Do You Have Impostor Syndrome?
This week I’m celebrating the sale of a client’s project to a dream publisher—a project I first saw (and loved) two years ago. I knew the moment I read the manuscript that it was something special. I resonated with the author’s story and her writing, and I felt very strongly that many others would too. Eventually.
My instinct was that it wasn’t the right timing to put it out to publishers. I suggested she take some time to polish the manuscript, while also working on her blog and building her platform. I told her the market just wasn’t ready for it, and I didn’t want to show it to publishers at the wrong time. I promised I’d be watching for the right time and the right editors to send it to. She handled all of this like a professional. She hired an editor and improved her manuscript. She continued blogging—and being patient.
Meanwhile, I was second guessing myself, something I do far too often. It’s risky to ask a client to be patient, to trust me to find the right timing to give their project the best chance for success. Do I really know what I’m doing? What if I’m wrong? What if this long wait doesn’t pay off for my client?
Who am I, anyway, to be advising anyone about anything? What do I know?
I get mired in Impostor Syndrome more than you’d think. In fact, I think most agents do. And I’d bet most writers do too.
Impostor Syndrome is when you have those moments of thinking: I can’t do this! People think I can do this, but I’ve got them all fooled! I’m a fraud! A poser! A fake! I’m not REALLY an agent/novelist/physician/teacher/take your pick. They are going be on to me soon!
Most of us suffer from this occasionally.
But then … we have those moments when we’re reminded that we do, in fact, sort of know what we’re doing. I had that moment yesterday when the editor I’d hand-picked for my client’s book called me with an offer. I’d been patient, watched the market, determined the timing was right—and it paid off. I had to take a moment to acknowledge that I do know just a teensy bit about what I’m doing. Maybe I’m not an impostor after all.
I think it’s important to be aware of the insecurity that makes us sometimes feel like a fraud; and to remind ourselves that we do have talents, skills, and abilities. The most helpful thing I’ve done to keep my confidence strong is a simple sticky note on my computer:
“This is what I do.” Every day when I sit down to work, that simple phrase reminds me that I know what I’m doing; that I don’t need to waste energy thinking it’s too hard or I can’t do it; that I’ve put years into learning this job; that I can simply start the day with confidence, do my job, and always be open to learning how to do it better.
What about you? Do you ever feel like an impostor? What makes you feel that way? What reminds you of the truth about yourself?
[…] Castle in Scotland for June this year as well, I’d be suffering from a serious case of imposter syndrome. And below is why. A shortened list of some of MacDowell’s past fellows and the projects they […]
Having ignored my intuition and chosen the dream to my ongoing regret, I’ve learned to listen to the lady when she talks.
Thank you for this post! It spoke to me on so many levels. I’m once again convinced of the power of the human factor, acknowledging that all of us doubt ourselves at times and must continue to push through and do what we know we’ve been called to do. Your post also gave me renewed faith in my agent who believes in my manuscript and has advised me just as you advised your client. Thank you for your honesty and transparency. I will keep plugging away every day with renewed patience and hope.
[…] The imposter syndrome (does anyone else get this?) I loved this article. […]
Wow…what a post. I think I do have impostor syndrome. My current blog, mfawriterguy.com, stems from it, in fact. Because since i’m in the program now, it’s the one thing I can blog about with absolute confidence that I’m providing useful information. But this issue has caused me to abandon 5 (!) previous blogs, and it’s prevented me from creating a personal “author site” to promote my writing. With the majority of my work unpublished and no desire to publish ebooks, it’s hard to imagine what I might put up on author’s site to get people excited about my books…for the day when a publisher might grace me with a contract. Lots of food for thought here. Thank you, as always.
[…] Do You Have the Imposter Syndrome? by Rachelle Gardner – “Who am I, anyway, to be advising anyone about anything? What do […]
I would love to tell you what I think of this post, but now’s not the right time.
I needed this post today. Thanks.
I do feel like an imposter often in my writing life.
I’m not an imposter wife and mother. I can do that, although I pray for wisdom often.
I went to college and passed my boards to become a pharmacist. I don’t feel like an imposter there.
But a few years ago I began to follow my dream of writing. I take classes and read books and spend hours writing.
And then I have a moment where I wonder if I’m just kidding myself.
Your post couldn’t have come at a better time.
Thanks so much, and congrats!
Wow! that is fantastic. First off that you got that great offer – second that you had that affirmation. How great to know we are all the same – we suffer doubt, insecurity and generally feeling like we are faking it.
I will be putting up my own post it of
‘This is what I do’
Congratulations, Rachelle and client! That’s a very cool story.
Do you think part of the problem is that we are just nobodies to ourselves? We know we’re nothing special, and we kind of take for granted that what we do, anyone can do.
But then we have those moments where someone says something that makes us realize God’s designed us with certain skills that He hasn’t given to everyone else. And it’s in that moment that we realize we are good at what we do because God made us that way. Which also means we need to keep doing it. 🙂
We are definitely nobodies to ourselves. Having spent a reasonable amount of time amongst various fields of ‘somebodies’ it’s quickly evident they are as human as we are. It’s a weird experience to observe them in their limelight element (as well as behind the scenes), and I guarantee you that on some level, they’re also feeling like an imposter.
You are so right about what God has given us!! x
I don’t know for sure if what I encounter is imposter syndrome. It’s more like self doubt (maybe attacks from the enemy, too.) I think, “Nobody wants to hear what I have to say! I’m nobody. I’m not famous or an expert. What ever I think is probably wrong, anyway!” I battle that often. I may be a nobody to 99% of the world. Maybe nobody wants to hear what I have to say. But if I DON”T say it, I’ll explode. Nobody listened to Noah, either. Where are his critics now?
Yes… yes I do!
