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Imposter Syndrome

While I was visiting my family over Memorial Day, I had the chance to meet up with MG Ellingon. She is one of my biggest fans and biggest supporters. She even set up a Facebook fan page for me. It really was very cool to meet her. We talked writing and Apex and such. We laughed a lot and had lunch together. She even brought me a copy of GRANTS PASS to sign.

However, through it all, I kept wondering when she was going see what a fake I was; that I wasn't anything special and certainly not cool enough to receive the admiration she was giving me. It was all a little surreal. I mean, I enjoyed it but at the same time, I felt like I was getting away with something.

I know that a lot of authors have this feeling. It's called the Imposter Syndrome. I briefly talked with Mary Robinette Kowal about it and asked her if the feeling ever went away and, apparently, no, not really. Even Nancy Kress has talked about it. It's not something I like to feel. There are days when I know I'm one of the hardest working authors I know and I deserve the lauding and praise. But some days, I wonder when the world is going to figure out that I'm just a hack.

I suppose a lot of people in different creative professions have bouts of doubt like this from time to time. Maybe it comes from the necessary rejection part of being an author. Every author out there has been rejected in the past and 99% of them will be rejected in the future. It's just part of the business of writing. Maybe that's why, occasionally, we all wonder if we're just faking it.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 3rd, 2010 07:12 am (UTC)
I felt like I was getting away with something.

You have just articulated what this feels like -- for me, at least -- to a T.

This is something I think I will always have a problem with.

If I can ask a kind of subtle and hard-to-articulate question, do you doubt yourself but have confidence in your work?</i> Because it's that way for me. I trust my work to stand up to scrutiny, but oh boy, I don't feel that way about myself at all. I suck, but if I finish something, I am always proud of that thing.

It doesn't make sense if you think about it too hard, but it's not the sort of thing rooted in reason anyway.
Jun. 3rd, 2010 08:45 am (UTC)

I've not published all that much in fiction, but I've published in non-fiction, where I regularly interact with people who use my books. Every now and then, someone comes up and tells me how wonderful they think this or that book is, and I... just cringe. I did nothing special. I researched the material and wrote the book. That's all, dudes!

It's one of the reasons I feel SO much more comfortable dealing with criticism than with outright praise. And a lot of non-writers really don't understand this.
Jun. 3rd, 2010 12:44 pm (UTC)
I remember the first SF convention I ever attended. For the first time in my life I was able to see all those names I had only seen on books before. And I was stunned how ordinary these people were.

It opened my eyes and I knew then, "Yes, I can do this, too. I can write. These people aren't gods. They're just like me."

I've never forgotten that lesson.

I think you've hit on something, though, about rejection being part of the process we go through and that does drive self-doubt.
Jun. 3rd, 2010 01:35 pm (UTC)
You have no idea how happy it makes me to know that writers further up the ladder than I am also feel this way!
Jun. 3rd, 2010 05:13 pm (UTC)
I know this. Even as a "professional" writer, I know this. You would think that over a decade's worth of experience working in the 'field' would lessen this, but it doesn't.
Jun. 3rd, 2010 08:40 pm (UTC)
Now I know you didn't post this to be argued into realizing that you deserve all of the respect and praise you get. You are discussing something valid that you've mentioned before and I've seen other writers discuss as well.

Just the same:
"I kept wondering when she was going see what a fake I was"
I've known you for years. I've discussed writing with you often. I've read your thoughts on the craft. What you have to say goes a long way to such a validation. Beyond that, it isn't just what you say. Jennifer, it is everything you do. You work darn hard. I know. I see your output in projects. I am not just talking about projects that you say are done. They are projects sold and published. Which means others validate your place as this talented writer/editor.

You are an inspiration for very good reasons.
Jun. 3rd, 2010 11:52 pm (UTC)
Here via Mary-Grace.

I went to graduate school where one of the original researchers of the Imposter Phenomenon (Syndrome). It is very real. It tends to be more common in women and it tends to be more common in people who are successful. Strange? Well, successful people are around other successful people. Our reflecting pool is a bit . . . skewed. We see the best of the best. We fail to see that we are achieving better than the average because we aren't really around the average. And women . . . well, we have generations of being told we are only good for cooking and babies.

For me it has gotten a bit better in my daytime career. In the writing department . . .ha! I feel like a total hack. Of course, I'm still learning the ropes. :)
Jun. 5th, 2010 01:26 pm (UTC)
I've avoided this problem by not being a huge success. ;) I do feel it a little when having to do stuff like write a bio. I feel like, "I'm just this guy! What could I possibly say about myself?!"

I can't quite get my head around being to the point of doing readings and signings.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )