Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

5 Ways to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Hello, everyone. My name is Kate M. Colby, and I suffer from Imposter Syndrome. Some of you may have heard of it. Many of you may suffer from it yourselves, whether you know the name or not. It’s been called fear, writer’s block, artistic drought, and several other names — depending on the particular strain that affects you. What exactly is it?

Imposter Syndrome is that nagging feeling that you don’t have the necessary skills and/or authority to accomplish your goals. After all, you don’t have a creative writing degree! Who are you to write a novel? You don’t have a publishing contract! Who are you to give writing advice? You don’t have a successful podcast or social media platform! Why would anyone listen to you or read your work? There are already millions of books out there written by millions of talented, educated authors! Why does the world need your book?

imposter syndrome
Found here

My strain of Imposter Syndrome is the “I’m not _____ enough.” variety. Last year, it was “I’m not creative enough to write a novel. And I’m definitely not disciplined enough to write a novel.” This year, with the novel writing behind me, it has mutated to a strain of “I’m not smart enough to publish this novel. I’m not qualified enough to be a professional copywriter and author. I’m not prepared enough to tackle my business and artistic goals.” In short, I have zero right, zero authority, and absolutely no business being an “author,” “writer,” or “entrepreneur.”

Another variety that affects me is the general, “I’m not artistic enough.” My entire life, I have been one of the more creative people in my family and friendship circles. However, I don’t feel like an artist. Frida Kahlo, with her gorgeously painted expressions of loss, feminism, and Mexican pride, is an artist. Gerard Way, who penned “Oh how wrong we were to think that immortality meant never dying” and a thousand other lines I envy, is an artist. Stanley Kubrick, with his innovative filmography style whose messages I can hardly fathom, is an artist.

Now this guy "looks" like an artist
Now this guy “looks” like an artist

ME? No way. To be an artist, I’d have to die my hair a weird color (I did do a red streak once), post brilliantly obscure Instagram photos that get 1,000 likes (incense stick protruding from banana anyone?), cover my body in tattoos (I only have 3…and that’s debatable), and be able to spout poetry at the snap of a finger (um…roses are…crimson?). As much as I would love to have that overflowing vat of random, spontaneous, carefree, meaningful artistic juice dripping from my brain 24/7, the truth is…I just don’t.

So, how do you conquer the feelings of inadequacy and sense of “stepping-out-of-bounds” that Imposter Syndrome creates? And, if you have similar strain to mine, how do you overcome the idea that you’re not _____ enough? I don’t know. But here are my best guesses.

1. Savor the credentials you do have.

Okay, maybe you don’t have an MFA. Maybe you don’t even know what MFA stands for (Master of Fine Arts). But, maybe you already have a book self-published on Amazon. Maybe you have 15 (partially or entirely) finished drafts on your hard drive. Maybe you rock the local cafe’s open mic night. Hell, maybe you just make a bitchin’ grilled cheese sandwich (that’s right, I’m looking in you, mirror). Whatever you have on your side, use it for all it’s worth.

2. Acknowledge that you’re not alone.

Research some of your favorite best-selling authors. Several of them won’t have formal education in writing. Look into successful self-published authors — the same will be true. Then, take it a step closer to home. Do others in your critique group or your Twitter feed have a back catalog full of brilliant novels? Are any of them really more qualified than you? Even if they are, do they feel incredibly confident? When push comes to shove and the ugly truth comes out, we’re all insecure and terrified — to different degrees, of different things, in different ways.

3. Remember, no one else is 100% you.

My favorite quote comes from the aforementioned Mr. Way. “Talent can only take you so far. It’s your point of view on the world that makes a difference.” That’s right, folks. Natural ability and, I would argue, fancy credentials only get you so far. If you don’t put them to use, if you don’t combine them with your unique perspective and truth, then what are they really doing for you? No one in the known universe has the exact same personality, experiences, feelings, and perspective as you. Therefore, no one else in the world can write your novel. So get off your ass and write it.

4. Define and redefine what’s stopping you.

What is your “I’m not _____ enough?” Figure it out. You can’t solve a problem if you don’t know what it is. Got it? Good. Now go out and get it. Take an online writing course. Read that book on Amazon keywords. Dye that hair.

Can’t do whatever it is you need to do? No worries. Redefine it. I’m not “qualified” enough? I’m not “prepared” enough? Kurt Vonnegut didn’t have an English degree (In fact, he dropped out of college altogether to join the army). When J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter, she was broke and scribbled the first inklings on a napkin. Surely you can figure out how to make-do, too.

Do you share my “I’m not artistic enough” hang up? Well, why does an artist have to be someone with an outwardly recognizable appearance and a knack for spontaneous bursts of random creativity? Maybe, an artist is someone who generates a consistent flow of creativity and productivity, who learns to marry craft and business, who doesn’t need legions of social media followers to constantly reaffirm his/her genius. You know, I think that definition could work for me.

5. Just do it.

No matter what variation of Imposter Syndrome you have, “you must do the thing you think you cannot do” (Eleanor Roosevelt). It’s as difficult and as simple as this: if you overcome or deny your internal objections and just do the damn thing, you will no longer be an imposter. You will, slowly but surely, become an authority.

