Battling Imposter Syndrome

Journal and pen

I have a confession to make.  When it comes to writing, I feel like an imposter.  I have this idea in my head of what a writer is and I am not it.  I didn’t go to college to major in any form of writing, I don’t have any writing credentials, I haven’t published anything with my name on it (except for this blog), and I don’t make money writing.  I started this blog in hopes that maybe it might touch one person’s life, but I saw myself as a blogger not a writer. I have always written as a hobby but never dared called myself an actual writer.  Despite having people in my life tell me that they think I am a great writer, I felt like actually calling myself one would just be this facade that everyone would see through.

Imposter syndrome creeps in through the cracks and makes itself at home.  It has paralyzed me for many years.  Every time I have gone to start writing a novel I would quit writing it shortly after.  What right did I have to be writing a book if I wasn’t really a writer? I had done a brief stint in the past as a volunteer writing product review feature articles for an online organization, but none of them were ever published with my byline.  I never put myself out there to pitch story ideas to websites because I thought I wasn’t good enough.  I never gave myself a chance.

My mother-in-law invited me to an online group for women writers a week ago.  Very shortly after I joined, a discussion popped up about imposter syndrome.  To my surprise, many of the women in the group felt like imposters.  Women who have been published, have books on the shelves of bookstores, and editors; women with MFAs, impressive credentials, and even those without any college degree have all been caught in the grasp of imposter syndrome.

I felt encouraged and inspired by the confessions of these women to take a hard look at myself.  Where did these feelings of imposter syndrome evolve from? How long had they been there? These were not easy questions for me to answer.  These feelings have been inside of me for as long as I can remember.  They had latched on and seeped into my very being.  I realized the most important question was: What was I going to do about it? I sat with that question and came up with one answer: I had to break through it.

It took a lot of courage to allow myself to be vulnerable, but I went ahead and pitched a story idea to a website.  I really didn’t think I would hear back.  That voice inside my head whispered to me that they would see right through my pitch and know that I wasn’t a writer.  The very next morning I received a reply.  In the email she said, “We like you! And we would like to publish your story.”  They were even going to pay me for my story.  I re-read the email a couple of times not believing my eyes.  They like me? They want to publish my story with my own author byline and bio? And they are going to pay me for it? I was so excited that I did a happy dance.  My son got excited at my excitement and began clapping for me.  Those feelings of being an imposter began to start slipping back into the shadows.  This victory even gave me the courage to write a whole chapter of a book I am aspiring to write.  I have even started looking into venturing into the world of freelance writing.

Despite feeling like I have done a complete 180, a sheepish voice in my head continues to ask, “Am I a writer?” Right now I am still trying to get comfortable with calling myself one.  I am taking baby steps and feel I have made some great progress.  I can’t let imposter syndrome win.  One day I will hold my head up high and  confidently say, “I am a writer.”



29 thoughts on “Battling Imposter Syndrome

  1. Hi Heidi,
    You certainly have the ability to express yourself. I think battling imposter syndrome is a thing of the past for you. The fact that your writing is accepted should bear that out, but in case you have any lingering doubts, accept yourself, and know that the desire to write, and to write well, will indeed having you say, “I am a writer!” Hooray!

    • Thank you, William! I am definitely working towards accepting that I am a writer. I suppose many people experience feeling like an imposter at some point in their life. It’s hard to break through it but it feels refreshing to once the chips of imposter syndrome start breaking away.

  2. We all feel like imposters at times. It took me a long time to call myself a writer out loud. I remember the first time someone identified me as a writer. It was at an informal seminar I attended (topic was related to following your dreams, I think). The person giving the seminar had googled the participants ahead of time. “And you’re a writer” he’d said to me. He’d found information about a writing contest I received second place in. I was so excited to be acknowledged that way.

  3. Congratulations Heidi. I know exactly what you mean and my method of dealing with it has simply been to throw caution to the wind. It is an amazing feeling when you hear that people actually like the way you write, the way you form sentences, and the way you can describe a scene that enables the reader to place themselves there. Congratulations again.

  4. I know what you mean as well…crazy how much we all doubt ourselves. You are such an articulate and polished writer, so on a realistic level it’s odd that you would ever doubt yourself. But that being said, I struggle with imposter syndrome as well, and it seems (given your examples) that many other do as well. So I guess it is just something that many of us, will struggle with until (hopefully), it fades away with more and more experience and positive feedback…great read!

