When you think of the phrase “imposter syndrome,” what comes to mind?
A shadowy figure dressed in mustache and sunglasses? A copy cat watching your every move?
Though imposter syndrome isn’t that insidious, it can still wreak havoc on your work.
Fortunately, by following the tips outlined in this post, you’ll be able to identify your imposter syndrome and kick it to the curb!
What Is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome for writers is when you compare yourself to other writers to the extent that you question your own ability in writing. Imposter syndrome can apply to any creative field, but is prevalent for writers.
On the most basic level, imposter syndrome results in doubting your work. At a severe level, it results in a refusal to engage creatively.
What do I mean by “a refusal to engage creatively”?
Fearful of being inadequate, you don’t reach for your pen to jot down that amazing story idea. Distracted by other writers, you leave your page blank. Though you have great concepts, you don’t show them to anyone because you’re afraid you’re not good enough.
But you can overcome this self-doubt. Why? Because you are good enough.
Do I Have Imposter Syndrome?
Bookstores are usually a writer’s paradise. Home to a wonderful collection of different authors and book genres, it’s usually any writer’s dream to display their own work on the shelves.
But to someone with imposter syndrome, this place is a hotbed for competition. If you have imposter syndrome, you might feel the urge to instantly compare yourself to every book you come across. You might start thinking thoughts like: Their idea is so cool! Why can’t I come up with that? There are already so many successful authors…I can’t hope to be one.
Imposter syndrome might affect your writing itself.
Writing workshops are great opportunities to gather feedback and make your work stronger. But someone with imposter syndrome might freeze up when it comes time to share their work.
If you have imposter syndrome, you might start picking your piece apart, embarrassed to utter a single sentence.
Good news! With our writing tips, you’ll gain confidence in your writing ability.
How Can Imposter Syndrome Impact My Work?
When someone has imposter syndrome, it’s not just the author who suffers…it’s their work. Imposter syndrome can snuff out someone’s will to write, that key energy that pushes anyone to even start typing in the first place.
Imposter syndrome is a state of mind.
You’ll start questioning everything you put to paper; you’ll question the good reviews you get on your work and instead focus on the bad.
That sort of mindset tramples the creative process.
But you can quiet self-doubt and endless comparisons today.
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
If you have imposter syndrome, you’re not without luck.
Here are just a few of many tips and strategies you can employ to hop back on that writing saddle.
#1 – Force yourself to write
This might be the greatest hurdle to overcome. But the first step in overcoming any writing issue is by taking to the page.
Start simple—you don’t have to write a memoir of 200 pages just yet. If you can’t think of any imaginative ideas or writing prompts, write about something that relates to you, like your morning commute.
If pressure forces you to write, add a timer. Hop onto Google and search for a stopwatch, or go the old-fashioned route and grab your own. Scribble down a few basic themes or ideas, set that timer for five minutes, and start writing!
This tip is professor-proofed.
I was first exposed to this tip in one of my college classes last semester. Engaging in it truly helped me shed my imposter syndrome.
Taking to the whiteboard, the teacher wrote a handful of basic words. Robot. July. Clouds. Balloon. It seemed silly, but this exercise helped the entire class.
Instead of being scared to read their work aloud, everyone was eager to share what they wrote. To my shock, I was too!
The goal isn’t to use every single theme you wrote down. If you do, that’s terrific! The main goal of this challenge is putting yourself back into a writing mindset.
Challenging yourself through creative writing is just one of many ways to diminish your imposter syndrome.
Up for taking this challenge with others? Make it a party and grab some friends. Instead of focusing on who wrote the “best” story, though, try celebrating the simple fact that you’re all making something creative.
The more you spend thinking of ideas and diving back into your writing, the less you’ll think of other people’s opinions.
#2 – Create balance in your life
A stressed mind creates stressful scenarios. Look for what is lacking in your schedule—or what’s eating it up. Are you getting an adequate amount of sleep each night? Is your work environment clashing with your mental health? If you’re tense, try deep-breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga.
Here’s a great table on creating your writing environment:
How to Start Writing Tip
- isolate yourself from family/friends/even the family dog - remind everyone it's YOUR time - Turn your phone off - Close ALL web browsers - Close your email
- invest in a GOOD chair - or resort to using a stand-up desk for more energy - fill the area with motivational quotes - make sure you're physically comfortable for the next 30 minutes or an hour
Choose Beneficial Background Noise
- turn off all sounds if it distracts you - turn on lyric-less music to help you concentrate - choose energizing music to help you focus
If schedules rule your day, pencil in some time to write. Follow rule #1 and take advantage of gaps in your day. Scribble some sentences while you’re munching during your lunch break, or make a habit of journaling before bed.
Not only will this help you make long-term progress, but it’ll also help you fall into a writing routine.
Visit this post on how you can create your perfect writing space.
However, you normally gather your ideas, make sure you’re actually jotting them down. Nothing hurts more than thinking of your next great story idea and forgetting it because you didn’t have it on paper.
