"Who am I to share my writing with the world?" you may ask. "I'm not Stephen King or any of these other famous writers. What do I have to offer the world?"
If this sounds like you, you're probably suffering from impostor syndrome.
Don't worry. I have too.
Impostor syndrome affects people in various professions, from athletics to music, and more. The syndrome doesn't only happen to creative people, but they do all seem to be in the process of striving toward something new and better. It's basically the feeling of, "holy crap, I'm a writer now." The noun is scary.
New writers often experience impostor syndrome when starting. The self-doubt can paralyze you into inaction, and you think, "maybe someday I'll be as smart and talented." It's natural, and many people go through this process.
For writers, myself included, impostor syndrome never really goes away. I haven't made it to fame to know for sure if it disappears then. However, anyone in a favorable position had to get there somehow.
The crucial thing to remember is that you're a writer -- if you write. You don't need to be published or have already reached professional acclaim to be a writer. It's not a someday destination. Pick up your pen, knock out a quick chapter, and you're a writer.
There are also a few techniques you can use to help move past your feelings of insecurity. Whether you're a novice or not, you're bound to feel like your work isn't gold all the time. So the next time impostor syndrome springs up in your life, try one of my nine favorite reframing techniques to move past your emotions and get to work.
What are Reframing Techniques?
Commonly used in therapy, reframing techniques help people find a different way to look at everything. The process works for dealing with people, relationships, or situations. Seeing things from another perspective enables you to see a brighter picture and ditch the limiting beliefs that hold you back.
Let's be honest; people don't enjoy being told what to do. Reframing techniques often best in the form of an innocent question for this reason. Outright advice never works, and reframing techniques must be emotional as well as persuasive. You must feel and logically examine your thoughts, actions, and emotions.
9 Reframing Techniques Guaranteed to Defeat Impostor Syndrome
Use any (or all) of these nine reframing techniques to defeat impostor syndrome. Grab a pen and pencil, and as you read, prepare to answer the following questions. Honestly consider your answers to each and think about how remolding your thoughts can help you see a bigger picture.
1. What if your writing doesn't need to be perfect?
Perfectionism is one of the main reasons for procrastination, and if you allow it to take over, you can obsess yourself into negative thoughts. Instead, consider perfectionism as your healthy drive to succeed.
You feel like you want to do your best, but that doesn't mean you also have to feel like you're not good enough. There will always be famous authors and people more talented and successful than you. They're just people though. People have to start somewhere, and I guarantee they've been in your exact shoes - only they didn't let their perfectionism hold them back.
All you have to do is start.
2. What does failure genuinly look like?
Fear of failure stops many people from ever starting, yet we continue to make the project seem larger and scarier in our minds. Take a step back and consider the situation objectively and rationally. Are you afraid to fail or to make a mistake? Isn't "failure" a learning tool?
Think of failure as an opportunity, a second chance. You've run into a small roadblock, but if you mess up, it's not the end. You'll learn and do better next time. Don't beat yourself up. Gain value from your mistakes, learn from each, and move on.
3. Are your feelings coming from an outside source?
If you're a woman in an all-male niche or industry, or a newbie starting their first novel, you may feel like an impostor. Maybe you think, "I have no idea what I'm doing" or feel like you don't fit in. Your feelings are entirely rational because, well, you are a bit of an outsider at the moment.
However, you don't need all the answers. Try to reframe this thought to, "Everyone who starts something new feels off at first." You only need a place to start. Courage comes from risk. Take a chance. Separate your feelings from the fact that you're leaning, and it's okay not to know everything or even know what your next step is at all times.
4. What signs are you adopting to validate your writing skill?
It's too easy for beginners to seek outside validation. Insecurity is prevalent when you're new to something. You may search for a pat on the back or rewards from a person you value in the business, whether from an editor you are about to pitch or a writer you admire.
You might even receive unwanted feedback, and immediately discard the information rather than look for value inside. We all learn constantly, and we can use this to grow if we're open to listening.
Balance is also key, so learn to pat yourself on the back. Fulfill your need for validation, and you won't need to search outside yourself to fill your need. To objectively read your work, try setting yourself away from the writing. Pretend you're editing someone else's manuscript.
When I started, for example, I liked to print out my writing, sit down with a red pen, pretend someone else wrote it, and cut it to pieces. This rewriting and editing process helped me rework my writing without taking it personally or becoming attached to sentences that weren't working. I set my feeling, mu personal connection, aside and wound up validating my experience and knowledge. As a result, I started feeling more confident in what I knew I could do.
5. How can you make yourself feel comfier?
If impostor syndrome pops up because writing isn't yet a part of your comfort zone, trick yourself into comfort. Grab your favorite mug, wear your soft sweatpants, or add a cozy blanket and go for it!
To help come up with a comfort hack that works well for you, write down a time you felt outside of your comfort one and what you did to move past your doubts and fears. Who supported you through your transition? What self-care actions did you initiate? How can you practice more or improve your skills?
6. Does negative self-talk hold you back?
"Fake it til you make it" sounds simple, but famous sayings like this work for many people due to the positive self-talk it initiates. People who are "faking it" may repeat statements to themselves like, "I've got this" or "I'm fully capable."
The positive statements, in this case, reprogram the negative affirmations that cause impostor syndrome. Whenever your thoughts turn negative or doubt enters your mind, remember the best pieces of yourself. Learn to value constructive criticism and build up a thick skin by recognizing your worth.
7. Are you comparing your success to others?
Starting is tough. It can seem like everyone is more knowledgeable and talented than you. But keep in mind that famous authors were once in your shoes. Don't compare yourself, where you're at step one, to people at the finish line.
Visualize your future success instead, or think about the road other people must have already traveled to reach their success. Imagine where your path will lead, or better yet, map out your way.
8. Are you bottling up your feelings of inadequacy?
You might not realize at the moment, but tons of people share your fears. Impostor syndrome touches every profession and all genders. You're not alone.
Share your feelings and concerns with likeminded people, or look for a group of writer friends to offer support. They can talk you down when you're overreacting and add reassurance. Don't dismiss their compliments either. Find your tribe and talk about how your process is going.
To find a writer group, you can search for a locally on MeetUp. There are always opportunities at your local library or bookstore as well. If you have no one to talk to openly, therapy can also be helpful.
9. What actions have you taken already?
Action is the best way to overcome impostor syndrome, so you must continue to do rather than think or plan. If you pause or take consistently long breaks between actions, nothing will get done. You must take a risk and do what you fear to move through. Otherwise, you stay stagnant.
Pursuing your dreams requires guts and action, especially when you feel doubtful. However, people don't achieve their goals by sitting around fearful. They do something they believe in and keep going.
Trust me; the doers are the ones you can aspire to be. Even when they're unsure, doers keep trying. They fall, learn from mistakes, and try again.
Think about the actions, the small steps, that you can use to meet your goals. List them out, and make sure each step is actionable. Break them into smaller goals you know you can easily reach, like a chapter per week, and make a plan.
A Final Thought
The single best way to stop impostor syndrome is to change your thoughts. If you think you're an imposter, you'll feel off too. Don't forget that you're in charge!
If you're still not sure where or how to start, take it from one of my favorite Waylon Lewis quotes.
"How to write a book:
Don't try to do it alone.
Don't try to be Hemingway, or Angelou.
don't try to find your voice.
don't think of brilliant titles or packed book readings
Just relax your shoulders.
find your breath
find a window, to write in front of
find your community - know who you're writing to. Look 'em in the eyes.
Feel your story, and the Universe will spill through you.
- Waylon Lewis