I think, at some points, I feel this in EVERYTHING.
Really? God thought I could take care of kids? WHAT was He THINKING?
I used to manage a payroll department for a billion dollar company… seeing that multi-million dollar direct deposit total each week was enough to shake my head and think, “Wow, they are truly clueless letting me take charge of that much money.”
And writing… yup, I am SO SO SO thankful for my publishing house taking a chance on me, but on my down-in-the-dumps days, I convince myself that they are arguing about who’s stupid idea it was to publish me anyway.
Some of this a wee bit points to self-confidence issues, I know.
But it helps to remind myself that my worth is not found in my job or my books or even my kids (<—MOTHERS TAKE NOTE!) but in JESUS CHRIST alone is who makes me worthy. I was created in His image and loved by Jesus. I'm not all of those things by myself, but am a work in progress by the hand of the Master Himself.
I guess it helps to just take the pressure off and feel loved by Jesus. That's what matters when it's all said and done anyway!
Just saw this from Kristen Lamb’s blog & thought it was fitting to share:
““Amateurs wait for inspiration. The rest of us get up and go to work.” ~Stephen King.
So the next time you look at those authors you admire so much, you might rest easy knowing that you very well could be just as talented. Talent isn’t something we can much control. But, this is good news. This means, then, that the only things separating us from the Author Big Leagues are life habits that we can control. And that is FANTASTIC news!”
(this has been a Public Service Announcement promoting the use of Self-Discipline to realize your staggering magnificence) 😉
[…] Gardner (@RachelleGardner) asks Do You Have Impostor Syndrome? What in the world is that? It’s that feeling that you really don’t know what you’re doing, […]
Yep. Got the IS too. Been trying to swollow that sincerity pill for a long time. Haven’t got it down yet. Maybe one day. Great, great post, Rachelle. Thanks to you and all the wonderful people here. Keeps me going when all I have left to hold onto some days is a thread of a thread.
I’ve heard many writers say the exact thing!
I make self-help posters, (8×10 on copy paper), and place them around my writing desk.
One of my favorites is a girl swinging on a tire swing from an old oak tree as the sun goes down with a quote from T. S. Eliot, “Only those who will risk going to far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
So, this is what I was thinking today and replied to a commenter on my blog: “I still lack the confidence that I can continue to write or call myself a writer. Why? I wonder, do all writers feel like they aren’t really writers? Is there some rite of passage after which you feel like you are a writer like other people think you are a writer?”
This post has been MOST helpful! Glad I checked in. It isn’t just me!
Thank you!!!! The timing of this post couldn’t have been more perfect. 🙂
Absolutely! I feel like an imposter w/ my kids all the time!!! When the laundry is piled up to the front door and the floors are still dirty and the kids are screaming and I’m not doing it right and I’m losing my temper- who is this woman who dares call herself a mother??? This woman isn’t in control, she’s a menace! She’s a shill. It’s a wonder her kids are still alive.
Then I take a deep breath and clean up the peanut butter smeared on the dog’s back and the milk all over my hardwood floor.
We’re all alright.
Congrads on your choice being the right one.
Boy howdy, do I struggle with that one every day. I’m just finishing up my second book which is due to the publisher January 1. As I sit and revise it I’m thinking, “They’re gonna hate it, who do I think I am, writing novels, what do I know about Amish???????” Fortunately I have the Lord in my corner to encourage me with that still small voice – “This is my book not yours, and I’m the greatest writer. Keep going, fear not!
Ha! I’ve spent most of my life feeling like an impostor! After the applause dies, I often find myself thinking, “What if they could see the real me? What would they think then? Do I really have what it takes?” But it’s not about what they think. Only what HE thinks!
I love your sticky note idea so I’m going to “borrow” it. It will serve as a reminder of the many times God has validated… and revalidated… and revalidated… my desire to write. When I get discouraged–for any number of reasons–my wee, pathetic voice of self-doubt begins to whine. At some point I remember: God has reassured me over and over again that I’m to write–for Him. I picture Him rolling His eyes and smiling a most playful and infinitely patient smile at me.
And I’m ready to go again! Because… This is what I do!
Thank you for voicing and validating what many of us feel. We under estimate ourselves.
This was a very good post and as others have stated, I, too am very appreciative of your honesty. I feel without that honesty, we are impostors, even as human beings.
I believe commitment is the cure for the “Impostor Syndrome.” In order for me to finish my novel, I had to commit myself to working on it daily. It will be published, one way or another, because I have also committed myself to that. I am working on a sequel and other short stories and remain committed to daily writing to accomplish those things. I do the things I need to do to stay committed, therefore I have something to back up my “story” of being a writer, of being an author. It gives me the self-knowledge to battle the “Impostor Syndrome.”
Perseverance and patience go hand-in-hand with commitment and these qualities were intertwined in your blog, regarding you and the author / client, as well as throughout the responses to it.
Stories like this are what enables us to keep our commitments, remain patient and persevere. Thank you for the post and congratulations to both of you!
I know exactly what you mean and too often suffer from imposter syndrome. It is something I feel at times in each phase of my life. I don’t have any great ways to rid myself of this. I think time, perspective, or possibly a comment bring me out. Sometimes, feeling good about one aspect of my life helps to remove the imposter feeling that I have in regards to another area.
Thank you for your post, Rachelle. I appreciate your honesty and all the many comments on this page. There’s a lot of wisdom here.
Yesterday, I found myself wondering if I should call myself a Child Evangelism Fellowship teacher when I failed miserably at teaching a game to my Good News Club kids.
I know what it’s like to feel like an imposter as a writer too. I thrive on the affirmation of others. It’s not entirely healthy and, even with lots of positive feedback I wonder if I can really call myself a writer.
Just a note: I like that this site feels like a safe place to read others’ real-life comments and share my own thoughts.
