Friday 20 September 2013

Imposters, The Lot of You

Some of my writing friends have been discussing Imposter Syndrome. That's the feeling you have when you don't feel that you deserve the success you've had.

Writers no credits think they've never going to sell.
Writers who've made their first few sales think they're flukes.
Writers with a lot of credits think they're never going to replicate their success.

There's a lot of it about.

I don't have it. I think, 'Well I'm writing as hard as I can. If the sales come, great. If they don't, oh well.' To be fair, in the conversations I had there were a few writers like me.

And that's not to belittle anyone's feelings.  I've seen other writers say, "oh the only writers who aren't insecure are horrible and arrogant." And I'm not, honest guvnor.

So what is it about writers that promotes insecurity in this way? Is it the nature of the business? There's Alex's Insecure Writers' Support Group that touches on the same theme. That's got 324 members and counting.

I respect people's negative feeling, and hope that they can reconcile them. But I'd love to hear others talking about the good side of writing.


  1. When I saw your title I immediately thought, 'Oh no... she's talking about me! How did she find out?'

    Your attitude is the way I want to be, it just doesn't work out that way. I've been a member of Alex's group for over 2 years now.

  2. Rusty, if you feel like an imposter what keeps you motivated? Hey, you don't have to answer that.

    And I think Alex's group is great. It really helps to know that other writers feel the same.

    I just wish you wouldn't. I've read your work and it's great.

    1. Thanks Deborah, you're too kind. What keeps me motivated? The deep down belief that I CAN excel if I work hard enough. I'm more worried that if I ever believe I'm actually good at writing I quit because I'll think I've mastered the craft and am ready to move on.

    2. Ha! Then let's hope you never believe you're any good, Rusty!

  3. I was talking about something similar to this with a friend, how writing is all about confidence. Confidence in your own writing ability, the confidence to keep going, etc. But it seems a lot of folks don't have it.

    I've grown more confident as time goes by. I certainly don't feel like my writing sucks (although sometimes I'll churn out a piece of crap), and I've seen enough personal rejections to know the fault lies with editor/reader, not my lack of skill.

    1. You should be confident Siobhan, your stories are great.

      Often it's a matter of getting the right fit. So, that means making a lot of subs. You've either got to be confident in your work to do that, or do what I do, which is take all value judgements away. Sub like a machine. It works for me.

  4. Hey, I'm just having fun here -- I don't have time to feel insecure! Seriously though, I feel like I'm racing against time; I have SO many stories and novels to revise and get out the door, and with my day job, it's hard to make as much progress as I want to.

  5. I vacillate, if I'm honest. On the one hand I'm utterly insecure about my meagre abilities. On the other, I fully expect to make my way into the literary canon at some unspecified time. I guess the reality is somewhere in the middle...

  6. "Sub like a machine." I like it. A science fiction writer's perspective. Or a robot's perspective. Debs. Are you a robot? You are, aren't you.

    Uh, all kidding aside, I have spent a lot of time in imposter syndrome environments and circumstances. I think a lot of imposter syndrome comes from being in a situation where success seems both arbitrary and difficult to come by, so if you manage a bit of it, it is hard to process emotionally. It is not necessarily about insecurity but it is a product of a situation that causes insecurity in most people.

    One of the grad school mantras shared by me and my partner is that the people who make it (in that context, complete their PhDs) are the people who keep slogging, not necessarily the most wildly talented people. Hard work (i.e., robot-like submissions) will get you there eventually, most of the time. Consistency is also one of the keys to seeing progress. (I have not been very consistent in terms of subs this year, but have been working on craft like the dickens. I'm hoping for near-future payoff.)

  7. Writing for publication is a tough game, because the rewards are so hard to replicate. I think Tobias Bucknell wrote something about this. Let me see if I can find it here we go: r Writers and Pellets

    Also congratulations on the doctorate. Did I ever tell you that I quit mine after a year.