The Writer Impostor Syndrome

Oh, I can almost see you rolling your eyes. Here comes another whingey writer moaning about their writer’s block whilst sitting on the sofa scoffing cake.

Poor little writer is having an existential crisis. Possibly but maybe it goes deeper than that… Maybe you’ve been here, or are in this place too?

Who Am I?

Impostor syndrome - disguiseI can only speak, or write for myself, but I have a suspicion that many other writers have wondered if they are an impostor in this writing world.

When you’re an unpublished writer like me you could say that goes with the territory but I have a sneaking suspicion that even published writers sometimes question if they have the ‘proper’ writing chops to be doing this gig.

It’s all about identity. Maybe I’m having some kind of writer version of the midlife crisis. I’m finding myself questioning on occasion if I am playing at this writing business. Am I up to it or am I just a little girl who churns out the odd ‘alright’ blog post and ‘okay’ short story, trying to keep up with the big kids?

I’m not looking for praise or recognition in writing this. I am hoping that I’m not alone in those moments that sometimes grip me, along with the question, ‘Am I really a writer or am I playing dress up?’

Do I Want It Too Much, Not Enough, or Does it Drive Me Onwards?

These are valid questions that I think every writer should ask themselves every now and again.

Do I want it too much?

Do I think that writing is the only thing that can make my life better? Do I envision that it will give me riches and fame? Would I throw my granny under the bus to get a publishing deal? Is it everything and the rest of my life is nothing in comparison?

For me, if I ever answer ‘yes’ to any of those questions I will stop writing, mainly because both my grannies are dead. I jest…

Do I not want it enough?

Does writing happen once in a blue moon, when the wind is blowing in the right direction and the stars are aligned? Do I not care if I never write again? Do I start projects and constantly leave all of them unfinished because I can’t be bothered to see them through?

For me, if I ever answer ‘yes’ to any of these questions, I will give up on the dream of getting published, go out and get a routine job, and put it all down to being another lovely but unachievable dream.

Does it drive me onwards?

Do I think about writing even when life’s tragedies and demands keep me away from it? Do I feel an ache inside when I cannot write? Do I feel like something inside catches alight when an idea forms? Do I delight in my exciting sentences and lament the crappy ones?

For me, I hope my answer will always be an emphatic ‘yes’.

Any Yet…

Impostor syndrome - man behind maskI still wonder if I have it. You know… that ‘thing’; that ‘thing’ that makes you a writer.

What is it? Does anyone know? If so, send your answers on a postcard because at least it will mean that we are writing.

I chose to be a writer. I made a bold decision to declare myself as such when I decided that this would now be my vocation.

Sometimes it takes your brain a while to catch up with your heart. My heart knows this is it. I have found the thing I should have been doing years ago. My head trails a little behind at times in believing this is it.

I’ll write a story, someone will read it and love it. I believe that I am a writer.

I’ll publish a blog post and get some great comments. I must be a writer.

I’ll finish the first draft of a novel. I have to be a writer, right?

And Yet…

The first draft of that novel sits in a drawer for a year because depression robbed me of the ability to even speak let alone write.

I struggled to write a blog post because I couldn’t concentrate for longer than two minutes.

Deaths came at me hard and I felt like writing died with my loved ones.

I am on the cusp of beginning writing the second novel and I’m scared that I will fail to see this through again.

Was I, am I still, a writer, or an impostor going through the motions?

Is a plumber still a plumber if they don’t fix toilets and sinks? Is a doctor still a doctor if they never see a patient? Is a chef still a chef if they don’t cook?

What if they weren’t doing what we expected of them because they were taking a holiday, a short break, were downtrodden, or were no longer inspired? Do we write them off or wait to see if they make a comeback?

Is it good enough to call yourself a writer if you never produce the published goods? Have you done your job to your full capacity? Do people think you’re just giving yourself a fancy title whilst you’re filling in time, doing very little?

So many questions. I don’t have all the answers except…

I Wrote This

Impostor syndrome - silencing the maskI’ll call myself a writer then.

I write blog posts every week. I’ll call myself a writer then.

I wrote a first draft of a novel. I’ll call myself a writer then.

I’ve outlined a whole second novel. I’ll call myself a writer then.

I’ve researched, planned characters and created settings for my second novel. I’ll call myself a writer then.

I’ve written many short stories. I’ll call myself a writer then.

I’ll Call Myself a Writer Then

I’ll try my best to ignore that impostor who sneaks up behind me and whispers in my ear that I’m not only fooling myself but everyone else too.

I’ll fight the need to be a label. What’s a writer anyway? It’s such a multi-faceted role that defies a stringent set of requirements.

For now I’ll just write and leave the fraud outside the door. Don’t let her in if she comes knocking. She’s been taking up too much space as it is.

About Lisa Sell

Lisa Sell is a fiction writer. When she's not wrestling with words she can be found showing the love for chocolate, cheese, coffee, books, the cats, and the husband. Perhaps not in that order.

13 comments on “The Writer Impostor Syndrome

  1. You’re definitely not alone in feeling this. And, if it helps, I think you’re a fantastic writer. Maybe this is just one of those writer things, like having an affinity for cats and caffeine and chocolate. Not as much fun, but maybe the need to prove we really are writers, to ourselves if not others, is what helps drive us to learn and improve and keep trying.

    Or maybe we’re just all a little insecure 😉

    1. I think you’re right in many ways. I guess because it’s about creativity and our imagination that provokes insecurity because they’re such personal things.

      I sometimes feel like that kid who brings their painting home from school and is being told that it’s great when 20 years later when it’s brought down from the attic it’s obviously crap. Insecurity is most definitely underneath it all.

      I am stubborn and a fighter so I keep writing because, as you say, I need to prove to myself first that I can.

      Thanks for being honest and understanding. It helps to know you’re not alone sometimes.

  2. Brilliant post. I question myself often but now that my first novel is expected to be released at the end of the year I am giving myself the title “Writer.” After all the hard work, doubts and frustrations, I think I have earned it. )

    1. I’m pleased to hear both that your novel is being published and that you’re proclaiming yourself a writer, Tina. Of course you were right from the moment you started writing but as I know, sometimes it takes a while to believe it.

  3. It’s called self-doubt and all writers suffer from it. And the more upsets or distracting events we have that take us away from our writing, even temporarily, add to our doubts.

    1. Agree with all you’ve written here, Vicky. Self-doubt, whilst something experiences by many writers, can be crippling. Impostor syndrome is an inflation of that. Hopefully we’ll all make it through the other side eventually.

    1. Thanks for sharing your post with me Whitney. I will certainly check it out.

      It is most certainly an ebb and flow thing and like you say, I’m embracing the better moments for all they’re worth! Thanks so much for your encouragement and empathy.

      1. You’re welcome! I think the more we’re open about our creative process, it invites people to let you know you’re doing okay. At least, that’s what I’m working on. 🙂

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