Monday, 6 January 2014

Imposter Syndrome

Call yourself a rabbit?
In theory, I am now ready to run, downhill all the way, into finishing the first set of edits on my women’s novel. I’m so nearly there…

But it has been three weeks since I last sat down to write, and in that three weeks Christmas, New Year, relatives, and the lack of routine have all been niggling away at me, whispering from cupboard tops and scratching the surface of my writer’s veneer. “Call yourself a writer?” they say. “Everyone else is better than you,” they mock. “Faker!” they sing, in tune with my morning alarm.

It’s not uncommon for me to have these bouts of self-doubt, and I know many of my writing friends who feel the same. When you self publish, you never get that moment of signing on the dotted line of a big fat book deal which signals you’ve ‘made it’, and external validation comes along drip by drop. Great reviews are always nice, connecting with appreciative readers is lovely, and sales of course are always good for the ego, and these continue even when you’re not writing. But it’s the writing, and writing more, which feeds the soul and cancels out the voices in my head; when I don’t write, when I have a ‘break’, the voices get louder and I can only ignore them for so long before they are shouting, “Imposter!”

Meerkats are the real cats.
The impostor syndrome, as it happens, is a genuine psychological phenomenon characterised by self-doubt, a sense of incompetence, fear, immobility and stress. Sufferers chalk up their accomplishments to luck, being in the right place at the right time, fluke. They may shy away from challenges, beat themselves up over mistakes and feel crushed by criticism. Chiefly, they live in fear of being found out.

For the most part, we don’t verbalise these feelings; we don’t put them into words. They are the hidden persuaders who lurk unseen and unacknowledged. When I am writing, when I am feeling good about myself, I can ignore them. But after a three week break, erk… they are starting to get on my nerves.

Dr. Valerie Young, a leading expert on the impostor syndrome, believes it's particularly persistent in creative fields such as acting or writing, where you think you're only as good as your last effort. She quotes Maya Angelou on her website… “I have written eleven books, but each time I think, uh-oh they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody and they’re going to find me out.” Mike Myers… “At any time I still expect that the no-talent police will come and arrest me.” And Meryl Streep… “You think, ‘Why would anyone want to see me again in a movie? And I don’t know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?’”
"I don't think they've spotted me yet," said a hopeful Mr Pickles.

So what’s the answer? Well there is a wealth of advice out there, including these top tips…
1. Talk about it
2. Write a list of all you have accomplished
3. Stop comparing yourself to others
4. Accept that you are not perfect, but neither is anyone else
5. Do what makes you happy…

Okay – so I don’t know if I am going to rush headlong into numbers 1 to 4, but even acknowledging the problem here has helped me a little, and I’m now ready to climb back up that hill, put on my running shoes and have me some fun.

Do you feel like joining me on the downhill leg?

Wheeeeeeeee!

12 comments:

  1. You are not an imposter Wendy! I am an imposter! (I am also Spartacus!)
    Feeling 100 per cent the same. I'll join you...

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    1. No, I am Spartacus... Hooray - so glad you're going to join me on my flight downhill. Shall we start tomorrow?

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  2. It's a daily struggle, reality vs writing! If reality gets in my head, i.e.:bills, illness, the van has a flat, I fight to let my creative side back out.

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    1. I think having a routine helps - kind of programmes my brain for a certain time of day, and lets me deal with life after the writing. But when the routine goes to pot, I'm in trouble! Hope you manage to let that creative side back out soon. Thanks for commenting :)

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  3. Haha, I live my life fearing that one day people will see through me like Cling Film; not just as a writer but in everything. Tomorrow will be a good day, Ms Storer; you have to finish it, remember, cos I can't wait to read it! x x

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    1. Thank you - I will get there, I will... and you will too. And then we can get imposter syndrome all over again when we start on our next novels... I'm beginning to realise it's part of the process. X

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  4. So I am not alone..So I let strangers on twitter read my blogs and not my knowns....

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    1. Ha ha - it seems you are in plentiful company! Thank you for commenting, and good luck with your own writing.

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  5. What a great post Wendy! It isn't uncommon for any of us to have these doubts I think. It's all part of being a writer. Love the pictures too!

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    1. Thank you,Vashti. I have to admit, I didn't realise just how common it was until I wrote this post.

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  6. Who gave that advice list? If you could do numbers 3 and 4, you wouldn't have the problem in the first place! About as useful as saying 'don't worry about it' to people!

    I do know what you mean about all this, by the way!

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    1. And I know what you mean about 3 and 4, but I think we do so much of this stuff unconsciously, we can't deal with it. When we bring it into the open we allow ourselves to change the script. Thanks for commenting :)

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Thanks for commenting.