Dealing with the Impostor Syndrome


Motivation, Self Talk, Uncategorized / Friday, June 29th, 2018

by Joanna Maciejewska

Being a writer comes with a huge array of insecurities, from doubting our ideas to confidence in putting one’s commas in the right place. Writer’s impostor syndrome is one of them. Nearly every writer I talked to or seen speaking online, admits to suffering from it or had suffered from it in the past.

What is an impostor syndrome?

“Impostor syndrome” is a mindset when you doubt your accomplishments or other people’s praises, accompanied by the fear that any moment now you’ll be exposed by people as a “fraud”. It feeds on writers’ other insecurities, their anxiety, stress, uncertainty, among other things.

There’s no rule of when it will strike. You might be just beginning, you might have a book or two out, or you might even be a successful writer, and still have bouts of impostor syndrome when no one’s looking.

But how do you deal with it?

If your impostor syndrome is connected with some other serious mental health problems, it should be dealt with by a professional who’ll address your well-being in total. The advice in this article can’t replace professional treatment or therapy.

But if you feel strong and mentally stable enough, below you can find some ways to keep your writer’s impostor syndrome at bay.
They’ll all just mental exercises and reminders – something that could become your automated response to when the negative thoughts strike, dampening their impact, and if the list isn’t comprehensive, you can still use it to deal with your specific fears.

“I don’t write every day”

It’s a common argument: writers write every day. But as much as writing professionally should be treated in a similar way to any other day job, it doesn’t necessarily mean every day. There are people who work only weekends or part-time. Or they have a more intensive, 10-hour 4-day workweek. They also take sick days off and schedule their vacation. They even might be an on-call staff who only show up when needed.

The most important part (especially when you’re just starting) is to write regularly, and be serious about it. Sure, there will be days you’ll skip, but as long as you don’t make excuses, there might be days you won’t be writing.

Dealing with the Impostor Syndrome

“I’m not published”

You could add “yet” to the end of that sentence, and make it a more positive statement. Being published doesn’t constitute a writer. Nobody magically becomes a writer after their novel hits the shelves. Having a book out sure is going to be nice, but if you focus on short stories or essays, you’re still a writer.

“I’m not good enough”

If you catch yourself thinking that you aren’t good enough, consider this: there’s no list anywhere of how “good” you need to be to be a writer. And even if there was a grain of truth in it, and there was a level of “good” one had to meet… How come there are “bad writers” and “bad books” out there?

Being “good” is subjective. It is a matter of perspective. What’s “good” for one person, might be “bad” for another one. You might not be good enough to win awards, you might even not be good enough to get a publishing deal yet. But you’re no less a writer.

You aren’t alone

It might feel like this when you’re dealing with the impostor syndrome. Surely all those other writers know what they’re doing, right? But what if they are exactly like you? They have their doubts and insecurities, and on darker days they are, too, questioning their right to call themselves writers.

Neil Gaiman wrote a very encouraging post about it.

So maybe the impostor syndrome is a part of what defines a writer. You could use it to remind you that if you doubt, it’s because you have something to doubt. After all, if you weren’t writing, and if you weren’t a writer, you wouldn’t even think about it, let alone suffer from it.


Joanna MaciejewskaJoanna Maciejewska is a fantasy and science-fiction writer who was born in Poland, spent a little under a decade in Ireland, and now resides in Arizona. She had stories published in Polish magazines (“Nowa Fantastyka”, “Science-Fiction Fantasy i Horror”) and anthologies (Fabryka Słów, Replika, Solaris), and she also writes in English (“Fiction Vortex”, “Phantaxis”, “The Worlds of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror”). You can find out more about her and her stories at melfka.com or follow her on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram. She also designs graphics available as gadgets for writers (stickers, mugs, t-shirts, and more).

7 Replies to “Dealing with the Impostor Syndrome”

  1. A really helpful, supportive article, Joanna:). Many thanks! I think you’re right – writers are peculiarly vulnerable to imposter syndrome as working on a novel can take years and is largely a solitary activity. No wonder we get beset by doubts and overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy, especially when it isn’t going well… My piece of advice would be to get in touch with someone you like and trust, who is hopefully a writing friend, to help talk you down.

  2. Great post as usual, Joanna, and I think any writer who reads this will be able to relate – and will hopefully take your suggestions to heart. I’ve definitely experienced my share of doubts about writing over the years… and it can be debilitating. But if you love writing, the only way you’ll increase your chances of doing something amazing with that love is by continuing to write. And much of the time, it starts with cultivating a more healthy and positive mindset that keeps you on that track.

    Thanks for sharing this. 🙂

    1. You’re right about maintaining healthy and positive mindset. At the same time, we need to develop mechanisms to restore it when doubts creep in…
      I’ve had my share of doubts too, and still get them regularly. I just got better at dealing with them – or working while ignoring them.

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