Congrats on the sale, Rachelle!
I get this syndrome a lot. A lot.
But I also try to remember that even if I feel like I can’t do it, if God’s called me to it, then I can…because He can.
AMEN, Lindsay! Another sticky note to have nearby!
Congratulations to you and your client! That’s wonderful news! 🙂
You hit it right on the nail. It was like you were reading my mind. I am there right now. I feel like an imposter. I love writing. It is my passion and what I want to do. It is what I want to share with the world, but the rejections almost get too much to handle and self doubt moves in. I tell myself what am I doing, I’m a joke, but yet I keep on writing. But it’s like Ed Cyzewski said, you have to love it enough to take the pain. People say you have to write for yourself, but what is the good of writing something that you hope will change someone’s life if no one ever gets to read it. I write to make a difference. I write because I believe that is what God has called on me to do. It’s just hard when you think that you are the only one who will be reading your work. The rejections do get easier. I have tried to change my thinking and shift my attitude to believe that every rejection is one more opportunity to send my work to someone else who will appreciate it for what it is. And I keep writing, I’m a writer.
So much appreciate your honesty, Rachelle, and your encouragement!
This is the post I needed today. Thank you, Rachelle.
As a minister for over twenty-five years, I am well acquainted with this feeling. The very idea that I would help shape people’s relationship with God or give them direction and comfort in their darkest hours seems preposterous. How could I ever be up to the task? For me, the answer is simple I can’t. Only the Lord, working through me, could accomplish such things. We should do things to the very best of our ability, trusting that all along the way our hand will be guided by our faith.
Years ago, I officiated at a funeral for the family of a two-year-old girl. The parents sat in the front row, their world crumbling around them. To compound matters, the child had died of smoke inhalation when the mother had fallen asleep with a lighted cigarette in her fingers. I can’t tell you what I said and probably couldn’t even that day. Somehow, they eventually found comfort.
Perhaps that is why I find such joy in writing. By comparison, writing is a relief, a place where I can simply tell and shape a story. If people connect with it, wonderful, if they don’t that doesn’t and shouldn’t diminish the pleasure of the process. Maybe this will change when I am published but so far, I haven’t felt a moment of the syndrome while writing. If I do, I am guessing that my “day job” will have prepared me for the moment. I am hoping that I have an agent who will help me through it and encourage me l like Rachelle did with the author in the example.
I can so relate! I recently signed w/ an awesome agt & she sold my book, getting me a 3 book series in a little over a month after our partnership started! Imposter…yes!!! But God teaches me daily that it is His calling & I must stay dependent on Him. I am not an imposter Christ-follower & that’s what my life truly requires. 😉
Congrats on your three book deal.
I like what you said about not being an imposter Christ follower.
That IS what really counts. Good to remember.
Congratulations on a deal well-made! And thank you for sharing your struggles with us. It makes me feel a lot better about my own “Impostor Syndrome” to know that even people who I think have “made it” still worry sometimes.
Blessings on your work — and thanks for sharing what you’ve learned with the rest of us! =)
I needed this today. As a woman trying to break into women’s speaking ministry, there are times when I come unglued and loose my temper with my children. I wonder, “who do you think you really are?” and I feel like an impostor to the world. I know no one is perfect, but for some reason I think if I am in ministry, I have to be. Most recently someone criticized me and it caused me to doubt myself entirely. (Can’t parents really push your buttons?) Anyway, thanks for this post today. Ministry to others is what I do, no matter how big or small, I am reminded today that I am a light bearer.
I just didn’t know there was a name for it . . . and that other people had the malady. Thank you for such helpful insight.
Oh, definitely! Mostly, however, I feel mediocre. My talents range from writing to singing, acting to dancing… however, I never feel GOOD enough to really pursue one of those things. I love doing many things… I would love to speak or run a camp/retreat center… and I enjoy all of the talents God has given me. What I really struggle with is not feeling like one specific talent outshines the rest in that THAT is what I am called to do.
Congratulations on hitting the sweet spot!
Impostor, second guessing, feeling like a fraud; yes, that describes me in everything I do – not just in writing.
Funny thing is; it can hit you at the top of your game. I have crashed emotionally right after thunderous applause – questioned, “Am I really meant to be a writer?” while cashing a royalty check. Thanks for this message of hope, security, encouragement.
I often feel like an impostor right after I finish the first draft. The first draft has a lot of problems, and I can see them all clearly. I often overlook the strengths until someone points them out to me. It’s hard to push forward when you feel like this, but I’m so glad I’m not the only one and that it happens to more than just authors!
Wow, and I thought I was the only one. I often feel like an imposter, especially when what I’m doing is the stuff of which my dreams are made. It’s comforting to know others feel this way at times. Thanks.
Yes, when I do the stuff my dreams are made of it’s easy to feel like an impostor! I so get that–until I remember my dreams–the desires of my heart– are from God. He is the one who will carry my dreams onto completion. By His grace I can expect to do significant things through his grace. Then I’m no longer an imposter, but an eager servant called to get to work and leave my human hand wringing behind. Know what I mean?
Yes, although part of my struggle is second-guessing God’s desire to use me in such a grand way.
Never doubt your identity in Christ. We are chosen, loved, destined for great things only by His grace.It’s not about who we are, but who God is. That’s the power and freedom of grace. It is amazing!
Reminds me of The Music Man musical when he gathers his little band, holds up his wand ready to conduct, the moment of his test is at hand, and he merely says–“now think men, THINK!” As if merely thinking or wishing will make beautiful music.
You hit the nail on the head with this post. Well said, and thank you. I will put up a post-it note this week! 🙂
And I feel this about everything. Someone introduced me to their book club group as a writer after having read some of my blog posts! I was undone. All eyes and ears on me during the evening’s book discussion and I could barely speak. I just write and it moves people and that’s all . I truly need to realize the value of this and let it be .
