By Laura Drake
Having a hard time sitting in that chair and watching that cursor blinking at you? You are not alone. I’m afraid. Every. Single. Day.
We make excuses, like:
But honestly, don’t those excuses most often boil down to, ‘I’m afraid’? I know it does for me.
We’re afraid of success. We’re afraid of failure. We’re afraid to look stupid.
Let’s play, shall we?
Choose your answers write down the number of your response.
Add up your results.
12 or less, you have few Impostor characteristics
13 to 18, you have moderate IP experiences
19 to 24 means you frequently have impostor feelings
24 and above means you often have intense Imposter syndrome.
Okay, hope you did better than my 26.
Recognize the benefit of being a novice. Think about a preschooler; what do they do when they make a mistake? They don’t think it’s their failure. They just try again.
Focus on Learning, not performing. Be a preschooler – not a junior high schooler. People expect you to make mistakes! Take advantage of this and make all you can!
Behave as if. This is one of the forces of the Universe. I made an entire career by doing this.
I’m always surprised when people tell me that I’m a calm head and a problem solver. Because I’m not. I’m just keeping a calm exterior, and paddling like the devil, underneath. And you know what? It works. I can always do more than I think I can. And acting like I know what I’m doing not only convinces others – more importantly, it convinces ME.
Analyze opportunity cost – I was a Corporate CFO in my other life. Definition: the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen. Ex: Choose to retire – good things but giving up potential opportunities and $.
Focus on Small goals – First goal is to finish – because if you don’t, the rest doesn’t matter. It’s a mistake to look too far ahead. You end up worried about rejections, when you don’t even have anything to submit yet!
Make a list of small goals – finish a chapter, make an outline, write 2 days this week.
I could go on, but this is already too long, so I’ll leave you with my favorite inspiring quote of all, by Randy Pausch, author of, The Last Lecture (which if you haven’t read, you should):
“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”
Do you have fear of success? Fear of failure? Imposter syndrome? What questions do you have for Laura? She's answering them down in the comments section!
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Laura is blogging writing craft and inspiration on her website. You can sign up to get posts in your inbox, HERE.
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I LOVE that quote by Randy Pausch. I hadn't seen it before, but it's so perfect for the book-writing process. I am knocking away at the bricks of my wall, Laura, and they WILL come down! (My new positive self-talk!)
Good for you, Karen - Hey, if you keep breathing, keep writing, and keep improving, you've GOT to get there eventually - I'm proof!
I'm one of those who shout really loud ALL the time because my imposter secret is so big 🙂
I've been inspired by the words of the iconic Georgia O'Keeffe, who said: "I've been afraid every day of my life, but it hasn't stopped me from doing a single thing I wanted to do." What I love about her sentence is that she doesn't say: "I learned not to be afraid." She says: "I did it anyway."
Exactly, Barbara - Do it afraid, but DO it!
This article seems timely for me. Recently I purchased an artisan soap bar that to me resembled a very pretty glittery sparkly red brick (& smells lovely!) and put it with the others in my collection that I'll eventually get to use. Reading the end quote reminded me that I've obsessed with why NOT to create stories (mostly the I'm-not-good-enough syndrome) rather than just write. Now I've decided to pull out that soap 'brick' and use it from today onward in order to break through the wall and move forward. Thank you for the reminder that failure can be celebrated and that each sentence means more story on the page, and that equals success.
Good for you, Raquel! Know that we all struggle with the same issues. You have to decide every day, if you're going to sit in that chair. Glad you have a touch-stone now to remind you (and it smells good - win-win!)
Reminds me of the tag line for one of my books. At least it works for my character. Wish more rubbed off on me. " Heroes aren’t fearless. They just don’t let fear get in the way."
I learned about imposter syndrome from my book designer after I self-published my novel. I was feeling fearful that no one would read it and that I would be criticized for mistakes. Now that I know that many people have been touched and even uplifted by my theme, I still fall into imposter syndrome. It's good to know I am in such distinguished company. Time to dig out my paused WIP and get busy.
Sad to say, Lori, I don't think it ever goes away. But if you get in the writing habit, it DOES get easier!
I keep a Fear Journal. All of that fear is in there somewhere, except that I find it's much faster to dump the fear now - a note in the journal, the realization that I've had that one before, many times, and the writing got done anyway, and it's over.
I have a written step in the written process: "List fears. Deal with them for today. Remind self I ALWAYS do." It's one of the first steps, and I'm old enough to blow past it quickly - it isn't interesting any more. I'm too old to waste time on something unproductive.
It is an interesting development I wish my younger self had learned earlier, but I never think of myself as an impostor any more. Slow, yes. Nitpicky and with impossibly high standards, yes. Worried about whether I can keep it up long enough to finish the current WIP (a mainstream trilogy I'm deep in the middle book of), with the current pandemic, and me in the vulnerable group, yes.
But not impostor.
It's a good feeling.
