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Do You Think You Have Crushing Imposter Syndrome?

I am a writer. An author. I think. Or am I? Who am I to think I’m good enough to call myself a writer, an author?

Have you ever asked yourself these questions? Wondered if what you have written is really worthy of publication? Worthy of recognition? Being read by others?

I remember when my first book was released. I had mixed feelings, mostly relief that it was finally done, finally published. It was ten years in the writing. Why so long? Because I continually doubted myself. I had an idea. I had the writing ability. But I was constantly plagued by feelings of self-doubt. I mean, really, who was I kidding? I had never before written or published a book. I had attended countless writers’ conferences and listened to others read from their published work. But not once did I have the courage to stand up and share my own work. Not once did I admit that I was, or at least possibly could be, a writer, an author.

And this book idea? I thought it was great, but who else would agree? I dragged my heels, quite literally, writing it. Only a few paragraphs here and there. Stumbling back to the beginning and going over the manuscript once more, twice more. All before moving forward. At the pace I was going, it was small wonder I ever finished writing it. But I did. Full of doubts all the way through the process.

When I received a publishing contract, I was astounded. When I held the first copy of my book in my hands, I was astounded. But still I hesitated.

I approached, reluctantly, the local independent bookstore. I knew the owner. She was thrilled with my accomplishment. I didn’t even have to ask, as she instantly offered to host a book signing. That was almost too easy. She kept copies of the book and started her own promo for my event.

I started working on my promo and sent out invites. Again, reluctantly. I was a private music teacher. The book was about music. So, I sent invites to my music teacher colleagues and students, past and present. Everyone was amazed. Complimentary. I had people lined up out the door at my first signing. And the press was there, too.

And still, I felt, deep down, that sense that I was a fraud. Here I was signing and selling copies of a book I had written and published, answering questions from the press, and making myself out to be the next, great best-selling author. (Well, that still hasn’t happened. All in good time.) I answered questions and put on a brave face, but deep down, I doubted myself.

Sound familiar?

Many of us, writers and authors, run the treadmill of self-doubt. It’s called imposter syndrome, a psychological condition where we harbor secret doubts about ourselves. We think that we’re frauds, imposters. And, it can be quite debilitating. It certainly was (and still can be at times) very debilitating for me. After all, it held me back from completing my first book for close to ten years!

It's been a long road to confidence as a writer, as an author. I have to constantly remind myself that what I do, what I write, is real, is significant, is good enough (if not better). With my first book launched, I decided to give myself a confidence boost. Recalling my studies, years earlier, in twentieth-century art, I repeated the Dada artist’s mantra, “Anything is art if an artist says it is.” Marcel Duchamp coined that phrase. A very powerful statement. And, so true. I firmly believe it’s applicable to all art forms, including writing. What it was telling me, every time I repeated the phrase, was that I was a writer because I write. And I publish and market and all those other things we writers have to do. I don’t have to be a best-selling author to be a genuine writer, author. I don’t even have to be liked by all my readers. I write. I publish. Therefore, I am a writer. I am an author.

With that thought firmly in place, I was able to move forward from my ten-year first book. I make writing a significant part of each day. It no longer takes ten years to write one book. And, even if my writing doesn’t always sell, or please the readers and editors and publishers, I am a writer. And so are you. So, get writing and put those self-doubts aside. We are what we say we are.

Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Emily-Jane Hills Orford