Overcoming Self-Doubt & Imposter Syndrome

What I know (2)

I have struggled with serious writer’s block this year.

I’m not unique. I get that. At some point, it happens to nearly everyone who makes creative writing a serious undertaking.

This time felt different though. More severe, and a bit insidious.

I’ve written before about my struggles with my fantasy novel. I’m neck-deep in a 2nd draft/nearly full re-write, and the story will come out the other side looking nearly nothing like the 1st draft. Again, this is a relatively normal process, and lots of authors deal with that grind.

Somewhere along the way though, self-doubt started to creep in. Like a tiny seed sprouting and taking root in the deepest recesses of my brain, it grew under the right conditions (busy schedule, life changes, competing priorities) until it had flowered into what the French refer to as “Le Syndrome de Imposter” (not an actual translation) or, “Imposter Syndrome”. Honestly, no amount of writing podcasts or blogs can prepare you for that crippling self-doubt when it actually arrives. At least I was totally unprepared…

What the Internet didn’t tell me is that self-doubt doesn’t have to manifest as some sort of easily categorized fear. It’s not like you’ll panic, slam your laptop shut , and go curl up in the bathroom, when you see threads on Twitter asking to update on your current project. In fact, the cacophony of social media is a very comfortable place to hide, procrastinate, and “water the flower” so to speak. More on that later though.

My self-doubt manifested as apathy more than anything. Even with encouragement and responsibility to my writer’s group, every scene and chapter was a massive slog. I spent the better part of 2019 doing everything I could to avoid writing and I didn’t know why. It finally took some serious self-reflection and understanding of what the root of my insecurities were to address it and get back to really dissecting and writing my book.

I want to provide some advice in this post, rather than just anecdotally bemoaning my position, so here are some things that worked for me to start regularly putting words on the page again.

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Writer versus Author

image of hedge maze

Is there a difference?

I was inspired by author K.M. Allan’s post ’10 Signs You’ve Upgraded To Being A Serious Writer’¬†and began thinking about all the ways people who write label themselves and one another, especially on the internet.

If you’re reading this, chances are you like to write. Maybe you fancy yourself a “writer”, an “author”, or an “aspiring writer”? How many times have you read the words “aspiring writer” on the internet this week?

The way writers self-identify is fascinating to me. The way literary circles and internet marketing use these words as labels and identifiers is even more interesting.

Let’s take a look

Writer

  • Someone who writes
  • Someone who writes for a living (novelist, journalist, blogger)
  • Someone who writes books (specifically)
  • Someone who wants to sound cool at parties

Author

  • Someone who writes
  • Someone who writes a lot
  • Someone who is the author of published book(s)
    • Traditionally or self-published? Take your pick
  • Someone who is a well-regarded and successful writer of books (upper-echelon, or possibly “mid-list author”)
  • Someone who wants to sound cool, and a bit pretentious, at parties
    • bonus points for claiming “auteur” status

Aspiring Writer

  • Someone who writes
  • Someone who fantasizes about writing
    • but maybe doesn’t write a lot?
  • Someone who writes and still has big dreams because the soul-crushing weight of a stack of rejection letters hasn’t demolished them yet
  • Someone who is the recipient of endless writing advice (of varying quality) on the internet
  • Someone who is the recipient of endless writer-focused product pitches (of varying quality) on the internet
  • Someone who is just trying to meet another someone at the party

I come from the old school thought that “Writer’s write, but authors get paid to do it.” I find it keeps me grounded and helps me remember that writing may be an art, but publishing is a business. However, I know many of you think otherwise.

There’s no lack of enthusiasm and encouragement these days for people who want to write, which is great.

That said, I have found the common thread among all writers/authors I know is their evolution was grounded in rejection, exposure to criticism, and continued perseverance. In other words, “you keep writing even when it gets tougher and less nice”.

What do you think? Is there true meaning behind the way writers label themselves with these terms, or is it all semantics?

What do you refer to yourself as when you’re at parties? For the record, I say “writer”.