Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Imposter Syndrome: A Guest Post



Much of the emotional work of writing is pushing through the feelings of not being the real thing or not being good enough. You may think that when you land a publishing contract, that Imposter Syndrome would not affect you anymore. YA Author Beth Ellyn Summer (whose cheery IG account I recommend following to get your dose of pastel, pretty, and words) shares how Imposter Syndrome can strike anytime. I loved reading this guest post and can't wait to share it with you:

Imposter Syndrome: A Guest Post by YA Author Beth Ellyn Summer

When I was little, I couldn't wait to be a “real author.” This past April I published my first novel with Bloomsbury.
Last week, I found myself telling a friend, "I can't wait to be a real author."

No. That's not a typo. I said these words just.last.week. Seven months after my YA novel debuted.

I've met a lot of writers and we all seem to have the same problem: we wait our whole lives to do this writing thing, and then we either shy away from telling people we're writers or awkwardly dance around the title. You know how it is. You go to a party and someone asks you what you do. You duck your head and shrug apologetically while saying "I...um...write books?" Imagine if doctors introduced themselves by saying, “I...um...operate...on people?”

It’s called Imposter Syndrome. This idea that we’re just faking it till we make it to the point where we’re waiting for the world to catch up to the fact that...well...we’re all a bunch of fakes.

The problem with creative endeavors is that there's no degree or graduation ceremony telling us "you're a real writer now." It’s so much simpler to point to a diploma on your wall to back up your profession.  All we have to go on is publishing milestones which are a) far and few between, and b) based on more than studying for exams; luck and trends play such a huge role in what we do.

At one point I was convinced getting agented would crush any doubt that I'm legit. Well, that happened, and it was amazing, but I still couldn't admit I was an author. The next step was obviously to land a book deal. That happened too. And I really believed this was it. I’m now a Real Author. But nope! All I felt was terror. Because now I didn't just have to prove myself to my agent, but to an editor, then The World. 

My next train of thought was along the lines of “once the book is out, and someone tweets me telling me they loved it, then it's real.”

Not even close. Because when I got my first good reviews, and tweets saying how much the reader loved it, my brain said: "OMG. I'll never write another book! And if this reader knew just how much I struggled they'd laugh at me. They'd know that I don't know what I'm doing, that this book was a fluke."

So, why is it so hard for us to accept that what we do matters? I think we need to stop looking at success as one definable achievement, but rather the sum of all the small moments. The journey from opening a fresh document to typing The End is wonderfully torturous, and stringing dangling threads of ideas together until there’s an imaginary world to show for it is about as real as it gets. 

Twitter: @BethEllynSummer
Instagram: @BethEllynSummer


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