Anyone who knows me a little, will know this about me: I have a fairly major case of impostor syndrome about my writing.
I’m not even published yet, and I’ve managed to develop it. “I’m just a hack”, I’ll regularly say. “I’m not writing anything earth-shattering”, I mumble. “It’s just XXX, not quality writing, and probably nobody will ever want to read it”, I mutter. “I haven’t done any courses, everything I know is from practice and reading, not like your proper learning”, I protest.
“I’m just a hack, not a real writer.”
I can’t even blame my fanfic-writing background, although that’s usually what I pin it on when asked. After all, I know plenty of great writers who are being nominated for major awards, who started in fanfic. It was writing in other people’s playgrounds that taught them the important elements of telling stories that keep people reading, before they ventured into their own worlds. It was writing fanfic AUs that taught them how to world build. Fanfic is, I know, a great way to learn how to write and how to write things people want to read.
I know all this, in the logical part of my brain. Most of the time, I even believe it. My impostor syndrome is so deeply ingrained, though, that I can’t shake it even in writing groups with other unpublished writers. We’re all on the same level, but in my head, they’re all just letting me tag along to watch the grown-ups write. Even though they’re not, and the logical part of my brain knows they’re not.
My impostor syndrome doesn’t contain itself to writing. I’ve been working in the IT industry for ten years. I still feel like, any day now, someone is going to notice that I shouldn’t be here and send me…somewhere else. I don’t know where, but that’s because impostor syndrome isn’t logical. Every positive annual review is a shock, every promotion is a surprise, and every bit of praise on a successful project must be talking about some other person on it, not me. I’m the impostor here. Eventually they’ll notice.
Impostor syndrome sucks. It’s also so common there’s a name for it. When published, amazing writers talk about having it, I feel relieved. It’s not just me, I’m not the only one who is waiting for someone to notice I shouldn’t be here.
It’s also a little depressing, realising that it’s probably never going to go away completely. That I could sell my work, sell a lot of it, and some nasty corner of my brain will still be chewing away and trying to persuade me that there’s been a mistake. Or that everyone else is clearly still more worthy of being at this table because Reasons.
(Those reasons are never defined in my head. It’s a moving goal posts problem–I keep moving them.)
Understanding that I’m not alone, though, is the most helpful part. If everyone else thinks they’re the impostor, maybe that should tell us something. Maybe that should tell us that none of us are impostors: that we’re all worthy of sitting at this table, doing our thing, and nobody is going to suddenly make us leave because we belong here. We deserve this.