It’s crippling, isn’t it, the self-doubt and anxiety? That feeling you get when you tell someone you’re an author.
What a fraud. Who are you to call yourself an author?
Sure, you’ve written and published a book, heck it’s even got a few good reviews, but you’re not like a real author, not like J. K. Rowling or Stephen King. Why would anyone want to read your book?
Who are you to ask people to buy a book you wrote?
I’ll tell you who you are. You’re an author. Yep, I said it, you’re an author and you’re just going to have to learn to love the idea.
Those feelings of inferiority, of not being good enough? That’s good old imposter syndrome, and we’re going to kick that syndrome to the curb right now.
According to Gill Corkindale’s post, Overcoming Imposter Syndrome for Harvard Business Review, ‘imposters’ believe they do not deserve success or professional accolades and feel that somehow others have been deceived into thinking otherwise. This goes hand in hand with a fear of being ‘found out.’ A tendency to attribute success to luck or to other external reasons and not their abilities is another clear indicator of imposter syndrome.
Imposter syndrome can affect anyone. When the term was first coined in 1978, it was thought to only affect women but subsequent studies have shown that imposter syndrome can trouble men and women equally and from all walks of life. Research has suggested that 70% of people will experience at least one episode of imposter syndrome in their lives.
Imposter syndrome even affects those who the rest of us would consider to be obviously brilliant, such as bestselling writers Neil Gaiman and John Green.
John Green once said: ‘People often use the phrase “literally the worst” colloquially, but I have on countless occasions felt that I am literally the worst writer on Earth and that I am a complete fraud. I feel like a fraud all the time, and I still don’t feel like I know how to write a novel, and at this point, I doubt I ever will.’
In case you’re not sure which John Green I mean, he’s the New York Times bestselling author of Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns and The Fault in Our Stars. He is one-half of the vlogbrothers on YouTube and co-creator of educational series Crash Course. Yeah, that one. He’s doing okay. Across all his channels and along with his brother, he has a platform with around 10 million followers. But even he still feels like a fraud.
Honestly, one of the best ways to deal with imposter syndrome is to recognize that pretty much everyone has it, it’s completely normal and achieving greater success doesn’t make it go away.
This awesome anecdote from Neil Gaiman is sure to make you feel better too. It’s almost as if the more successful and deserving you are, the more of an imposter you feel.
The easiest way to overcome imposter syndrome is to stay in bed all day and set no goals for yourself.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to achieve things, you will probably feel tremendous guilt if you stay in bed all day. The point is though that if you set your sights low, you won’t feel that you’re undeserving of any praise because it’s unlikely that you’ll get any.
When you publish a book, however, you’re putting yourself out there. It’s a vulnerable place to be. For most authors, it’s a new experience, unlike anything they’ve had to deal with before and with a whole mix of emotions.
Becoming a published author is a big change, and with change comes a predictable cycle of emotion.
Don Kelley and Daryl Conner developed their Emotional Cycle of Change model in the mid-1970s. The cycle has the following five stages:
Stage 1: You’re excited to have finished writing your book and hit publish. You don’t yet know of the hard work to follow with marketing your book.
Stage 2: You start to feel some negative emotions about your book, especially if sales aren’t as good as you hoped. You may be frustrated with book marketing and anxious about how successful your book will be. This is when many authors give up on their books. Imposter syndrome may set in as you believe that you’re undeserving of any success and therefore you give up on your marketing.
Stage 3: There are still feelings of doubt but you’ve developed a marketing strategy and you’re getting into the swing of marketing your book.
Stage 4: You’re feeling confident and proud of your achievements.
Stage 5: You’ve reached your goal! This is an important moment to celebrate and own your success. Imposter syndrome is likely to be waiting behind the door, ready to tell you it was all down to luck or that it’s a mistake and you’ll get found out. Acknowledge the work you’ve put in that got you to this point.
BONUS DOWNLOAD: Recognizing imposter syndrome is one thing, but do you have a plan to deal with it? I’ve created a FREE worksheet to help you define why you write and what you want to achieve, so you can remind yourself of your strengths when doubt creeps in. (Click here to get your copy.)
Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. ~ Neale Donald Walsch
But it’s precisely when we step out of our comfort zone that imposter syndrome sets in.
The fact that you experience imposter syndrome proves that you are doing something challenging and something you care about.
To overcome feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy you need to recognize what’s happening and that it is normal and expected. Take steps to learn more about what you don’t know and keep taking action, keep moving forward, even if what you’re doing isn’t perfect. Perfect is subjective anyway.
You will only truly fail if you put your pen down, switch off the computer and give up on your writing. You may never be able to completely stop the negative thoughts that pop into your head when you’re trying to do something worthwhile, but you can choose to ignore them.
Don’t give imposter syndrome any power and never let it stop you.
Of course, there are times when we’re writing we have nagging thoughts that a passage or character or plot twist simply isn’t working and we need to listen to that voice that is trying to help us produce our best work.
But that one that says everything you write is rubbish, no one is ever going to buy your books, nobody is interested in what you have to say? You need to slam the door shut on that voice.
Nobel Laureate Maya Angelou once said: ‘I have written eleven books, but each time I think, “Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’” What a tragedy it would have been if she had listened to those thoughts and allowed her fear of being found out stop her from writing.
Belinda Griffin is a book marketing coach helping indie authors achieve greater book exposure and sales without experiencing overwhelm or burn out. A former journalist, content marketer and freelance writer, Belinda now runs SmartAuthorsLab where she helps self-published authors learn about book marketing, build their author platforms and make their books more visible, so readers can find them, buy them and read them. Grab her FREE guide Are you making these 10 book marketing mistakes to check your book marketing is on track. Follow her on Twitter @SmartAuthors.
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All content © 2018 by BadRedhead Media aka Rachel Thompson, author, unless otherwise specified. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to use short quotes provided a link back to this page and proper attribution is given to me as the original author.
Rachel Thompson is the author of newly released BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge: How to energize your book sales in a month - created to help authors market their book. She is also the author of Broken Places (one of IndieReader's "Best of 2015" top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in the San Francisco Book Festival), and the multi award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed. She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post, IndieReader.com, The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), 12Most.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly. Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs, #BookMarketingChat (co-hosted with Melissa Flickinger) and #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with certified therapist/survivor, Bobbi Parish all live Twitter chats. She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.