Am I allowed to call myself an author? This was the title of the first blog post I ever wrote for this site. I was confused what to call my blog. Should I refer to myself as an author, or an aspiring author? And when do I qualify as a ‘real’ writer and give myself permission to drop the ‘aspiring’?
An author is somebody who writes. There are no further rules than that. Some authors write short stories, some novels. Some authors publish via the traditional route, others self-publish, and some write for the pure pleasure of it. There is no magical number of publications to achieve. So why do I, two years later, still question whether I am ‘allowed’ to call myself an author or not.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome can be defined as feelings of inadequacy. Those suffering from imposter syndrome may have feelings of self-doubt; they may feel like they’ve only achieved things due to luck, or by fooling others, that their success isn’t deserved. They may feel like they don’t belong and worry they’ll be exposed as a fraud in their chosen field at any moment.
Imposter Syndrome and Writers
Whereas writers block is not knowing what to write, imposter syndrome is more about doubting yourself as a writer, and questioning if you should be writing at all, or whether you’d be better off giving up. This is something I’ve been fighting ever since I started to take my writing more seriously a few years ago. These are some of my previous posts:
- Am I allowed to call myself an author?
- Fighting self-doubt
- Is your perfectionism hindering your progress?
Do you ever find yourself making excuses when you tell people you are or want to be a writer?
I’m a writer, but I have another day job, it’s just a dream really…
I’m a writer but it’s just a hobby…
I’m a writer but I’m not that good…
I’m a writer but I’ve only had one thing published, I’m not a real writer…
Why are we always putting ourselves down like this?
Writers with imposter syndrome will find even when they do get a story shortlisted or published, or receive some positive feedback on their work, they’ll attribute that success to luck, rather than to hard work and skill.
Imposter syndrome isn’t very nice. It’s not good for our wellbeing, but it’s also not very good for our writing. It could make you overly critical of your work, make you more reluctant to show others, hesitant to put your writing out there, and in the long run could result in you stopping writing altogether.
How can we beat that ‘I’m not a real writer’ feeling?
The first thing to do is to understand A LOT of writers get imposter syndrome once in a while. And I don’t just mean emerging writers. Even incredibly successful authors such as Neil Gaiman and Maya Angelou have both reported suffering from imposter syndrome. And just look at how amazingly successful they are. Knowing you’re not alone in these feelings can help you to move past them.
I’d also suggest talking about your feelings with other writers. Writing can be lonely, so it’s important to find a writing community. This could be a friend who is also a writer, it could be a local writing group, or an online group. The main thing is to talk to other writers, share in the highs and lows. This will help you to realise you are not alone in your feelings.
The third thing you can do is to look back over your successes, however small. This doesn’t need to be a publication. Even re-reading positive feedback about your work can remind you of why you’re writing. I’ve mentioned before how much of a fan I am of keeping diaries. I have a five year one, and whenever I’m feeling a bit down, I love to go back and look at what I was doing in previous years. It’s easy to forget how far we’ve come; sometimes we need to remind ourselves.
But the most important thing you can do is to be kind to yourself. Treat yourself the way you would treat others.