Writers, how confident are you about yourselves?
Remember confidence? It is an abstract feeling which makes you feel you belong.
I am writing this based purely on my own experience. If I draw some generic conclusions you find inaccurate, I apologize in advance.
Like many writers, I write because it is a medium I am comfortable conveying my thoughts in. Whether I am writing an article on why Chelsea needs to buy better defenders or a short story of a man who wishes to live in a lighthouse, the written word is my happy place.
I am a professional writer, which is another way of saying I know how to make money as a writer. This is important for what I am about to tell you now.
I often feel like I am committing a great fraud getting paid writing for people and companies.
Confused? I don’t know whether engineers and software developers feel the same way. On a recent call with a potential new client, I was asked to quote the price of my services.
The air inside my belly collapsed. Of course, I knew this question was coming. It was not a surprise. And yet, I felt lost, albeit for a period of seven seconds.
Before the call, I had kept a figure in mind. I knew exactly what to tell the client. Finally, I broke the seven second silence and quoted a lower figure than I previously decided.
I think, I hope, I am not the only one to make this mistake.
Then I heard about this new thing – impostor syndrome.
Why Is It Important for Writers to Know About Impostor Syndrome?
Generally, I am not fond of fancy psychiatric terms which explain every random emotion someone feels. It always feel like an attempt to simplify the inherent chaos of our mind and the world.
And yet, when I heard about impostor syndrome, a bulb lit up somewhere in my head.
Yes, they have a name for how I feel.
By definition, impostor syndrome is a situation in which a person feels insufficiently skilled, talented, or accomplished to belong to a given field.
Let me explain this in a way I explain everything, a sports example.
Imagine you are a striker who scores goals for fun. A big team notices your talent and acquires you for a big fee. You are given the responsibility to be the leading striker for the new team. The stage is set for you to deliver. You obviously have the talent and skills to deliver. After all, you have done this before.
Not if you’re someone suffering from impostor syndrome, no. As a person experiencing impostor syndrome, you will start questioning your talent. The goals will dry up as you start chasing unnecessary perfection.
Writers go through something similar. They undervalue their skills, overthink their writing style and habits, and end up becoming a shell of their usual self. After a while, they even overthink writing something as simple as their resume headline.
I don’t know if writers really go through impostor syndrome. I only know it accurately describes something I tend to feel all the time.
So, is there a solution?
How Can Writers Overcome Impostor Syndrome?
Yes, there are solutions. Impostor syndrome is not a mental ailment. It is the consequence of a certain set of beliefs which take root in a person’s mind. The reasons can be many and better explored with the help of a therapist.
The question here is how does a writer overcome this problem?
You can go online and find a number of remedies. Many people writing on this subject suggest that continual positive affirmations can help with this problems. In short, writers must remind themselves of their achievements.
There are other remedies too. I am not here to list down every little remedy you can find anywhere else. I can only honestly say what works for me.
This is the story of Neil Gaiman, author of American Gods, who had impostor syndrome.
My take on this is similar to Gaiman. We live in a time when people are judging others based on the amount of luck and privilege they have. In the end, we all have our share of good and bad luck.
Sometimes, success may seem overwhelming and unearned when the opposite is the case. Writers are prone to this line of thinking more than others because we have direct commercial examples to compare ourselves with. Any time I pick up a Stephen King novel, I end up thinking I am stealing a living. The same thing happens when I read a great article.
Insecurity is not uncommon in the age of social media. However, writers need to start realizing there will always be people in the world who don’t like their writing. There is nothing they can do about it.
Impostor syndrome goes away when writers learn to accept money for write-ups some number of people will inevitably dislike. This is the name of the game.
Writers have a role to play. Companies need good writers who are confident about their skills. If we have accepted the internet as the engine for debate and discovery, content is the fuel driving the train.
From writing good copy for a service page to a short story, words always seem better when they come from someone who is confident and happy.
And finally, from Gaiman himself.
Note from Editor –
Thank you for coming on Binge Mad and trusting us to give you something worthwhile to read.
This piece marks the launch of a new section on our website – Writer Confessions. We invite writers to share some of the professional challenges they face candidly in this section. For now, we plan on publishing a piece in this section every Friday.
If you are a writer and want to share some of your own thoughts, feel welcome to get in touch. You can get in touch by filling up the form here.