Oh Alicia, how wonderful! All the hard work in that journal paid off - I love that it's not interesting anymore! My epiphany was being okay with not knowing how. Interesting story - we went to look for a car about a year ago. We got a salesman on his VERY first day! My husband is a detail guy - he'd done research online, and had obscure questions. Nightmare scenario, right?) The poor guy was SO nervous! We were more than happy to wait while he asked his boss every question my husband asked him.
I thought he was cute, and so eager to please - we bought the car from HIM.
Gave me a different perspective on the benefit of being a novice.
The nice thing about awareness and self-awareness is that they're one-way, permanent.
It really did help to get the first volume published, and to get a great bunch of reviews from people I cultivated because of their other reviews, and especially to get great reviews from women AND men (I designed that into the novel, and the confirmation was very satisfying).
If you put the work in, and you CAN learn, you will. After a while, most craft topics are mastered, and a lot of the art ones are answered from your own reading over a lifetime.
No impostor puts in that much work.
Well said! Remember that people - NO imposter puts in that much work!
And all serious speakers, singers, actors, musicians - have butterflies at some time before they perform.
By the way, if you haven't heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect, which explains why people who don't have a clue can act as if they were experts, while the real experts are often modest about their accomplishments and knowledge (they actually know how much they don't know), I always recommend:
I thought everyone knew about D-K, and was surprised when my physical chemist PhD husband did not.
As the quote states, brick walls keep people out. But, I believe, brick walls also keep people in. Fenced in and deceptively protected.
Walls keep people in their boxes, keep people apart, keep authors in their genres. I'm not one for boxes or separatism. And I'm certainly not an author who stays in one lane with my stories.
Am I an imposter? Sure. My whole life. It may slow me down, but it hasn't stopped me. I hope and pray it never does.
And you're also a perfect example of 'Behave as if', Chris, because I'd never have guessed you have imposter syndrome! See? It works!
Wonderful post! I took the test and came out the high end of moderate.
I also walk through life with a patina of calm. I'd hoped that if I consciously worked at being calm, eventually the calm would internalize. It has to a minor degree. Inside I am still a bit of a nervous Nellie, but that doesn't stop me from pushing myself forward.
But at least you're not paralyzed by the fear - you do it anyway. Bravo!
Hi Laura!! It's so good to see you at WITS!
Well, that was a high score I didn't want. I do a lot of self-talk but slide back into the old me too often. Thanks for this post. A kick in the pants when I need it because I'm getting to the last few scenes of my book and need to build that dyke against the tidal wave of self-doubt.
You GO, Barb. I've been a part of your fan club (no imposters there!) for YEARS!
Love this post, Laura! I shared it in my FoxPrint Editorial newsletter--thanks. Impostor syndrome is so universal to people, especially creatives, and you offer some great ideas for dealing with it.
Wow, thank YOU, Tiffany! I'm honored!
You know I LOVE this post, Laura. Thanks for that Friday kick in the shorts. 🙂
P.S. I approved some comments so you'll need to take a pass from the top
Your timing is impeccable. I needed this today. This week. Thank you!
I still have my copy of Randy's book.
I need to read it again, Denise - it's SO inspiring!
I think you wrote this post just for me. I confessed to my critique partners this week that I'm ready to toss my novel and forget it (I'm on the fourth year, the third draft, and have about 40,000 words). It's my "starter novel"! But with their encouragement, and after reading this post, I think I'll take a little break from it, then get back to it an finally FINISH the darn thing 🙂
You CAN do this, Vanessa. But remember, if this book is your starter novel and you have other amazing books in you, it's not a crime to put this one down and come back when you are done with the next. Contracted books are the only kind you can't put aside. I literally just solved the problem with my starter novel that I put into a drawer THREE YEARS ago. Suddenly, I'm excited to go back and do edits, because now I know why it didn't work. That is the luxury of not having a book under contract.
Oh, that's wonderful, Jenny! Always wanted to see that book published...
🙂 🙂 🙂
You are the world's BEST cheerleader!
Vanessa, we don't expect to sit at a piano for the first time and be able to play Bach, right? Then why do we think we can do that with writing? There are no girl scout badges for racing to the end.
The rewards come from writing a GOOD book. And that takes as long as it takes.
Take a break and come back with a beginner's attitude!
Oh, Laura, I miss our old "throw downs." My favorite was the one on fear. We might have been on the opposite ends of the fear spectrum, but our fear was (and sometimes still is) very real. It affects what we do (or don't) and what we accomplish (or don't). Keep on paddling!
You too, Julie - like Richard Bach said (more good books there), 'A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit.'
It's so funny you should say this, Julie. I was thinking about bringing some throwdowns back, now that there are new perspectives running around here.
Excellent article with strong solutions. Thanks!
Thanks for reading!
I drink fear with my morning coffee, and it is on my playlist when I go to bed. Fear keeps us honest and grounded in the process- the trick is to prevent it from getting in the way. Excellent article!
Well said, John. It's amazing, isn't it? I conquer the fear by sitting down every day, but it never goes away! You'd think that after 15 years of this, I'd remember that my brain LIES!!!! Write on, brother.