A few days ago, I noticed a post on Twitter. It was about imposter syndrome as a writer. It explained that for them the syndrome was not originating from the belief they weren’t good enough at writing, but rather that they’re not obsessed enough with writing to be legit.
I could relate completely to this. Social media is dangerous for making us believe “real writers” spend all their time writing or reading, visiting literary events, and talking about books. It can make you feel like if you’re not reading and writing (and talking about the reading and writing) consistently, then maybe you don’t want to be a writer enough. Maybe you don’t deserve to be a successful writer.
In fact, I’m slightly envious of authors who wrote and published before social media existed. Wouldn’t it be nice to just be able to read and write, without having to worry about what our image is online?
I’ve rather a negative opinion of social media for personal use in general. I’ve been limiting my use of it over the past 12 months and deactivated my Facebook account for much of last year. For me, there’s no question of its negative impact on mental health. To know what everyone whom I went to school with fifteen years ago is up to now and, whether I mean to or not, compare myself against their achievements is something I feel is unhealthy.
Yet it’s harder to completely distance yourself from social media from an aspiring author perspective. It has become the norm now within the industry to have an online presence, and to not have that could put you at a disadvantage. Social media is a place where people can find you as a writer, a place to market books and stories. I use Twitter mainly to follow other authors, publishers, and lit agents, in the hope of hearing about submission opportunities.
Yet I do sometimes worry I’m not tweeting enough about the third book I’ve read that week, or about the 3000 words I’ve written that day. I worry that I’m not doing these things at all, let alone shouting about them. I compare myself to that other aspiring author who’s tweeting every other hour about something they’ve just read, or a story they’ve just finished writing. And that brings me back to my original question: do I like writing enough to be a real writer?
And the answer is yes! I know I am committed to my writing. I know it’s what I want to do. I know I’m committed to getting feedback, improving my writing, and pushing forwards whenever I can. We shouldn’t need to tell social media about how much we’re writing to be considered legit. It’s also important to remember social media doesn’t necessarily relate to the real world, and those shouting loudest online aren’t always the ones getting the most writing done.
I’ve always believed to be able to write the best stories, you need to get out there and experience real life (admittedly a little harder right now due to lockdown!). Doing non-writing related things can spark fresh ideas and can help you to meet interesting people, which could influence interesting fictional characters! It’s fine that writing is just one aspect of your life, and not what you think and breathe every minute of every day.
If you’re suffering from imposter’s syndrome, just know it’s completely normal to feel to feel that way from time to time. And also know, there is no normal way to be a writer.