Oh, indeed! Every week, I see my column published in a major metro newspaper next to all these other writers who have been doing it for many more years than I have. I wonder what on earth I’m doing there. But my editor assures me my writing is good enough. Without her, my trusty cheerleader, I might just talk myself out of trying.
The funny thing is that to be a novelist seems to require us to step brazenly into the “imposter” role. If we want that work published, we have to gather readers first and convince them we’ll turn out something fantastic. And just having an amazing manuscript, as you’ve stated, Rachelle, isn’t enough. We have to declare our “novelist” status before we have a novel to show for ourselves. It’s kind of scary!
But since spinning a compelling fictitious tale is the novelists’ aspiration, spinning success before it’s realized shouldn’t be such a stretch, I suppose.
Thanks for this post!
YES! “The funny thing is that to be a novelist seems to require us to step brazenly into the “imposter” role. If we want that work published, we have to gather readers first and convince them we’ll turn out something fantastic.” YES!
All…the…time – and like many commenters, the imposter syndrome peaks after reading a particularly beautiful book.
It’s no wonder wow, great, and thank you are all over these replies! My first thoughts as well as I read your post Rachelle. Just the medicine I needed this morning! Been having a couple of challenging days with more questions and doubts floating around than anything else. And the comments are wonderful – uplifting and fortifying to the heart and spirit.
I was just feeling like this last night. It usually happens when I wonder if my ideas are unique enough or if my skill is up to par. It’s a hard thing to battle but I always come around and realize writing is a process. You continue to improve as you go and no one is perfect.
I am also embracing that I am not failing to arrive at a static place, but am always at a dynamic place in a process, and true success is the act of pressing on. I have Rachelle to thank for keeping me focused on this.
I trust you.
Yep, I’ve felt this way. I’m reminded of the truth whenever I read stellar writing and I can’t help but race to the computer to work on my own stuff. Reminded when I’m shaken awake and stirred to life in the process of writing itself.
It’s what I do. 😉
Rachelle, I feel as though I’ve suffered from Imposter Syndrome all my life–matter of fact, I may have coined the term. When I first tried to write a novel, the editor who took pity on me told me to read Peace Like A River, so I could see what good writing was like. After reading it, I almost cried–I’d never be able to match that. Eventually, I learned I didn’t have to be Leif Enger, but instead simply had to be the best Richard Mabry possible.
Thanks for this story, and for the way you support writers–not just your clients, but all writers. You’re no imposter.
That comparison is such a tricky part of this. We are inspired, motivated, and crushed all at once by great writing. You nailed it: be the best Yourself you can be. You reach an audience that this other dude never will. Only you can do it. We are each one carefully created AND singly cherished to be the unique soul we are. Plus I bet you’re more fun at parties than that Leif guy. 🙂
Aw Rachelle, don’t be so hard on yourself. Everyone has self doubts. Perseverance and patience are hard lessons in life to learn…take it from me, I’m learning patience now.
Realize that you are not an imposter, but are waiting like a bulb ground for Spring to flower. To say imposter is admitting that you are false in someway or lying. I don’t believe either is true. Working through a situation, even though it takes trial and errors, is not lying just an attempt to do the right thing.
that’s what I get for not proof reading what I wrote… Grrr, I know better.
This should read..
Realize you are an imposter, but like a bulb in the ground waiting for Spring to flower.
My brain and fingers are not working togather since my stroke.
Grr, You are not an imposter
I love those five little words. They are going on my computer. I struggle with the Imposter Syndrome often, unfortunately. Maybe it’s because I came to writing late, or maybe it’s because I’ve succumbed to Imposter Syndrome so many times before and found it to be a self-fulfilling prophecy in my life.
On this writing journey, I’ve definitely faced this beast. I’m finding that one certain truth keeps me moving forward. Also, talking with a friend who is an encourager by nature and also speaks truths to me helps me to move beyond feeling like an imposter. God also sends encouragements, sometimes in big ways, that help me change the direction of my thoughts.
So true, keep pressing on.
You too. 🙂 We can encourage each other along the way.
Wonderful post, Rachelle. I have imposter syndrome, too. At least until I get a great review from my crit group. Thanks for reminding us that we can do it.
Wow. Love your transparency.
I have friends who’ve suffered from another malady sometimes called “second-book syndrome.” Their second manuscript was much harder to write than their first. Happily, they’ve moved on to their third books, so hopefully any “imposter moments” are just that–moments.
I’m glad to hear your instincts paid off and you got the sale for your client. Yay! You really do know what you’re doing. You’ve got the sale and the Post-it note to prove it. 🙂
Boy, can I relate to this one. I just got an idea though.
Maybe now that we know there’s an imposter lurking inside of us, we can start talking to her.
“Other Julie, back off. Take your annoying doubts, fears, negative thinking and move on. The real Julie is taking over. With God’s help, pretty soon, she’s going to shine.”
Love this one, Rachelle.
Good idea, Julie. Many of us already talk to ourselves, may as well put that trait to good use. 🙂
Great addition, Julie. This post and comments was truly inspirational. I’ll have block off one time to talk to my other self! Thanks.
I remember having a phone conversation in a hotel room somewhere in the US. I was about to meet friends, I had no clue which way was west and the logistics were getting touchy. I said to one of the friends “This is too much, I’m not worth this trouble.”
That friend said, very firmly, “Yes. You are.”
I thought, buddy, you are deluded if you think it’s worth driving hither and yon to meet me.
But that was a typical Jennifer Major strain of imposter syndrome.