    • Thank you, Michele. I definitely think that even people in other professions struggle with feeling like an imposter; especially if it is just a hobby of theirs. A starving artist is still an artist!

  5. Congratulations Heidi – I can just imagine your excitement when your idea was accepted. What a boost that must have been for you. As for your writing, I read this post right through and enjoyed every sentence. All the best, Lenie

  6. Hi Heidi – Congratulations – what an exciting day that must have been. So glad it motivated you to write more. I read every sentence of this post and can tell you, your writing holds interest. All the best.

  7. OMG! I’m a writer…I completely get this. Even though I have a published book and have been published in on-line magazines, I still suffer sometimes.But you hit the nail on the head when you identified how many writers suffer from this impostor syndrome. The only thing I can say is that you are a writer…in your soul. That what counts Heidi. Be true to who you are and wave that writer flag!

  8. Hello; I’m so glad to hear you took that step and wrote a pitch letter. I’m happy the person who read your proposal was smart enough to notice talented writing. And I’m excited for you to be on the way to believing you are a writer. You need to know that writers write. Its an old saying, but its the truth. I never thought of myself as being an inspiration. It took many emails and comments from friends for me to take a step down that road and start a new blog. I am now also looking for coaching or speaking opportunities. And to celebrate your good news I want to invite you to submit a post to my site. I can’t pay you, but if you have an idea for a post about the amusement industry for my primary site or another inspirational post for my new one; I’d love to hear about it. Thanks for sharing and keep it up, Max the blind blogger

    • Thank you, Max! I will definitely keep that in mind and will let you know if I come up with something for you to post! I am going to put “writers write” in my journal. What a great reminder.

  9. My favorite part of this whole post is where your son starts clapping for you. He doesn’t think you’re an imposter! I so related to the imposter syndrome. Glad to know I’m not the only one.

    • He does not! I love that about the little guy (among other things). Knowing that we aren’t alone in feeling like an imposter is a big step towards not feeling like one.

  10. Lorraine Marie Reguly

    If you tell yourself, “I am a writer,” you will eventually begin to believe it. That is half the battle. Trust me, I know.

    That said, keep writing! Your writing appears to have the marks of a good writer. 🙂 Again, trust me, I know.

    Oh, and congratulations on your big win! Earning money is great. 🙂 And yes, again, trust me. I know. 😀

  11. I so completely get this. I suffer from this from time to time, usually after I read what others have written. I will ask myself, will anyone really want to read what I have to say? Then my friends will remind me that I have an audience that looks forward to what I’ll write and illustrate next. Regardless you nailed when you identified how many writers suffer from this very thing. so I say, stay the course and you will find your way in believing that you are the writer you already are. Just my thoughts. 🙂

    Oh and congratulations, I know that must feel pretty awesome. 🙂

  12. Congratulations Heidi – You ARE a writer. You write brilliantly. Not all good writers went to University. All you need is a good grasp of English and your imagination. Don’t ever give up!!

  13. Stomp that imposter syndrome into the ground! Practice breaking it down just by saying aloud every day “I am a writer.” There are so many definitions of writer, and regardless of education, why wouldn’t you think of yourself as one? You write a blog…you’re a writer! And serious congrats on getting your story published. I’m glad that it boosted your confidence enough to start that chapter too. Visualize yourself completing a goal, like writing that book and even just being a writer, and it will help you get there!

    • There’s that nagging voice in my head that likes to sit there and tells me that I cannot call myself a writer because it would be a slap in the face to “real” writers. It’s very annoying! I am working on visualizing completing my goals and focusing on what steps I need to take to get there. One step at a time!

  14. I am really happy for you. Finally, you can tell that voice in your head to be quiet.. Sometimes , People with credentials may not be great authors. to be a good writer, you need the skills along with imagination and passion for creating new stories.

    • You are right. Imagination and passion are so important when it comes to writing. It’s easy to get caught up in what’s not important. Credentials and money do not a great writer make. : )

  15. I am so happy for you. I’m still new to this game and feel like an impostor as well. Maybe someday reading stories like yours will help me get to your position: a writer. Thanks for this uplifting story. I really needed it.

    • Your words really touched me. I’m glad this post found it’s way to you. I hope to write stories/articles/blog posts that affect at least one person’s life in a positive way. Even just reaching one person creates a ripple effect. I just started reading If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland and the first chapter is titled: Everybody Is Talented, Original and Has Something to Say. Those words say it all.

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