My life has been a series of, “You can’t.” So, whilst I have thrust my chin out and made a statement about something I planned on doing with my life others have been there to either outright laugh in my face and/or smile sweetly at me in the way you do when you feel someone is slightly demented and you pity them immensely. Neither is kind to ones ego or positivity.
For me, these have been the things that have given me the dreaded feeling of Imposter Syndrome in my life, and of course becoming an author was no different at all.
I want you to think back over the aspirations you have told others and you’ve felt they have somehow made you feel as though it was too bigger goal for you to achieve. Here are mine:
I’m going to join the Air Force.
They laughed. They being most of the people who knew me, because let’s face it my level of discipline aged seventeen was basically zero. They have a way of creating that part of you, though. Well, that and my parents sold my bed the day I walked through RAF Halton’s gates and absolutely refused to let me come home. It wasn’t until I’d been serving for four years that my ‘imposter syndrome’ finally vanished. How and why? I finally felt as though I was worthy of being there and added something. In truth, that had most likely been happening for a long time before then, I just didn’t feel it.
I want to work in VIP.
They laughed. Mostly because despite serving for quite some years before I chose this path to walk along for my career I had always been quite the non-conformist. My speciality in life has been to question and push boundaries as far as possible. This attitude does not smack of a person who works in VIP in the military. Don’t get me wrong, it took me the full stretch of my career to make it, but I still duped my way into the job I wanted. Did I feel like an imposter? The entire time. But, I loved it and it was a great way to end my career and it’s that time I look back fondly on. It would have been different had I ended up with a different family, but they all took me in their stride…I think!
I want to study law at degree level.
Actually, no-one laughed. Not to my face anyway, and I’m not sure behind my back either. Well, except my barrister friend who read my first essay and she wasn’t laughing to be mean, but she saw I wrote like a novelist rather than a budding legal mind! The only person who laughed at me for even attempting this difficult challenge was myself. I took a two year sabbatical (which turned to three because it took a year to reset my brain afterward) from creative writing in order to achieve what I always wanted my entire life and never thought I would get…to wear a cap and gown and collect a scroll tied up with a cute ribbon. It was a lot of work for that one tiny moment of complete gratification. Even when I got my grade, with honours, I didn’t believe it. When I collected the scroll in the aforementioned outfit, wearing my prized unicorn shoes, which everyone stared at…the imposter syndrome vanished finally. It’s funny really, because in my professional division of the law, even when I really had no idea of what I was doing, I felt a strange confidence in my practices, so why simply proving I could do it on several pieces of paper terrified me so much, I’ll never know…
I’m going to be an author.
This is one that will never go away, I don’t think. I duped people on Facebook when I asked for their experiences of Imposter Syndrome by telling them I was going to explain how I overcome it in this blog post. I lied.
This is not to be mistaken as a complete lie, because I have overcome it lots of times, but it returns like that old cranky and nasty friend who tracks you down from time to time and then disappears again when you fail to gratify them with the lack of positivity that fuels them. You’d think after five published novels and at least another three on my hard drive, I’d believe, right? You are what you do, or have done, after all? People read your book, the figures are there and in some cases the reviews as well. Still, that sense of nagging doubt and crippling fear returns at the most inopportune times. Why? Because with each new title released, the fear you will finally be discovered as the imposter you are, returns.
When I picked up two publishing contracts, I felt I did get caught out because those two books did nothing. Nothing. I put that little niggle to bed when the publishing house closed and I self-published those titles and they did much better in terms of sales. The thing about this industry is you’re always learning and meeting new people, people who have the same stories to tell as I do. You pretty much have to push your small house published book as though you’re an indie to make it. Moral of the story? You may as well do it yourself.
These are mere examples of the times I’ve suffered with Imposter Syndrome. There have been many. Imposter Syndrome is proven to be something which afflicts perfectionists and people who feel they need to ‘achieve’ in order to be loved. Those are two traits I absolutely possess, to the point where people believe I’m much older than I am at times. Not because I’m fucking exhausted and look like a knackered old hag (both of which I often do.) But, so I’m informed, because I have crammed so much into my thirty-eight years of life.
So, whilst I fully admit the Imposter Syndrome rears its ugly head, I have figured out a few strategies to help overcome them. This is a strategy which can be employed for any negative notions or anything that should be challenged within your mindset; take your thoughts to court. It is exactly what it says it is. For example:I am not a real author. When this book releases I will be figured out for the fraud I really am.