But oddly enough, it doesn’t seem to effect my husband. I have never heard that man say “I can’t do this. I’m not the man for this job.” Why? Because the hurricane that is Stella Major would smack his arm and sign “I am deaf, I have 6 children, if I can run this home and work all day, and your father works 2 jobs, you can get an A in math.”
(Did I mention his 96 year old father has worn out 4 pacemakers?)
When I picked up the proverbial pen last year, I never imagined what was coming down the pike. First, it was one new writer friend, who, I must say, talked me off the ledge a few times, shook the dust off me and sent me on my way. Thank you, PJ Casselman! Then another, then more and now I feel like I could fill a bus or two with people who understand this need and desire to write, yet also understand the hidden traps along the way.
I cannot stress enough the importance of finding the right critique partners!!! Arm yourselves with people who *get* you and who aren’t afraid to say what’s good and what isn’t.
If it wasn’t for the people I met either directly from this blog, and one or two others, I would not be where I am today.
But where, and who, am I?
I am a writer. And a good one.
So thank you Rachelle, from the bottom of my word count, for opening up this huge table for us to gether and grow together.
Congratulations to you and your client, Rachelle!! I don’t know how you do it. The work and foresight that is required of an agent just boggles my mind!!
I have imposter syndrome every time I step behind a pulpit to “sub” for a minister. That feeling of being unworthy often drives me to my knees during the two weeks before, when I’m preparing the sermon. God is so great and I am so very small.
Great post. I have felt that many times before, and putting a name to it is refreshing. I might even literally name it- “Away with you Impostor Gadget and your naughty tricks!”
Of course I have this problem. Doesn’t everyone? Here I am, a writer, vacation property investor/manager/purchaser, small business owner, computer consultant, wife, sometimes cook and cleaner, friend. Am I qualified to perform any of these tasks, work in any of these positions? Maybe not, but I’m the one in the best place to perform them. That’s all I need to remember. In whatever position I am currently occupying, God placed me here for such a time as this (to quote Mordecai.)
Congratulations! Thanks for sharing.
I’m rejoicing with you and encouraged by your words. I, too, am waiting for the right timing and asking myself what I know about it and how will I know when the timing is right. Except, I’m waiting to once again approach an agent with a manuscript. I have no previous experience in such, but my instinct tells me that this is what I need to do. I’ve gained reassurance and hope from your experience and I’m rejoicing with you.
I also have frequent attacks of Impostor Syndrome with my writing. Why would anybody want to hear from me?
I’ve learned to move beyond it by remembering that I didn’t start writing because people were clamoring to hear from me, but because I felt the Lord push me in that direction. I write to be faithful to Him.
When I consciously choose to trust Him to fulfill His purposes through my writing, my focus changes from me to Him and I forget about my doubts and feelings of inadequacy. Instead, I’m asking, “Am I being faithful to what He’s asked of me.”
I haven’t yet become a best seller and my writing hasn’t changed the world–but maybe it’s just suppose to change me. Or maybe it isn’t yet His time.
Meanwhile, I want to be counted faithful.
I’m so glad you wrote this. We seem to have the same internal scriptwriter! What really helped me was the online world. Before that, I had only a few sources for feedback, and even though I knew a few writers it seemed like I struggled alone. Especially as it takes so long to complete a project. Now with my blog, people comment to tell me I’m helping them – thus showing I do in fact know what I’m talking about! And every few days a nice tweet thanks me for one of my books – the kind of instant contact that was never possible before and means so much to a writer struggling with their standards of perfectionism!
Thanks for writing this, Rachel.
Oh, and I forgot to say: CONGRATS TO YOU, YOUR CLIENT, THE PUBLISHING HOUSE FOR GETTING A GREAT NEW BOOK, AND THE BOOK FOR FINDING ITS PERFECT HOME!!! Can’t wait to meet it in person!
Wow. I’m sorry you go through this… but also sort of glad. I never had these fears or felt anything like this until the moment I started getting interest in the manuscripts I was querying. I still haven’t felt the full force of it because I don’t yet have an agent or book deal. Nothing where I AM successful and can feel like it’s a farce. However, I’m trapped in the world of ‘almost’ rejections and I’ve gotten a good taste of this phenomenon from the angle of ‘they thought I was good enough at first but then they saw through me and realized I’m not’.
It’s strangely reassuring to find that this isn’t a sign of some perverse rejection reaction. That it’s something many people deal with. Not sure knowing that will stop me from still feeling it, but it’s a light in the darkness 🙂 thank you so much for sharing with us!
Congrats on the book deal and thanks for the great post. For me, imposter syndrome is worse when I take on a new freelancing project. I’m all confidence until I get the contract and then–yikes! Can I really do this? Is this the time when people find out I’m really not a writer? When you do a job that’s as lonely as ours, it’s hard to keep perspective sometimes. It’s why I treasure my writer friends. We support each other as we reach for our goals–and through imposter syndrome, too.
I often get Imposter Syndrome, but I think/hope it’s a good thing. I figure the time to worry is when I delude myself into believing I know everything 🙂
Yep! I actually just wrote a blog post about this topic when it comes to parenting! Parenting is probably the biggest point where I feel like an imposter. Teachers and acquaintances tell me I’ve done a great job with my kids and I’m like WHAT? They are good kids, but I’m not so sure I’ve had much to do with it.
Writing is definitely my other imposter personality. My friends and family have such faith and see things I never see and I’m, once again, like WHAT?
Thankfully, I do a little better with my job – teaching 🙂
Congrats Rachel on this project! As they say…”Good things come to those who wait.” Such a great example of perseverance.
There are many times I feel like an impostor. Like some of the other comments above, doubts roll in and I wonder if I’m fooling myself. Can I really do this? Then I’m reassured by a comment on my blog by someone I wasn’t expecting. Such a gift!
