A few weeks ago, I participated in a book signing at my local library along with about 30 other authors. Technically, I was just as much an “author” as all the other professionals at the event. But when I looked around the giant auditorium packed with people, I felt a lot more kinship with the readers wandering around than the writers signing their books. I kept waiting for some Author Fraud Alarm to go off at my table, or for the library director to walk up and say, “Whoops, sorry, that invite we sent you was an accident! You’re not supposed to be here.” Of course, neither of these things happened—the event actually went very smoothly, and I sold a few books and met a lot of lovely readers.
I wish I could say I had some grand epiphany after the signing that led to me proclaiming to be The Real Deal and telling the whole world I’m a professional author. But I can’t say that, because the label of “author” still feels wrong whenever I attach it to my name. However, that signing did lead to some long discussions with my writer friends about a psychological phenomenon called “Impostor Syndrome.”
Put simply, Impostor Syndrome is what happens when someone struggles to accept their own abilities. It usually results in the person chalking up their success to pure luck or a simple fluke, and fearing they’ll be called a fraud when they’re unable to repeat that success. Despite its scary-sounding name, Imposter Syndrome isn’t any type of illness, and is just an emotional state that plagues a lot of creative types. It sounds kind of silly to most people who have never experienced it, and frankly, it is silly. But there are a startling amount of writers who struggle with Impostor Syndrome, and after talking with many of them, I’ve figured out three things that help me deal with my own case of this quirky syndrome:
- Most writers struggle with Impostor Syndrome. I didn’t realize this until recently, but Impostor Syndrome seems to be a phenomenon shared by most professionals in the writing industry. As much as it sucks for so many people to struggle with it, it’s also comforting to know I’m not alone. Almost every writer deals with these sort of feelings at some point, but despite this, many writers go on to achieve a lot of success throughout their careers.
- The feelings are real, but the issues are not. I think it’s important to acknowledge that Impostor Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon, not a reality-based issue. I like to think of it as similar to my fear of public speaking—yes, I get genuinely terrified, but no, I’m not actually in danger when I give a speech. The same applies to Imposter Syndrome—the fear of being a failure is real, but the failure doesn’t actually exist.Personally, my wants as a writer are pretty simple—create enjoyable books, get published, attract readers, and stay passionate throughout. As long as I can manage to achieve those things, or continue to work toward achieving them, having Impostor Syndrome isn’t going to impede on my career unless I willingly allow it to.
- Impostor Syndrome isn’t entirely a bad thing. Having Imposter Syndrome makes it a lot easier for me to admit my mistakes, because I expect them to happen. It also encourages me to ask questions—whenever I meet an author I consider successful, I always want to know what they’ve done to get to that point. I still wouldn’t consider the mindset behind Imposter Syndrome to be logical or healthy, but it certainly can make educating myself a lot easier at times.
I have a feeling Impostor Syndrome is something that will never truly go away for me, but it’s something I’m learning to manage. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll be able to say “I’m an author” with ease. But until then, I think the best fix is to realize I’m not alone and to make myself keep writing, no matter how insecure I might feel.
Olivia Rivers is a Young Adult author who writes in multiple genres, ranging from Epic Fantasy to Contemporary Romance. Her fascination with technology led her to become a hybrid author, meaning some of her works are independently published, while others are traditionally published. She has a passion for representing diversity, and you’ll often find disabled main characters in her novels. Olivia is represented by Laurie McLean of Fuse Literary.