Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome is a term I just heard for the first time last week, used by the wonderfully talented Becke Martin. I’d never heard it before, but I knew instantly what she meant. Or really, what it meant for me. I suffer from it. In spades. To me, it means I’m not good enough, smart enough, disciplined enough. I’m pretending to be a writer because I can’t be a real one.

I keep thinking, if I could just know somehow that I’m a good writer, Imposter Syndrome would go away. I’d feel like I belong among the ranks of romance novelists. So I finaled in a few contests and got some really awesome feedback from some people. Two different editors requested fulls for two different manuscripts. Toni McGee Causey, an author I greatly admire and respect said that something I wrote was HOT. I’m still floating on that. I’m at a point where I’m reasonably convinced I can put some words together and they come out okay. People laugh at the stories and like the characters (some of them, anyway J). Someone, whom I did not pay, said my finished manuscript was like a published book, easy to read, great story, etc. So I must not be an imposter anymore, right?

Wrong. Now I’m at the next hurdle โ€“ selling. At the end of the day, I have to make money at writing or it’s not worth it to me. Some people can write for pleasure and never seek publication. I LOVE writing. It’s a part of me and I can’t shut it off. But I spend three hours a day on it. I can’t do that indefinitely without some type of profit or that three hours a day will have to go toward a job with a paycheck at some point. So this is the career I want and I can’t fail. Failure is not something I do well or take lightly. It never, EVER occurred to me when I started pursuing publication that I might not actually make it one day. But facts and statistics do not lie. A lot of people don’t sell, some of whom are very good writers. I might be one of them.

So if that’s true, I’m still an imposter. More goes into writing than putting some words together. It’s that magic blend of plot, character, and an intangible something people refer to as voice. I know I can do them all separately, but together โ€“ jury’s still out. Worse, I also realize even if the manuscript is awesome sauce with a side of pickles, it might still not be right for the publisher I’ve targeted and if that’s true, both of them are D.O.A. because they’re not really going to fit anywhere else.

If I do sell, then I have to get through the next hurdle โ€“ doing it again with another manuscript. And another. It’s an exhausting merry-go-round. At what point can I really look up and say, “Yep. I’m a really real author and no one can take that away”? Right now, I’m looking at the list of RITA nominees and thinking there’s my Holy Grail. Then Imposter Syndrome would be defeated once and for all. I hope. I mean, if someone as talented as Becke Martin suffers from Imposter Syndrome, then how deluded must I be to think I can do this thing called writing? Right?

9 thoughts on “Imposter Syndrome

  1. Sorry, you can’t call yourself an imposter anymore. ‘Cause I’ve been devouring my way through TTSS, and there’s no way a wanna be, imposter, wrote it! It’s all that and a bag of chips. So there! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Honestly, I don’t know what milestone would make us neurotic writers believe that we’re *real* writers (and we’re deserving of that title). I thought maybe once I started making money off my writing I would feel like a real writer…and I do…but then I look at this novella that I’m writing, and I start thinking it’s not fit for lining my garbage pail, and the belief that I’m not cut out for this slams into me.

    So, I guess we just have to ride the wave of our Imposter Syndrome until it passes, and then brace ourselves for the next one. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • You’re trying to make me cry and it’s not going to work. So there. Okay, it worked a little. I think you’re right, it’s all waves and we just have to hold ourselves upright as they slam us. Eventually, we find people to hold our hands as we attempt to crest them and that’s really what makes it worth it. So thanks for holding my hand. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Oh my gosh, I feel the exact same way sometimes! I’ve sold a few books and it’s STILL never enough. There’s always something else that I think will validate it me more as a writer.

  3. Hi Kat – I just came across your blog, so I’m sorry to be late with this comment. I don’t think there is a writer out there who hasn’t been brought down by Imposter Syndrome at one time or another. Honestly, writing is hard enough without having to deal with self-doubt, but I guess it’s just part of the process. If it helps at all, I’ve heard from some hugely famous authors that they get struck with this, too. (Check out Jenny Crusie’s Argh Ink blog sometime, for instance – it’s a real eye-opener!)

    The important thing is – don’t let Imposter Syndrome stop you. Soooo many writers give up because they don’t think they’re good enough. It’s a tough business and I don’t think writing ever gets easier, but I don’t think anyone writes to earn a fast buck. (Surely there are easier ways to earn a living!!) We write because we HAVE to write, and the occasional attack of I.S. is part of the process.

    Keep up with your writing, and best of luck with your career. One day I’ll be buying your new release!

  4. If you write, you’re a writer. If you get paid, it’s a job. Put them together, and you’re a paid writer. Get it? Never think you’re not a writer just because you don’t get paid… because “you’re good enough, smart enough, and – gosh, darn it – people like [you]”!

    Love you. You’re the best big sis ever.

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