Imposter Syndrome

So, before I get into today’s topic, a quick update:

I didn’t get anything written for that week’s critique session, but I did get something in for this week’s. I’m working on a short story and then beginning a new novel all around a basic idea that wormed itself into my head. Aztec cyberpunk. Latino representation in pop culture is severely lacking, same as in fantasy and sci-fi. Write what you want to read, right? It helps when the idea worming its way through your skull is cool as shit.

I’ve also started to hear back from beta readers. Some of them. Setting aside the anxiety that comes with sharing your complete WIP with friends, family, and strangers, let’s talk about the anxiety of when they start giving you feedback.

Which leads us into today’s topic: Imposter syndrome.

If you’re like me, you’ve heard this thrown around the writing community often. Probably even other communities. From the context, it’s pretty easy to figure out what it is. You think you’re a fraud, that you don’t deserve or haven’t earned your accomplishments, and that at any moment you’re going to be exposed for the snake you are.


Also… yes.

I mean, the feeling always made sense to me, but I never really started to feel it until recently. I guess that’s when I started to “accomplish” things in my writing profession. Published short stories, a writing podcast, a successful writing group, a decent author platform… Gods, even as I type them out they feel fake. See what I mean? I feel like I have to curtail my excitement because I’m not good enough. Fuck you, brain. As if you didn’t pull enough bullshit with me already.

So, I wanted to talk about this now because I got a massive wave of the ole Imposter Syndrome over the last couple days. One of my betas finished reading my draft in less than 24 hours (first thought: shit, it isn’t long enough) and then proceeded to tell me all the things she liked about it. I tried to ask questions to lead the witness, trying to pick out things she didn’t like, but I was unsuccessful.

Here I am, dealing with the embarrassment of someone saying positive things about my book, all the while having a voice in my head screaming things like they’re lying, I shouldn’t trust what they’re saying, that they’re only saying those things to be nice and non-confrontational, and that I’m garbage.

How the hell do you deal with that? It feels like I’m disassociating with reality. Makes me wonder what it’s like to be a mentally healthy person.

I’m writing this down, not because I believe these things. Obviously, I don’t. I’m crazy. But a part of me recognizes these things are (probably) true and that I need to repeat them as a mantra. Maybe it’ll help you, too.

1) Trust in your accomplishments, whatever their size. Your only comparison is past-you. If you have accomplished more than past-you has, you’re on the right path.

2) Trust in others. You chose them to expose yourself to and get feedback from. What’s the point of asking them for that feedback if you aren’t going to listen to it? I suppose, in this context, I’m referring to positive feedback, but this is especially true for negative (constructive) feedback. We’re trying to grow, right?

3) Talk it out. I have an amazing support network between friends, family, and my writing community that I am so thankful for. I can’t imagine trying to do this alone. Just like writing, which cannot exist in a vacuum, neither can you. Get outside your own head. Quiet the internal voices with supportive external ones.

Writing all this out has calmed me a little. Actually, to be fair, I started calming down the moment this blog topic hit me and I began to outline it. Getting all this from out of my gothic horror-themed head was helpful. Hopefully it has helped you, too.

Now get out there and keep working towards those accomplishments!

A.P. ThayerComment