Impostor syndrome: a writer’s uninvited guest

Nicole Fanning

Impostor syndrome, or the feeling you’re trying to be someone you’re not, can be debilitating. This author shares some easy ways you can send this feeling packing whenever it shows up uninvited.

by Nicole Fanning

It’s inevitable. I can spend an entire afternoon writing, perhaps an entire day, submerged in the world I have created and feel as if I am on cloud nine. And while lost in this cavernous world, falling in love, and fighting bad guys, I’m convinced that a greater story has never been told. I’m confident in my authenticity and skill as a storyteller, and I feel as if I am exactly where I should be, doing exactly what I should be doing.

But then the sun goes down.

And like clockwork, I hear the faint knocking of my impostor syndrome at my front door.

I would argue that every writer knows exactly what I’m talking about.

It’s the inexplicable urge to rewrite everything you’ve already written because it suddenly doesn’t feel good enough. You nitpick manuscripts you were happy with only hours before, and you question your capabilities … maybe even your sanity.

This suffocating and uninvited house guest is known as impostor syndrome, and it brings with it a crippling and debilitating doubt that can leave you questioning everything you think you know and wondering if you should do the world a favor and never write again.

Sound familiar?

Don’t worry. I see you, fellow wordsmith, and I’m here to tell you that nothing could be further from the truth.

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You are authentic and brilliant, and the world needs you to keep writing.

So I think it’s high time we serve the Impostor Monster in our psyche an eviction notice and get back to doing what we love to do.

But how do we do that?

The first step is to set realistic expectations for our work and remind ourselves that perfection is a myth.

Focus on becoming the best writer you can be. Let your work—and your words—speak for themselves, touching hearts and minds with the beauty and escapism only you can create.

Perhaps it’s because we live in a world where everyone and everything is quantified and calibrated perfectly. Perhaps that’s why our own expectation for our parented work is that it will be perfect as well. But this is where impostor syndrome often takes root, convincing us that every other writer is somehow perfect, and we simply don’t measure up. If perfection is the goal, it means that when we receive those “not so nice” criticisms, it feels as if the destructive thoughts your impostor syndrome was spewing have just been validated.

Don’t focus on “perfection.” Focus on becoming the best writer you can be by being as authentic and genuine as possible. Let your work—and your words—speak for themselves, touching hearts and minds with the beauty and escapism only you can create.

Also, when it comes to dealing with criticism, remember that there isn’t a famous literary work in existence today that doesn’t have some form of negative commentary. Look up any of the classics and I promise that you will still find comments from people who didn’t like them. Keep in mind that we will never be able to please everyone everywhere. And we shouldn’t strive to either.

Our goal should be to cultivate our niche readership with enthusiasm, while accepting our critics with grace.

The second step in fighting impostor syndrome is recognizing the warning signs, and identifying it when it strikes.

Personally, I’ve learned that my own impostor syndrome seems to strike at night. That being said, when I start feeling that familiar anxiety or hearing those negative thoughts, I make a point to identify it. Sometimes I even say it out loud to acknowledge that something has shifted.

Remind yourself that this is an outside element causing you to feel so negatively about your work … not your work itself.

And that brings me to the third, and most important, weapon in your arsenal of defense against impostor syndrome: have your people.

A good offense is a good defense, and I’ve found that the best defense against a mind at war with itself is a tribe of people who have your back, even when you can’t.

Especially when you can’t.

The moral of the story? If you feel called to write, don’t let anything—especially your own negative impostor thoughts—stop you.

On my author journey, I have been fortunate to have connected with some incredible individuals and colleagues. They are my tribe. My people. My support network. They have carried me, inspired me, and encouraged me when I needed them most.

Build your circle. Sometimes a quick phone call to a fellow author, or a friend who loves your work, can be the necessary reminder that all those harsh negative thoughts are just a phase, and it too shall pass. Having a supportive circle of some kind is an irrefutable defense against the Impostor Fog.

The moral of the story? If you feel called to write, don’t let anything—especially your own negative impostor thoughts—stop you. Set reasonable expectations, identify the warning signs, and surround yourself with like-minded people who will be supportive of your dreams and aspirations.

Remember that while the unwanted and uninvited impostor syndrome is impossible to avoid, it is not impossible to beat.

Especially when we work together.

Nicole Fanning is a smitten wife and super proud dog mom to three rambunctious rescue dogs. She’s an old school romantic and documentary enthusiast with a proclivity for a little mischief. She also has a small obsession with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and obscure boardgames. Her debut novel, Catalyst, is the first incendiary installment of the Heart of the Inferno Series, which follows the romantic entanglement of deadly billionaire mafia don Jaxon Pace and his unexpected paramour, Natalie Tyler.

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