I’ve read a few things recently about imposter syndrome; many people feel like they are unqualified or undeserving of the job they do. It’s like we’re still kids rather than grown-ups – you’ve seen the Haribo adverts?
I’ve felt like this in two areas of my life – both as a mum and as a writer. When I first held my daughter, the crushing fear of not knowing what I was doing was everywhere, in all my thoughts, even in my dreams. I was desperate for someone to tell me what she wanted. Then I realised she screamed with everyone except me – my daughter was giving me the strongest sign she could that I was what she wanted. So what choice did I have? I rose to the challenge my daughter set me, to be the mother she needed; she believed in me and I had to catch up.
When I started writing, I felt the same fear. It took me months before I could even say out loud that I was writing. I hadn’t earned it, all I’d done was type a few thousand words. I settled into saying that I was trying out writing as a hobby. When I went along to my first conference, I was surrounded by people who had been born writing, talking about story arcs and character development. That day was terrifying.
But I didn’t give up. I said that I had just started writing. I was new. I felt unqualified to speak, yet to improve I needed to share, and these conferences provided the gold dust of 121s. I needed to become a Proper Writer. It was at the same time I realised that if I write, I’m a writer. I am a writer, I would tell myself in the mirror, I am a writer. No matter what people think of your writing, you are a writer. Good writer, bad writer but writer.
At every step, I feel out of my depth, that there are things everyone else knows except me. So many people I don’t know, so many bloggers to ‘connect’ with, so many books to read, such pressure to find my style, my voice. It’s why I read so many blogs. And it’s getting better. I dress up smart, I get on trains, I go and meet people in the industry. The feedback’s got better, I signed with Hannah (and she has amazing taste – look at her writers) and I wrote some more. With every edit I worry that my writing has lost the ‘magic’ or that Hannah will finally have a palm-to-forehead moment and call time. The fear hasn’t gone, far from it, but that’s not going to stop me. The more I know, the better I understand who and what and why. I’ve made some amazing friends in all parts of the industry who are generous with their help and encouragement. To my amazement, I’ve found myself knowing the answers to questions that others are asking, and, every now and again, I feel a little twinge of belonging and it feels good. Maybe, just maybe, I am a writer who belongs here.
- There’s something to be said for ‘fake it till you make it’ – I imagine putting confidence on like a coat.
- Feeling unworthy doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. All authors have to write their first book, do their first school visit, lead their first seminar or do their first book-signing. Acknowledge your fear, then ignore it.
- You’ll never know everything. That’s okay.
And in case you’ve forgotten, you are the world’s leading expert on your writing!