Tips from a Writing Pro

How can writers deal with impostor syndrome?

Jonathan Baldie

Jonathan Baldie

Jan 19, 2020 — 2 mins read
Photo by <a href="" target="_blank">Priscilla Du Preez</a> on <a href="" target="_blank">Unsplash</a>

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Writing, much like any creative field, has a weird distribution of success. A hugely disproportionate number of books sold come from a tiny sliver of the most talented authors - such as J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, and Dan Brown.

That leaves the rest of us. The 99% of authors who contribute 1% to global book sales. Hey, we get it, readers have limited time and are totally justified in picking out the best books to read. But it makes us feel like failures - or impostors.

Impostor Syndrome affects many authors, and I've certainly felt it in my time. Even though I've sold thousands of my books, I see the impressive new release from James Scott Bell or K.M. Weiland and feel an instinctive pang of shame.

We humans aren't anywhere near as rational as we think ourselves to be. We're animals, with powerful emotional instincts for jealousy, hierarchy, and territory. It's natural for us to feel weird, negative emotions at times - so why fight it?

My best advice to authors feeling Impostor Syndrome is three-fold. First, talk to other authors - you'll be shocked at how many share your anxieties. Second, compare your achievements only to past versions of yourself, not to others.

Thirdly, remember that you have written - or are writing - a book. Do you realise how many people dream of doing that, and never fulfil that dream? You are an amazing, one-in-a-million person for that. And I really mean it.

Accept your emotions and don't try to fight them. Instead, see things like Impostor Syndrome as bugs written into your software code - and try to see the positive benefits in such bugs. Let it drive you towards success.

The absolute worst thing to do with Impostor Syndrome is to bottle it up and never deal with it properly. To deny your human nature is to endure years of unresolved pain. Please open up about your writing anxieties - we all share them.

If you find yourself struggling with Impostor Syndrome, understand that it is perfectly natural and common in writers at all levels. Maybe read a famous writer's memoir to see how anxious they felt at times. It'll make things feel better.

anxiety mental health writing impostor syndrome

Please check out The 24 Laws of Storytelling, my book that explores the principles that make some books and movies great and explains why others fail. By reading my book, you’ll gain the same strategies used by master storytellers such as Stephen King, Christopher Nolan, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and many more. Pick up your copy today.

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