Saturday 16 March 2019

Writing with Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome - You may have read about this recently in the press as it has been featured quite a bit in various articles lately. It's a real phenomena and from what I've read it mostly affects women. Wiki defines this syndrome as a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a "fraud."

It may sound a bit random to you,  perhaps a little new-age. I would have probably dismissed it ten years ago, but actually it does make sense! 

For example I never really think of myself as an author - despite my author website and self-promotion and author branding (this blog is proof of that) I don't actually think of myself as a legitimate author and why is that? I'm not hugely successful as a writer if you compare me to the best-sellers but I am commercially successful. And thinking about it, do you have to be commercially successful to legitimise your profession - especially when you work in the arts? Surely not. Yet sometimes, nearly always, we need commercial success to validate our passion and career - it's why some people exaggerate their salary - because they feel their earnings are a reflection of their worth.

My author career, in a nutshell, is as follows: 

  • 6 published novels ( two of which were taken on by Independent publishers the rest self-published) - which are making a profit. 
  • Several articles about my books published in local publications
  • Two author interviews for websites/newsletters
  • Presenting a talk at a local library and being asked to talk ( and doing so) at a local Literature and arts festival 
  • Membership to the Society of Authors and the Crime Writers Association, both of which have their entry criteria. The latter only accepting authors that have been  traditionally published (with your publisher having to be on their list). 
  • A writing blog

If someone I knew told me the above about themselves I think I would be in awe. It's my author career and yet I continue to refer to it as just a hobby, when I know I would like it to be more (Perhaps if I didn't keep referring to my writing as just a hobby I would be able to step up a gear - am I limiting myself by continually saying 'it's just a hobby' - that's another blog post in itself!) So why do I feel a little like an imposter? Why do I continue to think I am not a legitimate author?

Starting my journey with self publishing may have had something to do with it. Self-publishing doesn't make you a pariah as  it did before but self-publishing is still stigmatised - probably more so by writers than readers who don't give a second glance to the publisher of the book they are reading. 

Or it could be because I have a fixed idea in my mind as to what a successful author looks like - before I was offered a publishing contract, it was someone who had been offered a contract - no matter how fruitful. When I listened to a local author speaking at our local lit festival I said to myself that if I ever got approached with something similar then I would know that I'm a legitimate author. Well that day came and went and still I question myself. 

So I know my goals are continually moving - like goals should, but what do I now want to achieve to legitimise this 'hobby' of mine? A new book deal with an established publisher, paperbacks regularly stocked in physical bookstores, shelf space at airport bookshops... maybe even some window space at my local Waterstones.

I, like most authors, need to stop and reflect how far we've come with our writing. But on the other hand perhaps a bit of imposter syndrome is good - I have new goals, goals which will motivate me to work harder, do better and keep at it... A writer doesn't quit... and maybe that's it - maybe it's just my determination that makes me a legitimate author. 

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