The Imposter Syndrome Megaphone: Strategies for Creative Writers
by Writing Workshops Staff
A year ago
When it comes to writing, discomfort often points the way to your best work. A friend of mine, Austin Church, is fond of saying imposter syndrome doesn’t go away, but you can take away its megaphone.
Austin has a process for tamping down the effect imposter syndrome has on him, and I think his five steps are simple enough to follow:
- Start with the smallest, least risky step.
- Graduate to the next low-risk step.
- Set a goal for swings, not hits.
- Raise the stakes.
- Swing for the fences.
As writers, dealing with imposter syndrome can have a direct impact on our happiness. It can be hard to keep the demons away.
Justin Maiman's article on happiness (he is taking Laurie Santos' famous free class on happiness at Yale) made me think about being a writer, about the frustrations and doubts that occur when you wonder if what you have to say, or the story you want to tell, is worth wrestling to the page.
Writers are notoriously anxious and many, including myself, have suffered with imposter syndrome. It is hard not to compare yourself to writers who might be ahead of you in their writing journey or who might have found early success while you're still struggling to find your voice or foothold in the publishing industry.
Some of the best advice I've ever received, and maybe you've heard it to, is to simply write the kind of work you'd like to read, the kind of work you'd like to see in the world.
As writers, the two things we have that are uniquely our own are our voice and our point of view. Together, these form the DNA of our writing, but it can still be a struggle to develop all of the tools and elements of craft that bring our unique traits as writers to the page.
Because writing is a solitary endeavor it can help to find community, of course, but it is even more important to give yourself the freedom to fail, to write a crummy first draft, to simply enjoy the process of writing, to enjoy the journey.
From taking Laurie Santos' class, Maiman has identified several takeaways:
- Focus on your strengths
- Invest in experiences
- Learn to savor more
- Express gratitude and spread kindness
Maiman ends his article by saying: the key here is to pick up a new habit that will lead you to feeling happier. So find one above that works for you and try it. It's been well worth it already for me.
I agree with what Maiman says, who distilled these points from Santos. The journey is what matters, and you should have joy along the way. Write what matters to you and the rest will follow.
And, if you're looking for a class in fiction, poetry, nonfiction, or screenwriting, we've got you covered.