Imagine now, this statement I have made, this feeling of crippling self doubt is to be brought before a court and judgement would be made, either by a judge or even a jury of your peers. Your statement must be proved in the same way as any other act or statement would be in court.
What is the evidence to support this claim? What is the counter evidence?
It may be useful for the first few occasions to write down your evidence on a piece of paper. It may look something like this depending on your situation:
Supporting evidence (The reasons why you feel it’s true:)
I have very few reviews on my book.
I have never had a bestseller.
My sales are inconsistent.
I have to work another job and fit in writing around that.
I don’t make any money.
Counter Evidence (Evidence to the contrary of your feelings:)
I’m dedicated to writing.
I love writing.
I don’t sell as many books as I would like, but I still have readers.
X messaged me and told me how much they loved my book and why.
I got a great review.
I re-read a title from my backlist and surprised myself with how good it was.
I dedicated so many hours to writing the stories I wanted to read.
I believe in my work.
I have written and published x amount of books.
No matter what, the evidence, providing you have work out there is overwhelming. It would be a waste of time to have written the evidence list and not look into what is causing your doubts. If you do this and try to tackle where the issues lie, I promise you that upon each repeat of the exercise the list will get smaller. I mean, being on a bestseller list will likely remain on my ‘evidence list’ forever, but honestly…it’s hardly the be all and end all, is it?
Your review of your argument may look like this:
I have very few reviews on my book. (How have I tried to secure readers reviews? Have I asked readers on my newsletter/ Facebook fan page/ Instagram/ review pages I follow?) No? Reach out it’s worth a shot. In all honesty I find it so difficult to get reviews positive or negative to the point I had a work colleague approach me, grab hold of my arm and enthusiastically inform me she had read every book I wrote and absolutely adored each word I’d written. She gushed to the point of embarrassment (for me.) When I asked her if she left reviews, she admitted she hadn’t, but promised to. That was about a year ago…still waiting.
I have never had a bestseller. (It’s not the end of the world. There are many authors who I love and respect that don’t possess this accolade…Maybe one day.) I’d like to add that one of the people who contacted me on Facebook to say she suffers with Imposter Syndrome is a bestselling author, so the feelings don’t go away then either. I recently read Write Naked by Jennifer Probst who explains how difficult post bestseller writing actually is on you. How much of a failure you feel if your next title doesn’t make in onto the NYT list. On reflection, I can absolutely see how that would be much more harmful than if you never had a bestseller in the first place! The book was fantastic if you’re into writing craft books, by the way.
My sales are inconsistent. (Look into my marketing strategy. What courses can I do that could help me achieve more sales at a consistent rate?) If you’re self-published, I urge you to surf through your genre. How does your book cover, blurb and landing page stand up against those at the top of your category. It’s outstanding the difference a few minor tweaks can make. Trust me, I turned a non-starter into my best selling title by making a few minor adjustments.
I have to work another job and fit in writing around that. (There are bestselling authors out there who still have to work other jobs to make ends meet. Perhaps, if I was less of a snappy dresser, designer shoe and handbag lover I could survive on the income?) LOL. okay, maybe that’s too much of a stretch. But, remember only the top two percent of authors earn enough to live off what they make from writing and even then lots of that comes from other sources such as public speaking engagements.
Okay, so all in all, I want to tell you something, if you actually got as far as to finish this blog post. If you wrote a book, bled onto that page, placed your heart and soul into the pages. Especially if you then continued to spill your guts and loved every moment of hammering the keys. You ARE a writer.
If you’re like me and put your hard earned money into your writing, whether that’s attending conferences, paying for editors…whatever, you catch my drift. Or, if, also like me, you worked hard submitting and submitting despite of the soul destroying rejection and carried on anyway until your work was in the public domain by whichever route. You ARE an author.
Another little secret…people will diss your book, this will happen. People will adore your book, also extremely likely to happen…
I highly doubt anyone will EVER call you out as an imposter…just sayin’.
While I’m here, allow me to show you this months Newsletter GIVEAWAY!
This month I’m giving away the entire Falling Series, a paranormal romance series penned by none-other than ME! Book 1, Falling to Pieces and book 2, Falling into You will be given away in e-book form whilst book 3, Falling from Grace will be a signed paperback!
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Thanks for reading! I’m really interested in other peoples experience with imposter syndrome, please get in touch by leaving a comment, messaging me on social media or by e-mail!