And when, as an authority, you feel like an imposter, return to step one.

What is your brand of insecurity and Imposter Syndrome? How do you overcome it? Share your tips below!


29 thoughts on “5 Ways to Overcome Imposter Syndrome”

  1. Thanks Kate for another honest and useful blog post. My insecurities would probably take up a few encyclopaedias, so won’t start. But I know when I was prevaricating while writing my first book (Pathways Through Writing Blocks in the Academic Environment) because I wasn’t academic enough, hadn’t done enough research…. a fellow writer said, ‘You don’t have to say it all in this book. You’re bringing your part of the jigsaw in this moment. Others will add to it and you will too. But this is the best book you can write right now.’ It helped me then and it still helps me with my fiction too. As long as I am writing the best I can in this moment….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Awesome post, Kate. I think it’s very true. Even in my MFA classes, we all deal with impostor syndrome. We’re not creative enough; we aren’t lyrical like high literature should be; we don’t even write high literature, so what are we doing here?
    The best way to get over it is to speak to other authors/writers. I think 99% of us will say that we feel that way all the time or at least fairly often, especially in the middle of a project that isn’t writing itself.
    At least ten times every project, I sit there and go “Oh my god, what have I gotten myself into? I can’t do this.” Anyone who is overconfident about their ability to write or see themselves as a writer makes me suspicious.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This was a very powerful and often funny post, Kate! My “I’m not good enough” comes from a very simple place – my background. I come from a very simple, conservative, middle-class family in a very cultural place. I have been fortunate enough to have lots of books, films, music at my disposal and more than enough “creative” resources at hand to explore. But, most “artistic” people I’ve ever known are always either from artistic families, or has managed to get into the crowd by sucking up to them. That doesn’t make them any less talented or authentic in their art, but I wish things like background didn’t come into play when you actually have something to offer to the world.
    Despite the wonders of self-publishing and social media, where if you work hard enough, you really can make it on your own in writing or music or film, I still feel a need for people personally invested in my work, doesn’t matter if they want a commission out of it. I think most artists would have serious discipline-envy with you. I certainly do. Thinking you’re an artist, believing you have what it takes for people to accept you as an artist, can only take you that far. If you don’t get the job done, no one would remember an artist-in-theory. And you get the job done swimmingly, Kate!
    I have a post on being artistic. I’ll link it here if you haven’t read it already (no obligations!) https://ofopinions.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/of-being-artistic/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As always, thank you for your kind words, Amrita. I can relate a lot to what you said about your background. After all, isn’t it so much easier to be taken seriously (by other and yourself) when you have some kind of genetic or social proof behind you? Just think, though, by being the awesome writer you are, despite your “un-artistic” heritage, you’re even more impressive!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ha ha, I hope so! As I get older, I’m losing the ability to care, or the need to define myself to anybody. That is one of the biggest perks of spending more time in this planet. You start to lose energy, and therefore you ration it behind things you care about. That is why I am writing much more now than I did in my uni days.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Really great topic as we get into PreNanowimo season! For me, since I write on the topic of Christianity, it’s super intimidating knowing that these concepts have been studied and debated for literally thousands of years, but much brighter and degree’d people. Even so, I like being reminded that no one is 100% me – in this time and place on Earth. In the midst of working, “Do your best and forget the rest!” Thanks for sharing, love the insight 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My insecurities change depending on what I’m doing. When I’m writing, my fear is that my book won’t be ‘different’ enough to stand out from the rest. At the moment, I’m planning a print version of my latest children’s novel, and my fear is that I won’t be able to manage all the complicated techie stuff involved. That’s a BIG fear, and I seem to be finding all sorts of ways to put off starting. ‘Just do it’ is excellent advice!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing, Annabelle. Isn’t it so great how our fears mutate to haunt us no matter what we’re doing? I can say from reading “The Slapstyx,” your fears are unfounded. You write great children’s books!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This is across all fields, not just creative arts. I teach engineering, and always right there is that nagging voice, saying things like, “You’re really not qualified to do this, you failed a handful of courses,” or, “they know you aren’t smart enough to do this.” I did the Landmark Forum a year or so again, and that helped a lot; your graphic about impostor syndrome is similar to one they show as well, only theirs is more global than just a career.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it’s just implicit in human nature. While my post focuses on creative arts, because that is my career field, I entirely agree with you that it can affect people in any industry. I’m no psychologist, but I daresay it’s just part of our survival instinct and tribe mentality to always second guess ourselves and want approval from others.


  7. This is a great post, Kate – sorry I’m so late to the comments! I’ve been struggling a bit with doubt lately regarding my own writing, and it’s quite difficult to shake. Yet I’ve had so many positive comments about my work that I have to recognise that the ‘imposter syndrome’ is coming from me, and so I have to get over it and get on with writing. So thanks for articulating what so many of us go through, it’s great encouragement to keep going.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re most welcome, Helen. I figure if I struggle with something, there must be others. And, as one of your readers, I can assure you that any self-doubt you feel is all imposter syndrome. You’re a talented author.

      Liked by 1 person

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