So I’ll keep on keeping on. Like the story of the little engine who could…except I’d change it slightly.
I know I can, I know I can. 🙂
Thanks for the reminder!
First, congratulations on selling a client’s book to a “dream publisher”.
Of course, I would like to know the title and the publisher but no doubt you have your reasons for keeping this a secret at this time.
Regarding, “impostor syndrome”, I would imagine anyone who started from nothing and attained any measure of success may suffer from it.
Me too, occassionally, but then I remember these words,
“If you done it, it ain’t bragging.”
— Walt Whitman
If anyone should be suffering from “impostor syndrome”, it’s the many self-proclaimed “best-selling authors” whose books have sold only fifty, a hundred, or fewer than 1,000 copies. Even having a book sell 5,000 copies does not make it a best-seller in the U.S. As Dan Poynter says, a true best-seller is one that has sold at least 40,000 copies.
I have checked out many authors calling themselves “best-selling authors” and have found that their books have only sold 100 or 200 copies or 500 copies through normal book channels. These are the true impostors. If they are suffering from severe “impostor syndome” — they likely should be!
Having said that, I wanted to give a great quote about impostors. There aren’t many — but here is one that will offers food for thought to all of us.
“While the impostor draws his identity
from past achievements and the adulation of others, the true self claims identity in its belovedness. We encounter God in the ordinariness of life: not in the search for spiritual highs and extraordinary, mystical experiences but in our simple presence in life.”
― Brennan Manning, “Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging”
What a great quote by Whitman! That says it in a nutshell, doesn’t it?
Thank you for the Brennan Manning quote. EXACTLY what I needed to read this morning!
And I LOVE your re-definition of “imposter syndrome.”
Read a great blog post over at Allume this morning called “What to Do Until You Are Famous” (http://allume.com/2012/11/what-to-do-until-you-are-famous/)
It ends with a great list of things that really famous — true, beloved, fully present — people do. (And none of them have anything to do with gaming one’s Amazon rankings!)
Love those allume blog posts, Cheri!
I enjoyed reading your post today. I’m not a published author at all… but, I’ve experienced a little of what you wrote about enough to understand.
I always enjoy my emails each day with your posts.
Granny Gee/Gloria :)))
This is a great post! Thank you so much for your honesty. It was a very timely post for me to read to. Just today I was seriously second guessing myself and my new blogging endeavours. One of the reasons I began blogging recently, was to begin building a platform to have in place till I have a book published… one day…
This morning, on another writers blog that I follow, I read of a wonderful story where a literary agent took on one of the commenters on the blog as a client, and will be having her book published.
While being thrilled for this fortunate woman, whose giftings and perseverance obviously are being well rewarded, I sank pretty low into a “I’m so far off from that stage – and will probably never get there” mood… Pitiful, I know!
Your post has greatly encouraged me first of all that God has his perfect timing for everything that He has ordained for me (which may or may not include a book deal). Also, your raw honesty lifted my eyes off of my self-focus, to realise that we all have doubts at times, insecurities, which, if we don’t stop them, would cripple us, and even steal from us the ability, confidence, and desire to persevere, persist, and work towards our goals.
Thank you so much, Rachelle, for your words. They have been a source of great blessing to me today!
Don’t give up, we all feel this way from time to time. If God put the desire to write in your heart, he will honor those gifts. I feel that way even if I’m never published, if I encouraged others with my words that is enough 🙂
Sometimes, when I try to put out the best I’ve got, someone thinks it’s brilliant and suddenly I panic. Brilliance is now expected of me. And then panic turns to terror. I can’t actually deliver. That was just a fluke, a gift of the Muse, a lucky cluster of well-turned phrases, but when it comes to actually producing the expected masterpiece… I won’t be able to deliver. I’ll not only be a loser, but a liar. What was I thinking??
The truth waits until I’ve finished panicking, then calmly takes my face in both hands and forces me to look it square in the eyes and says that one word, the same word it always uses about me and my pen, the same word that has been echoed by unwitting others too many times to count.
It’s just a word, but it keeps rising up beneath my feet every time I need to stand on it.
And no, I’m not telling what it is. Sorry. 🙂
You and I struggle with the same thoughts. I love the picture of truth taking my face between its hands and speaks your word to you. Love that.
Well said. I have a word that shouts out to me: Incompetent. “Liar” doesn’t affect me, for I know my sincerity, but my fear of falling short of the mark can paralyze my creativity. It’s at those times I remember that I’m under grace not law in all endeavors, because God bridges the gaps on any trail to which He’s called me.
I say “liar” when I realized I’ve promised to deliver something amazing in my enthusiasm, then in my panic suspect I’ve promised something I can’t deliver. I am just as sincere an optimist as I am a pessimist, it seems. And quick to shift between the two. Call me Sybil, right? 🙂
You do kinda have that Sally Fields thing going on. 😛
Maybe less like Sybil, more like Sally when she gave her infamous award speech, “You like me! You really like me!” Apparently even Sally Fields suffered from Impostor Syndrome. 🙂
Having moments of self-doubt come with the human nature. It can be pretty extra when you’re advising someone to resist the urge for instant gratification and to be very, very patient. You and your client were obviously meant to work together. They believed in you and followed your advice. You believed in them and followed your instincts. Now the dream publisher has been added to the equation making things a match mad in publishing heaven.
Yep – all the time. That horrible little voice… so what if you’re a success in fanfiction, it’s not real writing. Nobody will read your real books… You’re crazy to think you can do this. You should get a real job.
And then I will get a review or a message from a reader who loves my stuff and I think if there is even one person out there who like sit, there must be more who just don’t tell me.
I CAN do this!
