Imposter syndrome is a real b****.
For Anxious Authors, it’s always there, sometimes dormant and waiting for the right moment. Sometimes it’s up in your face as you’re trying to write, making you doubt every word you type (or scribble). But from time to time, imposter syndrome has the power to incapacitate us completely.
Three weeks ago, every doubt I’d ever had about my skills as an author decided to collaborate. They banded together and sucked me into a black hole of uncertainty, fear and self-rejection. I couldn’t write, I could barely bring myself to post on social media and every hope I had for the future was put on hold.
What caused this, I couldn’t say. Maybe being locked indoors with a busted ankle, barely able to see the sun let alone go for a walk, had an impact on my mental health. All I knew was I had all the time in the world to work towards my dreams and I couldn’t do jack.
After a week or so of creating zilch, I started doing something I said I wouldn’t do while I was in the middle of writing a manuscript: plan a new series.
Only I didn’t just plan a new series (which I did, in full), I planned the next one, too. After a little while, I began to feel a little better about things and out of the ashes of my confidence and dignity, rose a few comforting thoughts:
1. Your skills exist regardless of your doubts.
Imposter syndrome does its best to make us feel like a three year old with a crayon could do better. But the truth is, you’re no worse than the last time you got a five-star review. In fact, you’re probably better. Every day is a learning day.
Remember that your skills are what they are, whether imposter syndrome likes it or not. They’re not made worse just because you believe they are. The severity of your doubts might attack your self esteem but your writing abilities are untouchable. At least, until you pick up that pen and start writing again. Then, they can only get better.
2. This will end.
Nothing is permanent. If it was a competition, plastic, cockroaches and statistics lectures definitely have the edge. But nothing lasts forever.
Luckily for us Anxious Authors, our emotions are in constant flux. Eventually, our motivation will return. Maybe it’ll take a few weeks and maybe it’s only a smidge. Maybe it takes months and you wake up one day to find it’s come back in cascades. One way or the other, it’ll be back.
Chalk it up to an unplanned squiggle on your journey to success after the fact. When we’re in that mental dip, perspective is sometimes a bit too much to ask.
3. Take this time to breathe.
When in Rome, it’s that simple. If you’re a newbie author trying to make your mark, overtime is a given. Working late, working early, working when you should be sleeping. Most authors love their work and it isn’t always easy to switch off.
When your drive has disappeared, don’t create, recreate. Go-karting, paintballing, visiting an awesome library or (a more pandemic friendly option) play video games all day like you used to when you were a kid. Forget about guilt, there is no room for that feeling right now. It’s a dirty emotion.
We are physically incapable of writing and that makes us feel inadequate. That’s where the guilt tends to creep in and we feel this because we care. But the faster we relax, the faster our motivation returns. Take this time to regroup and come back stronger. Take this free pass to play The Sims all day and run!
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