Imposter syndrome is a phenomenon that is only just entering the public consciousness (or so it seems) and something that as an erstwhile graduate student I heard often enough, but I am sure that it is something that almost all authors must feel almost all of the time.
You know that feeling? “I’m not good enough to be doing this”. Or, “I wouldn’t call myself that. Not yet.” It’s a feeling that huddles at the back of your mind, and tells you that the one voice saying that you’re bad is the only one telling the truth. Or that success is just a fluke, and you don’t deserve it, and you’ll get caught. It’s the reason that that one bad review sent Kathleen Hale into a stalking-spiral.
You can read a hundred good ones and it’s only the one bad one that sticks with you. That’s because that’s the one that the nasty voice in the back of your head sympathises with. That voice knows you’re a failure, and so when you hear an echo outside of yourself, it’s impossible not to listen. It’s that heckling voice at the back of the room that you’re not sure whether you hear or you imagine.
But even J.K.Rowling has bad reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. (And anyone who speaks ill of Harry Potter is dead to me). And from some of the critics come some of the most thought-provoking words. I myself have spoken on my blog in response to a reviewer who questioned my education based on the genre I write in. Writing a novel is always to an extent a conversation, and there are going to be people who talk back, and say things we don’t like.
So how do you get both? How do you absorb the helpful parts of criticism without hearing that imposter voice at the back of your mind telling you that you’re no good? That you should regret writing? That you should be ashamed? I don’t know what helps. I would love to hear from anyone who does.
It’s always a rollercoaster, taking such a risk, sharing so much of yourself with readers. It was Ernest Hemmingway who said (something like) “writing is easy: all you have to do is sit at a typewriter and bleed”. Now I don’t have a typewriter – I wish I did – but I do understand the feeling. How successful do you have to be to stop doubting yourself? I think the answer to that is never. Either you doubt or you don’t. The important thing is making the decision that the nasty voice doesn’t rule you. But that’s hard.
I would love to hear from any other authors about this – do you feel this way? What do you do about it? Or do you just have the style and grace to bask in your own awseomness?