How do you deal with Impostor Syndrome?
I asked this as part of a social media chat group I’m part of and one particular answer stayed in my mind.
“I’ve noticed it’s triggered more by success than failure. Success makes me frightened that I won’t make the mark…”
Over the past couple of years more people have discovered Kevin Klehr, the author, and that can be unnerving. So, when I first read the response quoted above, I identified, yet I wasn’t sure why.
Although I’m not a best selling author, my experience has made me confident with certain skills. But as I continue to progress, there are new things I need to learn. This is when Impostor Syndrome sneaks in.
I wrangled my way into an important writers festival a few years back.
My proposal to run a workshop about using news stories to inspire dystopian narratives was accepted. Then I was asked to be on two of their panels.
Yet even though I’ve been a professional trainer who has written and taught accredited media courses, I rehearsed that workshop over and over. I wrote a Facebook post about how nervous I was about delivering it, so someone kindly commented ‘You got this’.
In the end it went well, so the thought of doing another one is no longer daunting.
More recently I’ve been organising an author reading event.
Me and three fellow writers will be a small part of a huge LGBTQIA+ festival, but complying to all that was asked for was a huge job. Everything from securing a venue, gathering marketing materials and filling out a safety check form had to be done.
I did this alone, and now that the event will happen, the unknowns haunt me. The venue is a pub, and even though we’ve read at a bar before, this one is not as intimate as the one we are used to. So filling it with supportive readers rather than people just there for a drink concerns me.
Out of the writers involved, only one other lives in Sydney like me, and I’m already thinking of ways to get everyone together so we can rehearse. I want to present a cohesive unit, rather than four individuals. It will make for a better presentation.
Something else I obsessed over was a book trailer.
I’ve made many featuring an actor presenting a monologue to camera, but recently I made one which needed special effects. Multiple versions of this video were created long before the book’s release. And when I thought I had the final version, I consulted a friend who’d worked for Pixar. She gave me an honest critique which I followed over many more edits. I even taught myself to colour grade.
It’s a personal thing for me. I can’t have a substandard promotional campaign for one of my novels. During these edits, Impostor Syndrome kicked in many times to the point I thought of ditching the video. Fortunately I didn’t and it has been well received. It hasn’t gone viral or prompted many sales, but it’s been well received.
There is a way to numb that Impostor Syndrome feeling.
A comedian mentioned it during a television interview I watched. He said,
“Hide in full view.”
It’s something I’m learning to do. I curate the aspects about myself I’m confident of on my socials. In more private chat rooms I seek advice. But my ‘brand’ (yes, it’s an annoying word but relevant) is as professional as I can make it. And as I push myself further along this path, I stop feeling like an impostor as I master new skills.
For example, I’m confident I can organise another author reading event. I’ve learnt how to cross the i’s and dot the t’s. It’s the actual event which, at this point in time, is scaring me.
If we didn’t suffer Impostor Syndrome, we’d be narcissists.
We’ve all met overly confident wannabe writers along the way. When a friend of a friend came to me for advice on getting published, he was surprised to discover he could self-publish. I didn’t advise him too, but it’s what he took away from our chat. So, he declared he was going to change the publishing world.
His book was not a novel. It was a series of snap shots of him and a friend in BDSM gear. Yes, he did self publish. No. It didn’t sell.
Impostor Syndrome is the curse of the artist.
If we don’t continue to nervously push ourselves into the unknown, we won’t move forward. That’s true of life in general. But in our case, that’s what a writing journey is.
NOTE: Although most of us spell it as ‘imposter’, the original spelling is ‘impostor’ which we in Australia and New Zealand embrace.