4 Tips to Help Kick Writing Imposter Syndrome in the Face (and Also Genitals)

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We’ve all been there, noodling along quite happily with the WIP when BAM, all of a sudden you hear that dastardly, needling bastard of a voice: “Oooh look at you ‘writing’! Meeeh what do you think you’re doing? You know it’s all shit, right? And everyone is laughing at you…” Well, it’s time give that voice a swift right hook and carry the fuck on.

The Voice of Self-Doubt, as Neil Gaiman so accurately puts it, is “the first problem of any kind of even limited success… the unshakable conviction that you are getting away with something, and that any moment now they will discover you. It’s Impostor Syndrome, something my wife Amanda christened the Fraud Police.”

So how do escape the feeling that you’re just not good enough? Here are four ways to send Imposter Syndrome packing with a resounding “fuck you!”

Call yourself a writer and bloody well believe it

Here’s the thing about Imposter Syndrome: it’s not about you.

Imposter Syndrome is more concerned with what other people are thinking: your friends, your co-workers, an agent, YOUR agent. It’s the constant (and usually unfounded) anxiety that all of these people are judging you. But when you spend all your time worrying about what others think, you forget about yourself, what you want, and why you’re writing in the first place.

If you write, you’re a writer – it doesn’t matter what you write or how shit it is. Writing is hard, and everyone has to start somewhere. Improving takes time, determination, and, hardest of all, it takes sitting down to Do The Work.

Stop comparing yourself to other people

Ok, so maybe you’re not a famous author yet. Maybe you’ve got less experience than other writers. Maybe you don’t have the accolades of your-third-cousin-who-once-had-a-letter-published-in-The-Times-so-if-you-ever-need-any-advice-you-know-where-she-is. You’re you and you’re farking awesome.

Sure, you’re going to have the odd typo, a rogue comma, or a clichéd phrase here and there, but not every word needs to be examined, rewritten, and deleted. If you come across a suspect paragraph or even chapter that just isn’t *quite* right, resist the urge to delete it or edit it four hundred times. Make notes, walk away, make yourself a nice cup of tea, and tackle it when you’ve given yourself a bit of distance.

First drafts are meant to be crap – really crap

Get some perspective. Not everything you write is going to be great and it doesn’t need to be. One dodgy sentence doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Write rubbish. Write words and sentences and whole paragraphs that make you want to crawl into a teeny tiny ball under your duvet. But remember that first drafts are meant to be crap – really crap. Don’t go thinking your second draft will be much better either. But with each draft your story will improve and you will become a better writer. Accept that it might be the 400th draft before you’re even slightly happy. Writers are obsessive perfectionists, it’s part of the deal. Suck it up. Feel the horror and do it anyway.

Own it 

You’re not a fraud (unless you’re simply re-writing Harry Potter word for word, in which case, stop it, you nobhead), you’re just you. But if you still can’t kick that feeling, own it. Decide not to give a fuck. So what if you’re an imposter? You’re going to be the best damn imposter that ever lived. See how much you can get done before the Fraud Police bust through your door. FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT, BABY! You might even get a story out of it.

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  • Avatar
    Pauline Braisher
    14 May 2018 6:12 am

    Thank you! I was putting off starting today’s coursework, thinking why am I bothering, what makes me think I could ever become a writer and why would anyone want to read anything I write. I think the comments about Imposter Syndrome apply to so many issues in life not just writing

    Reply
  • I have these thoughts all the time…I practically whisper when I tell people I’m ‘a writer.’ Great article, maybe I’ll start shouting it aloud soon.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Helena White
    27 March 2019 8:35 am

    It’s funny, I feel like this about my ‘proper job’ not about being a writer, what does that mean?! LOL

    Reply

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