member, a friend, a spouse, whatever. Even if their opinion isn’t ‘expert’ (as in they’re not a writer). Trust me that just hearing someone say “it seems like a book I could’ve bought” feels good, and at least you know you’ve included enough rough writing elements that a reader enjoyed it. Again, if that satisfies you, that’s all you need, good for you, you’re done! 

BUT if someone saying they liked it, does what it for most people, which was to encourage them that maybe they do want to put their work into the world, then that’s where the next step comes in. If your ultimate goal is to get your manuscript published, or even widely appreciated by people who enjoy your genre, then you can’t keep it to yourself.

I’m not saying that you aren’t successful AT ALL until you achieve the “publishing” goal, but I am saying you’re not 100% successful until you have a manuscript that could achieve that goal. So not a first draft or finished manuscript, but a fully edited, flushed out manuscript that takes into account the mechanics of the genre. If you’re romance, it has a happy ending, if you’re mystery you’ve solved a problem, if you’re fantasy you have some creatures. Whatever your genre is, you’ve flushed those things out. Plus you have edited it for length, you’ve probably beta tested and implemented some of those suggestions and you know your manuscript could be a book. 

I took a detour, but the point was, one way to help curb feeling like you’re an imposter, is before you start toward a writing goal, clearly define what you want to achieve. It’s smart to set small goals that change over time, like steps. But hold on to the first goals that you have achieved, remember there are a lot of people who never finish a manuscript, and even more that never try. 

Ok, let’s get back on track. You’ve finished your manuscript, you feel like it could be a book, so here is where the crippling self doubt comes into play for most people. The next step in doing something with that book is querying it, or hitting self publish. Either of these options is likely going to make you feel like an imposter at some part of the journey.

If you are querying, unless you have the last new idea, you’re probably going to hear “no.” A LOT. And in a hundred different ways, but it boils down to “no”  just the same. And it will likely be a huge blow to your ego. Imposter syndrome basically boils down to the fear of being told "no." Because face it, “No” is a word we've been terrified of since childhood. That’s why we start lying and sneaking around, because we’re afraid to ask for fear of being told “no.” No matter how many times someone says “the worst they can say is no” it still doesn’t soften the blow when “no” is the actual answer. And no matter what the situation, it can sting so much that you regret your decision to even ask the question, right?

So imagine that you’re asking for someone to like the thing you just spent years writing, editing, rewriting, editing again, etc. If they say no it can be gut wrenching. And querying writers do it over and over and over. And 95-98% of the time the answer is “no.” 

But “no”s aren't exclusive to querying writers. They happen for self-published authors, so if you’re thinking you’re going to avoid imposter syndrome by not querying I have other news for you. "No"s happen just as often for self-published authors. “No”s happen when readers leave a bad review. “No”s happen when people don’t buy your book. “No”s happen when another writer comes along with basically the same plot as you and their book makes the best sellers list while yours languish in the bargain bins or the $0.99 section of Kindle.

Plus, even if your first book does well, what about the next one? Or the one after that? 

The point is, at whatever level of ‘success’ you’ve achieved—and as I’ve pointed out, success is subject to your definition—you’re going to have doubts. You’re going to feel like an imposter, you’re going to wonder (either silently or to someone else) why did I decide to do this? Is it a fluke? Did I just ‘think’ it was good or is it actually good? And the answer to all those questions is ‘imposter syndrome.’

Is it possible your manuscript is actually bad? Maybe. But is it far more likely that you’re just doubting it because you’re too close? Definitely. Could you be feeling these things because you set the wrong goal for yourself? Maybe. Maybe being published doesn’t mean as much as you thought it did. Or did you set the right goal and you just need someone to help push you past these feelings? That’s more likely. 

I don’t think it matters what your profession is—teacher, doctor, lawyer, accountant, analyst, or even stay at home parent—unless you have a god complex of some sort, you’re likely going to wonder if you're enough for your job. If you're doing enough, if you’re good enough, smart enough. This crippling fear is what makes us human, and it’s perfectly normal. But what also makes us human is the strength to persevere and push through those feelings. Nothing worth having was ever achieved without some stumbles along the way. 

So when you start having those feelings of self-doubt and self-sabotage, the key is to push through. Which is a hard thing to do alone. So find a network of people who are in your boat and cling to them (not the way Rose did to that door, like we all said she should--share the door). 

Haha! Anyway, my point it’s, find your people. Other writers know what you’re going through and we’re a loyal breed. In the day in age of social media, finding groups is fairly easy, but if you still haven’t found people, check out #writingcommunity on Twitter or Instagram. Search “writing groups” on Facebook and #booktok or #writingcommunity on TikTok. If you do, you’ll see the hundreds of posts that should let you know you’re not alone, and hopefully one of them will give you the encouragement you need to keep at it.

So that’s it folks, that’s my two cents on imposter syndrome. If you haven’t had it yet, you’re likely getting there (or you’re there and you don’t even know it). So if you need a break, take it. Then pick yourself up, dust yourself off and chase those goals. 

Thanks for reading and have a great week!


-Rose Rayne Rivers

Have you ever felt Imposter Syndrome? Comment below and tell me about it. Also, let me know if you have any topics you want me to cover in the upcoming weeks!

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