Jessie: In New Hampshire where there are real signs of spring!
All this month we are discussing prose and cons. I know that one thing most writers struggle with, almost always at the beginning of their careers, but often throughout it as well, is imposter syndrome. Did you ever feel as though you weren’t a “real” writer? Did you feel like you were conning everyone when you were awarded
Barb: I think every writer experiences imposter syndrome, probably most of the time. For one thing, there’s no formal induction into the field: no white-coat ceremony. (White quill ceremony?) There may be a day you become a published author, but the day you became a writer is known only to you. Strangely enough, just as I prepared to answer this question, I read a story in the New York Times about Aaron Sorkin, who is writing a new book for a new production of Camelot on Broadway. Here’s a quote:
“I wrote 86 episodes of ‘The West Wing,’ and every single time I finished one, I’d be happy for five minutes before it just meant that I haven’t started the next one yet, and I never thought I would be able to write the next one. Ever… I worry that if I stop worrying then I won’t do it. That it’s the worrying that’s driving me to do it.”
Edith/Maddie: Aaron SORKIN? That’s a stunning quote, Barb. Sometimes I do feel like an imposter, even now. That self-doubting inner voice nags, “Nobody’s going to want to read this drivel.” Or when it’s time to start a new book (which is happening right now, gulp), I wonder if I even have another story to tell. The voice was definitely a lot louder ten years ago when I was starting out, but it’s still there. And yet, at other times I’ll think, “Maybe this book isn’t so bad, after all.”
Liz: Wow – good to know the company is good here in imposter-syndrome land! I’ve always struggled with this – in writing and lots of other areas. I’ve learned you just have to keep going, no matter what. And it helps to realize most people feel that way at some point!
Julie: I remember back when I was writing what was going to be my second published novel, Hallie Ephron let me know that every writer struggled with the first draft, but over time you knew that you can do it. If I’m writing a cozy, I have that knowing. But when I try a different genre, or a short story, the doubt creeps in. For writers (and other artistis) I wonder if it is less about not feeling like an imposter, and more about moving forward anyway.
Sherry: Oh, before my first book came out, I was racked with insecurities. It’s not as bad now, but like everyone else there is that voice in the back of my head saying, “You can’t do this. You’re no good.” And then there is the pressure of always wanting the next book to be better than the last. Fortunately, the joy of being published outweighs all the bad stuff.
Jessie: It always amazes me how pervasive this feeling is for humans! Thanks for the quote, Barb! It really brought things home! I agree with all of you, but especially about feeling it poke up its ugly head when working in less familiar territory. The only thing I have really found that helps is to tell myself the story that I want to be true until I believe that it is. It works for me for writing and for the rest of life!
Readers, have you ever felt like an imposter?