You’ve been promising yourself that you’ll finish that book that you just can’t seem to get it done. Whenever you think about writing, your mind floods with reasons, doubts, and stories about why you shouldn’t do it. You sit down to write and that nasty little voice in your head starts talking starts talking so loudly you can’t get a word on the page.
“You’re a fraud.”
“You call yourself a writer?”
“So many people are better at this than you.”
Sound familiar? You’re in good company! Everyone who writes feels this way. Even the most successful writers have that voice telling them, they aren’t good enough. It’s hard to write with all that noise in your head. So what can you do about it?
You’re not alone. Imposter syndrome is a real thing. It’s that feeling of being out of place, like you don’t deserve to be where you are, like you’re just making it up as you go along and everyone else has it all figured out. The best way to deal with this feeling is to talk yourself through it. Remind yourself that you’re not the only one who feels this way and then do your best.
Neil Gaiman has spoken quite openly about his own struggles with imposter syndrome and he has this to say:
“Maybe there aren’t any grown-ups, only people who work hard and also get lucky and are slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we can, which is all we can really hope for.”
Stop doing it! When we’re writing it can be so tempting to compare our work, our ideas, and our success with others’ and find ourselves wanting. But here’s the thing, when you look at your own work you see the struggles, the hard work, the failures, the mistakes, the sixteen drafts, and how far you have to go. When you look at others’ work you see their polished, finished, published, and social-media-ready final draft. It’s like their writing sprang to life complete and perfect without any work involved. But if we’re honest with ourselves we know it didn’t.
“Maybe there aren’t any grown-ups, only people who work hard and also get lucky and are slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we can, which is all we can really hope for.”– Neil Gaiman
Remember, all writers struggle, every one of us has sat in front of a blank page with that empty feeling. The key is to stop comparing. Comparing makes you miserable, it saps your creativity, it sucks the life and energy and ambition out of you and makes it even harder to write.
Letting Go of What Other People Think
“It’s better to be hated for who you are than loved for someone you are not.” – Andre Gidet
Being a great writer is actually terrifying. Writing means taking your thoughts, dreams, and ideas and putting them out into the world in a way that we can’t take them back. Once they are published, everyone can see our words and judge them. But putting your true self into your work is what makes it ring with authenticity. That honesty is what will make your writing resonate with your readers. The key is to let go of what other people might think and to be true to yourself.
What if people don’t like it? Some of them probably won’t and that’s okay. Do it anyway.
Doubt isn’t a bad thing, it’s designed to protect us from danger. Doubt kicks in whenever there is a risk and putting your writing out into the world is risky!
The way to deal with doubts is to acknowledge them. Think through the risks, the reasons, and the rewards and make a decision. Is being a writer worth it to you? Sit with those feelings, thank them for trying to protect you, then set them aside and do the work. When they come back (and they will) thank them again and set them aside again. You’ve already made this decision, now it’s time to do the work.
Someone Else Has Already Done This
Of course they have! But YOU haven’t done it yet. People have been telling stories for thousands of years. Chances are someone has already told a comparable story, dreamed up a similar character, or had the same idea. But here’s the thing, YOU haven’t told this story yet and your particular way of telling it—your voice, your vision, your perspective—that hasn’t happened yet, and that perfect blend of YOU will be exactly what someone out there needs to hear, it will resonate with someone in a way that nothing else ever written will.
You Can Do This!
So, set aside those doubts, that imposter syndrome, and that need to compare. Acknowledge that someone has probably already done what you’re trying to do. Let go of what people are going to think and do the work. What you have to say is worth saying, putting it out there is worth the risk, not everyone is going to like it and that’s okay. You’re a writer. Writers write. You can do this!
Laurie MacNevin, HF Associate Editor
Laurie is an editor, writer, and researcher. Her deep love of stories led to an Honours degree and a Master’s degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Windsor. Originally from Southern Ontario, Laurie has lived in Manitoba for more than ten years, exploring the stories, landscape, plants, and people of some of the most remote parts of the province including three years in Churchill and two years in God’s Lake Narrows First Nation. Laurie and her family now live on an acreage outside of Carberry.
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