Yesterday was a battle with the Impostor Syndrome. It started with 3,000 lost words. I’d never had that happen before and it threw me way off balance. The battle raged for hours. The only thing that could bring me out of it was to write. So I wrote and wrote and wrote. And woke up today feeling like a writer again.
I’m glad you made it through, and I’m sorry you had such a rough day yesterday!
THANKS J.M. I WAS UP LATE WRITING (AGAIN) AND JUST WOKE UP & HOPPED ON THE COMPUTER TO SEE YOUR KIND REPLY!! It made me smile, which is a great way to start any day!!
3,000 lost words makes my heart break for you. But the writing session that it resulted in sounds terribly productive! Love that! Way to write through it!
THANKS FOR THE COMPASSION SENT MY WAY, JACKIE!!! THAT WRITING SESSION WAS POWERED BY SOME ANGST AND WAS A GREAT EXAMPLE THAT WE WRITE BETTER WHEN SOME TYPE OF EMOTION IS IN PLAY!!
My hard-drive crashed back in 2003. On it was 40k of my first book. I was so frustrated I gave up writing for seven years. That was a huge mistake. I wished I’d have got right back into it as you did. To give up something we love because of frustration gives credence to the phrase “cut off our nose to spite our face.”
Oh, no, P.J. – I’m SO, SO, SO SORRY to hear this!! (In my head, I’m screaming for you.) That said, what is past is past. We all have much to regret – but living there only robs us of today. Right? I hope you are writing your little fingers off now!! 😉
The absolute worst time I felt impostor syndrome was at a hospital in 1994. A family gathered. Their mother, grandmother, aunt and wife lay dying of cancer. I froze, not knowing what to do. This can’t be my calling, I thought. They need a real pastor, not some public speaker/musician. Seminary didn’t prep me for this. I excused myself and found a pay phone, so I could call my pastor, a real pastor. He told me to relax and remember what led me to that place, to be present and pray. The impostor soon faded and yielded to the pastor.
Sincerity is both the cause and antidote of impostor syndrome. It causes us to question who we are, but in refusing to run from the question, we discover ourselves.
Jim, I’m so glad you had an older man to speak truth into the moment for you, truth that gave you perspective and courage to minister in that situation.
Absolutely, Jeanne. Mentors are priceless.
And it doesn’t matter what phase of life I’m in. I still gravitate toward older women in my life, and toward those further along the journey (whether it’s the mommy journey or the writing journey or another journey) than I am. I find the blessings in their words of wisdom.
I love that you share both the cause and antidote (sincerity). I am just coming to terms that usually the antidote is the cause, or close to it.
Powerful words. Thank you.
I have felt the same way in ministry– I remember when youth first started pouring out their hearts to me, I called my mom and said, “They need to be telling this to a trusted adult!”
She kinda laughed and said, “You ARE the trusted adult!”
Silly me. I’d missed the part where I grew up.
Growing up is strange that way. I like how tribes will their young off into the jungle and, after trial and ritual, bring them back as adults. It’s hard to know when to call ourselves men and women in today’s society.
I know that feeling well: the needing to call a “real pastor.”
Yes, that’s the way the medicine works, “Sincerity is both the cause and antidote of impostor syndrome.”
A two year story about a story. That’s amazing AND impressive (and also gives insight into this gig). Obviously she trusts you, and you know what you’re looking at, which is why we trust you and keep coming back for more. The pay-off is so exciting!
I always feel like an imposter! It seems to come with the field of writing. Everyone loves reading books, but the people who declare they write those books rarely say with overflowing confidence, “I’m a writer.” It tends to sound so frou-frou despite the reality of it.
What makes me feel like an imposter is knowing how much I love to write, knowing my stories do stack up, and yet now and than thinking the exact same thoughts: HOW can I be doing this? No one in their right mind will ever read it and actually like it. WHAT WAS I THINKING?? How much time have I wasted?? etc, etc. I need not say more when we all know that voice so well.
Boo-hiss, devil. God put these abilites and gifts in us for USE, not for hiding. We persevere, and that’s where the rubber hits the road.
What’s the truthful reminder? Knowing the fruit that comes of it, the benefit to others, the moment where I or someone else considers the work and says, “Wow. That was really cool, and it helped me…” My truth is that God makes us all clever for something for a reason, and if we don’t use it, we might lose it. I never want to lose this, so I trust He’ll water it and keep me.
Perseverance by remembering our calling is a wonderful form of actualized discipleship. Well said!
Muchas gracias. I never thought of it like that!
Reminds me of when my first book came out and I was invited to speak at a literary festival for the first time. It was at the more luxurious end of the festival circuit, and the morning after my talk I found myself having a silver service breakfast with one of the headliners, who had been publishing acclaimed books since before I was even born. I said to her that I kept feeling that they had made a mistake, and they would suddenly realise and send me back to the servants’ quarters where I belonged. She said not to worry, all writers feel that way, and the feeling never really goes away. 🙂
I really needed this. Thanks! I’m going to put the sticky up! It’s too easy to get discouraged, and forget that if this is what we do (what we want to do and are called to do) then we need to just do it. Thanks again!
Wow! You hit the nail right on the head. I recently signed a contract. When I got that call, it didn’t quite seem real, then the contract came. I celebrated with friends and family, just a little. Very low key. It was a little more real, I even turned in my edits already.
Then the other day another writer asked for co-authors on an historical blog. I raised my hand, then I looked at all the other raised hands, and I’ve been feeling like an imposter all day. Some of these authors are automatic buys for me. I own all of the books written by another. I started reading their taglines; Revell, Barbour. I wanted to bury my head in the sand. What in the world am I doing?
I’m blessed to be in such great company. I’m also a wee bit nervous. These authors have set the bar high and I’m going to blogging with them. EEEk! So, yeah, I get the imposter syndrome.
Thank you for the timely blog. I love how God works it all out.
