Many writers suffer from imposter syndrome, often after they’ve achieved some success, and should be feeling confident.
A few weeks back I was chatting with a writer who’s had immense success. She wanted to go back to her day job. I was stunned. Why, oh why? She’d decided that not only was her success was a fluke, but also that she preferred a “real job.”
Maybe you’ve suffered from imposter syndrome too, without recognizing it. Firstly, what is it?
What’s “imposter syndrome”?
Basically, you feel that you’re not good enough, and that any success you’ve achieved was due to pure luck.
According to the article, Five Types Of Impostor Syndrome And How To Beat Them, imposter syndrome is:
… a belief that you’re an inadequate and incompetent failure, despite evidence that indicates you’re skilled and quite successful.
Read the article. If you’re suffering from imposter syndrome, you’ll recognize yourself in one of the five types.
Now let’s look at some tips to help you to conquer it before it cripples your career.
1. Commit to the writing process: no one’s perfect
Do you believe that everyone knows what they’re doing… except you? New writers can be crushed by this misconception.
Way back in the mists of time, after my first novel was published, the proverbial scales fell from my eyes when I realized that my literary agent had less of a clue than I did. We parted ways shortly afterward.
See the fifth tip below, and commit to your writing. Write every day. Do your best, but don’t sweat it. Writers write — forever. You’ll write today, you’ll write tomorrow, so protect your writing time.
Be aware that you control your writing, and nothing else.
No one knows everything; that’s not possible. Everyone does the best they can, and it’s all that’s necessary. Do your best, and stop overthinking. 😉
2. Tell your inner critic to shut up; then ignore him (meditation works)
Your mind thinks — it’s what it does. However, that doesn’t mean that you need to be fussed by every thought which crosses your mind.
Unfortunately, you can’t eliminate your inner critic. You CAN ignore him however. Learn meditation.
Meditation helps you to recognize thoughts as thoughts, and emotions as emotions. I love this poem from the Sufi poet Rumi:
This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness…
Welcome and entertain them all!
3. Try a reality check: make a list of the things you hate about you
What do you hate about yourself? Make a list. Yes, even if you’re committed to positive thinking, and making the list scares you.
Your “hate list” will seem silly once it’s written down. Aim for at least 15 things you hate. (Keep the list if you like, and add to it, whenever you get a fresh insight.)
Now scan the list. How many of those things are under your direct control? Circle them. Cross out everything else.
Your list will contain things others have told you are “bad.” Think about them. How bad are they? Maybe you listed “shy.” But you quite like being shy — you’re not harming anyone, so why not accept your shyness?
You’ll discover that you feel much better after making the list. We repress anything we fear, and that repression takes energy which you could be spending on your writing.
4. If you’re a beginning writer, fake it until you make it
You’re a beginner, and you’re scared.
Everyone was a beginner once — so be proud of yourself. You’ve decided to be a writer, kudos to you. 🙂 Moreover, there’s a HUGE benefit to your beginner status.
People meditate for years to achieve beginners’ mind: it’s valuable. You’ll have insights which hardened, experienced, and cynical writers can’t have. Your experiences make you unique, so aim to be yourself as a writer.
Now you realize that you enjoy being a beginner, you nevertheless need to fake it until you make it, so to speak. You fake it with yourself, primarily.
Rather than saying to yourself: I can’t write a book! Say instead: of course I can write a book. I just need to start, and keep writing. (It’s true.)
5. Remember that it’s not what you think, it’s what you do
Imposter syndrome is all in your mind, literally.
Your mind tells you that you’re supposed to be a certain kind of person. Be yourself. You can’t be anyone else, and why would you want to be?
Unfortunately, your mind will also tell you that any success you achieved was by pure chance. This is your inner critic. Tell him to shut up, if you like, or think about something else.
Your mind thinks. You can’t shut it off. So…
When imposter syndrome strikes, focus on your body
Focus on your body: on the feeling of the keyboard under your fingertips. On the carpet under your feet. On how your body feels in your chair… Your body is you.
When you focus on your body, it’s a form of mindfulness.
Mindful meditation is fashionable today, because it works. Let your mind think, and whenever a thought makes you uncomfortable, take several deep breaths, and pay attention to your senses. Imposter syndrome will fade away.
Resources to build your writing career
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