That voice inside your head, saying you just wrote something awful? It’s not honesty. It’s not “being realistic.” It’s something much darker, and much more difficult to overcome.
To some degree, if you’re really not good at something, you do have to come to terms with that. I’m not good at writing fiction, I know this, and yet I still write it for myself because I enjoy it. However, there are other forms of writing I am good at – because they are my job, because I have spent so much time refining those skills that I am credible enough to (almost) call myself an expert.
Yet I still doubt myself. Frequently. I still secretly fear that everyone is going to tear apart everything I ever publish.
This is called Imposter Syndrome. I have been battling it my entire life. Maybe you have, too, and you didn’t even know it.
There’s something else you don’t know: you have a superpower. As a writer, you are very good at pretending. That’s what storytelling does to you. You can use this to your advantage, in those moments when you feel like everything you’re writing isn’t worth even a glance. You’re going to feel like you’re better off giving up. The solution? Pretend those feelings aren’t even there.
You have the ability to pretend. Pretend you know exactly what you’re talking about; pretend you really do have it all together. Not for the purpose of deceit or because you don’t know what you’re doing, but because you need to believe you’re doing it right. You need to be your own cheerleader, push yourself farther than you have ever gone, because THAT is how you’re going to make it as a writer.
Imposter Syndrome is a writer’s greatest weakness. Even experts often struggle to gather up enough confidence to have faith in their own work. Which means those less experienced writers out there have even less of an advantage. If people who have been doing this for years are still fighting off symptoms … you’re pretty much doomed from the start. Right?
Not if you refuse to buy into the lies. Not if you choose to pretend, even if just for a little while, that you are good enough. Strong enough. Experienced enough. Capable.
Because chances are, you are all of these things, and so much more. You’re a writer. You tell stories for fun. Tell yourself the story that ends in you someday making a living off of doing what you love. Imagine all the obstacles you are going to have to face in order to get there. Envision yourself breaking down all those barriers, and succeeding despite what the “odds” say cannot be done.
When the world does not believe in you, YOU have to believe in you. But don’t neglect looking out for the people who DO think you’re going to make it. There are people out there who genuinely care. Imposter Syndrome enjoys hiding them from you. It’s a trick; don’t fall for it.
Your small, hidden-in-plain-sight superpower is what is going to get you to where you want to be. When you are asked about your life as a writer, be confident. Be bold. Don’t lie, don’t say you’ve accomplished things you haven’t, but illuminate your strengths and the things you have done. Impress people with how much you genuinely believe you can do this. Keep trying; keep going. Others might give in to the idea that they can’t do it, but that doesn’t mean you have to.
I want to be clear that there’s a difference between pretending you’re not possessed by the Imposter Syndrome demon and refusing to believe a certain kind of writing is not for you. You can write however, whatever you want – I’m not here to discourage anyone from trying anything. And if you have a deep passion for writing, you will find a way to make it work. Just maybe not the way you think you want it to work.
I dreamed of publishing a novel for years. It took me awhile to realize fiction is just not my strength. But I can still use my skills to excel in other areas of writing … and so can you. You need to believe that, as a writer, there is a place for your passion and skills in this world.
Look hard for it. Go after it. Try. Succeed. Prove Imposter Syndrome wrong. You ARE a writer. You ARE good at some form of writing. You WILL figure out what that is, and you WILL make a difference in the world.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.