I can do this, because ‘it’s what I do!’
Christina, Congratulations on that contract! Definitely a reason to celebrate. Enjoy your blogging adventure and I’m sure you will be a blessing to the others 🙂
Congrats on the contract and the joint blogging opportunity!
Maybe think of it as an adventure, with a few seasoned veterans to guide you. No matter what your experience level, God is going to take you all through the same jungle. Have fun!
Congratulations to you and your client for selling the project!
I definitely feel like an impostor, especially in graduate school. I feel like everyone else knows what they’re doing, and that’s why they’re doing so well. I, on the other hand, am struggling to keep up, but I pretend like I actually know what everyone else is talking about.
Just know, “everyone else” is pretending the same thing :o).
Love this post, Rachelle! Yes, I feel like an imposter all the time! Even though my “day job” is in recruitment, in the last year or so, I have described myself to strangers as a writer. I feel comfortable saying this … and then later doubt myself, thinking, “How is it fair for you to call yourself that when you’ve never published a book?!”
When I read a particularly beautiful book, I have the same doubts about myself: “And you call yourself a WRITER? Now THIS is a writer!”
“When I read a particularly beautiful book, I have the same doubts about myself: “And you call yourself a WRITER? Now THIS is a writer!””
Smiling. I’ve been there. And have been reminded that THIS writer wasn’t always a writer. THIS writer had to start at the same place I did. And THIS writer is only where she is because she kept plugging away at it and didn’t quit when she read some fabulous “real” writer. 🙂
Yes! Those good books make me question myself. Love your strategy to overcome this Camille. I will use it!!!
Great thought! I try to always remind myself that I see my ROUGH draft day after day after day, but when I read a book, I am seeing ONLY the FINAL draft of that writer!
Ditto here, Jackie. I don’t often remember that, though, until I hear that author talk about their process, if I catch an interview with them, or when they give huge thanks to their editor in the acknowledgments, and am always relieved to hear they went through a painful editing process or something. Of course, if they’d said they just tossed it down and it came out that way, I might throw the book across the room, but then I’d just have to go pick it up and grow up. But so far, I haven’t heard an author claim that. 🙂
Jackie, I know the feeling well and Camille is spot on with her reply. When I read my first efforts and compare them with my latest, I see progress. Continuing that process makes a writer genuine.
Been there. Done that. Many times. 🙂
Ditto to all of this!
Ditto! Thanks for the honesty, Rachelle! 🙂
This was a particularly awesome comments/thread to read. Even when we know other writers (people in general) go through this, it is still reassuring to read it.
This is a GREAT post AND thread!
Congrats to you, Rachelle, and your client. A sense of the right timing is a wonderful thing.
I think writers are definitely more prone to Imposter Syndrome than the average person, don’t you all? With that said, pass the Post-It notes please:()
Exactly, Jackie! Too much comparison makes me physically ill. I just told my husband yesterday that I think I would feel a lot better about myself if I just turned off the internet. But that doesn’t solve it either — need to build a platform and read agent blogs, etc. 🙂 But then I do turn off the internet to write and I get lost in the story. I spend time in prayer over my work. Presto, change-o, much better!
The first time I flew solo in an aeroplane, I had the sudden thought – “I really can’t do this…I have no idea what I’m doing!”
Fortunately or unfortuately, I was about 700 feet off the ground after takeoff, so there were only two options: realize that I did indeed know what I was doing, or learn pretty darn quick.
I don’t really have an ‘impostor’ problem with writing, possibly because I made a conscious effort to force myself to think of storytelling as a craft, rather than an art. There’s very little feeling of following a muse, and I’m not nearly as emotionally involved with my work as are some writers to whom I’ve spoken.
It works for me, but it has a downside – missing the lows generally means you miss the highs, and I’ll never achieve the creative brilliance of one who truly lives their art.
“It works for me, but it has a downside – missing the lows generally means you miss the highs, and I’ll never achieve the creative brilliance of one who truly lives their art.”
Being able to access the “left brain,” gives a great amount of sense and stability to the process. There have been times, however, that I deliberately chose to live in my “right brain,” instead of being constantly the over-responsible party. Though the high is worth it, it is short-lived and the plunge to an even greater low terrifying. Then, of course, addiction sets in requiring an ever greater high. Perhaps the middle ground you claim is, after all, the wise and stable place to be.
Interesting, Cherry, it’s quite easy to become addicted to accolades and emotional highs. Upping the ante is often the cause of great downfalls.
I am a freelance editor, and I often feel this way when I advise a client to make big changes to a manuscript. I send them my notes and then feel ill waiting for their angry, offended response. Who am I to suggest they need to mutilate their baby? But more often than not I get very positive responses, with the author thanking me and saying that they can see how the changes will make their story better.
Maybe I need that post-it on my computer.
This is a terrific example of how a good agent can help an author’s career. That sort of insider knowledge doesn’t come overnight. Good for you (and your client)!
I have definitely felt like I still have a lot to learn, and I sometimes doubt my ability to improve, but I can’t say I’ve ever felt like an imposter. I’m not a fake, fraud, or poser. I know what I can and can’t do, and I strive to always do my best.
I think that’s all anyone can do.
Good attitude! You’re not a fraud to pursue what you love. That’s being genuine.
Wow, Rachelle, what a great story of patience and perseverance. Applauding your author for taking those challenging steps of waiting and growing while you stuck to your instincts and made a tough call. Rejoicing to see how it has paid off for both of you!
I often feel like an impostor as an author. While going through the copy edits of my soon-to-release book, seeing how often a lose a character or their baby or their mule, I just think I’m in over my head. Thankful for good copy editors and that this process is designed so well. The timing of books (and contracts) is often just as it should be to ensure the best product and experience for the author and the reader. 🙂