Updated December 2023
Maybe you’re unpublished, so you don’t consider yourself a “real writer.” Or perhaps you have had some publishing success, but you’re still convinced your writing isn’t great—and that you’ll soon be exposed as the fraud you think you are. Even well-known published authors can experience this creeping self-doubt. At Writer’s Relief, we know that doubting your abilities despite having proof otherwise is called impostor syndrome and it affects many writers. If you’re telling yourself you’re not a writer, it’s time to stop! Whether you’re a new writer hoping to get published, a writer who isn’t interested in publication, or a published pro, here’s how every writer can overcome impostor syndrome and stand confident and proud!
How Writers Can Overcome Impostor Syndrome
Say it with us: You ARE a writer. If you’ve been published…you’re a writer. If you’ve been sending out submissions but haven’t received an acceptance from a literary journal or a request from a literary agent…you’re a writer. If you’re in the beginning stages of writing and editing your first short story, essay, poem, or book manuscript, guess what…you’re a writer. You are putting pen to paper, typing on a keyboard, researching details, proofreading, and writing, and that makes you a writer, no matter what anyone else says.
Build a “hype squad.” Who can help you defeat writer-related impostor syndrome better than other writers? Gather a squad of writer friends, mentors, and critique partners who can offer advice and much-needed support. Having members of your writing group give you positive feedback and applause for your publications can help drown out any negative thoughts you might have and boost your confidence. At Writer’s Relief, we make a point of being our clients’ biggest cheerleaders! Yay, writers!
Embrace criticism. Instead of feeling crushed by critique and seeing it as a sign your writing is hopeless, think of it this way: Your writing is good and can be even better! Whether criticism is coming from a writing group member, an agent, or an editor, they usually do have your best interests at heart. And remember, the final decision to make any changes to your work—or not—is entirely up to you.
Fake it till you make it. Even if you don’t feel like a writer, you can ACT like one. Attend writing conferences (online writing conferences count!), join a writing group, send out submissions on a regular schedule, give readings—do all the things “real” writers do. After a while, you may suddenly realize you’re no longer acting like a writer, but are actually being a writer.
Remember why you write. All writers have days when they want to throw in the towel due to another rejection, more needed edits, an unnecessarily harsh critique, or writer’s block. When this happens, remind yourself why you write. Reconnecting with your writing muse will help you power through periods of uncertainty and get back on track mentally.
Celebrate the little things. Writing success rarely happens overnight. Rather, it’s made of many individual milestones—from finding the right adjective, to getting published in a literary journal, to signing with an agent, to holding your book in your hands. Instead of feeling like you’re not a real writer because you don’t have a pile of publishing credits, embrace the small successes along the road and see how far you’ve come!
Toot your own horn. Most writers are introverts and have trouble bragging. But if you’ve won a contest or an award, or received an acceptance or a request from an agent, that’s worth a bit of humble bragging! Post links to your published works on your social media, and be sure to add your latest accolades to your author bio. When you see the likes on your post and see your accomplishments listed in your cover or query letter, it will be easier to think of yourself as a bona fide writer.
Don’t compare yourself to other writers. Every writer is a different person on a different journey. You can’t compare yourself to the success of other writers, even if their work is similar, or they have the same agent or publisher as you, or they belong to the same writing group. Comparing yourself to others only steals the joy from your life and leads to feelings of inferiority.
The only comparison you should make is where you are now to where you were before. Are you working to improve your writing skills? Sending out submissions on a more consistent schedule? Building your publishing credits one acceptance at a time? Carefully researching the best markets for your work? Remember, there’s no deadline for success, and you’ll get there at your own pace.
Take a break. Sometimes the best way to get over any feelings of inadequacy is to briefly step away from your writing. If you’re unable to create the right edits for your WIP, don’t jump to the conclusion you’re just not a good writer. Instead, put the work aside for a day or two and come back with fresh eyes. Another rejection? Brush it off, take a walk, watch a movie—and then start planning where to send your work next.
And the best way to get over Writer Impostor Syndrome…
Get publishing help from the experts! At Writer’s Relief, our experts will research and target the best markets for your work to boost your odds of getting published. And our strategists will help you stick to a consistent submission schedule so your work is out there circulating and getting into the right hands. Find out how we help writers get over impostor syndrome: Submit your short stories, essays, poetry, or book to our Review Board today!
Question: Writers, how do you fight impostor syndrome?