It takes a lot of confidence to be a writer. You have to be your biggest cheerleader, believe in your writing when no one else does and fight like hell to get yourself opportunities to show your work and get your writing read.
That’s all great, but it’s impossible to be confident all the time. Even before you start dealing with submissions, rejections and negative feedback from readers, the first obstacle a writer has to deal with is their self-doubt, often in the form of imposter syndrome.
Imposter syndrome is a persistent feeling of self-doubt that stems from a fear of being exposed as a fraud. For writers, this often takes the form of fears about not having original ideas, not being good enough to be published or not writing stories that anyone wants to read. These fears and doubts can lead to writer’s block and can prevent people from pursuing writing opportunities, or worse, from writing at all.
I wish I could provide an easy fix for all you writers who struggle with imposter syndrome, but the truth is, I do too. And honestly, it sucks. It can paralyze you, steal all the enthusiasm you have for a project and make you second guess your skills and your talent. For me, imposter syndrome has tanked my productivity, made me give up on projects I loved out of fear they wouldn’t be well-received and held me back from pursuing opportunities to have my writing read because of the fear that I wasn’t good enough.
As I said, I can’t provide an easy fix, but I can give some suggestions for how I have been coping with imposter syndrome in my own life. Below you’ll find a list of thoughts you might experience while dealing with imposter syndrome as a writer, and some information and changes in perspective that might help.
“My idea isn’t original, it’s been done a hundred times before.”
Guess what. No ideas are original. None. Everything’s been done before.
That might sound harsh, but it’s actually super freeing. Once you understand that everything has been done before, that even the major pieces of writing that you’ve idolized your whole life are not the first time those stories have been told, you can be free of the pressure to be 100% original and instead focus your time and creativity on how you can make your unoriginal idea unique to your imagination.
“There are so many authors that are way more talented than me, so why should I even try?”
Listen. I like to think I’m a fantastic writer (I’m teasing, but also I’m kind of not, this is that writer confidence I was talking about earlier) but let’s be honest; no one is talented without practice. Even the writers you idolize. They didn’t burst into existence with a pen in their hand and a mastery of language and poetic imagery. They started just like you.
It’s okay to feel like you’re not talented enough as a writer. Honestly, it’s kind of important that you feel that way because it will help push you to want to be better. You just need to practice, the same way your favourite writers needed to practice to get to where they are now. The only way you won’t get better is if you give up.
“No one’s going to want to read this, so why should I even bother writing it?”
First of all, I want to read it. Me. Meghan Mazzaferro. The writer of this article. I want to read the thing you write. So write it for me.
More than that, while some ideas might be niche or self-indulgent, that doesn’t mean they won’t have an audience. If you have something you really want to read that doesn’t exist in the world already, or doesn’t do things the way you would have done them, odds are you aren’t the only person in the entire world who’s craving that particular story. If you want it, so does someone else, and even if your writing only strikes a chord with one other person, that person wouldn’t have been moved if you didn’t write the thing.
So do it. Write the thing. It might not be a completely unique idea, and it might not be of the best quality right now, but no one will be able to tell your story the way you can. You can always get better, but first, you need to get the idea out of your head and into the world. And I guarantee that someone will want to read it.
There you have it. Not the most revolutionary ideas, but these pieces of information really help me when I’m struggling with imposter syndrome. The most important thing is to be gentle with yourself, to know that it’s only fear that’s making you think you’re not good enough, not anything real, and to do what you can to help yourself move past it. If that means pushing through the fear and writing a measly hundred words a day, do it. If it means taking a week off from writing, do it. Whatever works for you, just know that imposter syndrome is a filthy liar trying to stop you from writing, not a valid critic with any authority.