The easier you make it for you to find your character bios or world maps, the less stress you’ll be putting on yourself when it comes time to write.
The more you declutter your mind, the more room you’ll have to start focusing on your work.
#3 – Create balance in your feedback
It’s no secret that if you want to grow as a writer, you have to accept feedback. For someone with imposter syndrome, though, accepting negative feedback is especially difficult. The solution?
Realize that feedback is supposed to enhance your work. Instead of attaching yourself to the feedback, remain subjective.
The joy of being an author and sharing our work with the world is that we come across various viewpoints. Some might agree with us, and others might not. And that’s okay! You can decide when and how you want to respond to reviews.
For starters, this type of feedback is rude. More importantly, feedback like this doesn’t offer any suggestions or justifications. You can toss “feedback” of this sort out the window. Instead, look for feedback partners who will lift you up.
An example of proper feedback:
“I really liked the tone of this piece. It was consistent and locked me in. Yet, I’m not sure if your main character’s actions are justifiable. I didn’t see any character development in this chapter and I think adding that would help.”
Positive, constructive feedback creates balance.
As an author, positive feedback lets you know what you did well and what you need to improve on. Creating this balanced feedback opens up an honest and respectful dialogue between writing partners.
Cultivating these conversations helps eliminate imposter syndrome.
#4 – Interview other writers
No one is immune to self-doubt. But one way to start squashing that feeling is by interviewing authors.
Here are a few sample questions you might ask:
Have you ever faced imposter syndrome?
Are you still battling imposter syndrome?
What tips have you used to overcome your imposter syndrome?
What are your favorite writing exercises?
What are your favorite inspirational quotes?
What book serves as your inspiration?
What is the best feedback you have ever received?
What is the worst feedback you have ever received?
How do you overcome negative feedback?
What might you say to your younger writing self?
What is your biggest writing achievement?
What are your writing goals?
If they are not finished with the journey of overcoming imposter syndrome, you can help each other. Try tip number one and get lost in the sample writing activity together—or create your own!
By engaging with other writers, you’ll start realizing that most of them have the same concerns you do. You’ll realize that writing is a personal—and community-filled—journey. While we might feel excluded in our writing dens, bent over the keys, nothing is more welcoming than knowing we’re not alone.
#5 – Realize every story and writer is different
Your western murder mystery is probably very different than someone else’s comedy road trip novella.
It makes sense that comparing those two ideas is rather difficult. Even at the surface, it’s rather hard to come up with like-minded ideas. Gunslingers and modern-day travel sagas don’t exactly share too many similarities.
But, what if you did? Finding common ground in another work shouldn’t spell the end to your writing career.
Let Stanley Kubrick’s words be of inspiration to you:
“Everything has already been done. Every story has been told…it’s our job to do it one better.”
Take it upon yourself to add your creative twist to your work.
When those comparison-laden thoughts surface, realize that every writer brings something different to the keyboard.
#6 – Everyone starts somewhere
If you’re anything like me, you didn’t pick up writing skillsets overnight. Instead, it’s been a long journey from the day you first started scribbling on paper to where you are at now.
Instead of comparing yourself to others, compare yourself to…yourself. Think about how long you’ve been writing. If you’ve been writing since elementary school, it’s likely your younger self would be in awe about what you’ve written throughout the years.
Picturing that little kid smiling over your skills might be enough motivation to keep going.
Even if you just picked up the creative pen last week, every day is a new experience. Every sentence written is a new notch of knowledge added to your belt. Root for yourself.
Final Tips for Getting Over Imposter Syndrome for Writers
If following numerous tasks stresses you out, nothing says you have to follow all of these pointers at once. Try them out of order, mix them around. If you would rather find a writing community first, then start working on how to balance your feedback, that’s perfectly fine.
Conversely, if you like following guides step-by-step, give it a shot!
Is goal-setting your calling? Try marking on your calendar when you would like to erase your imposter syndrome. Sometimes, having a feasible end date serves as great motivation.
Regardless, by following these steps, you’ll start living the inverse of imposter-ridden scenarios.
Stepping into a bookstore, you’ll feel energized looking at the latest best-sellers and fresh faces on the shelves. You might even picture your work standing proudly amongst them.
Heading to your next writer’s conference, you come prepared. You’re happy to gather feedback on your work and even happier to share your piece aloud.
You don’t compare yourself to the big leagues or your writing partner. You see other writers as writing allies, no matter if they’re writing about a space opera and you’re writing about an romance saga in Venice.
Most importantly…You realize how imperative it is to foster a healthy community of writers—and you’re ecstatic being a part of one.
Stephanie Stott is a freelance novel editor and English major from Florida. Over the years, she’s found various ways to escape the humidity: taking pictures of her cats, working on her novels, and designing book covers in Photoshop. You can follow her writing misadventures and graphic design creations at her author Facebook page.