Thursday, August 17, 2023

Imposter Syndrome

Lately my blog has become nothing but accountability and progress posts, and while I like the fact that those posts are helping me to see what I accomplish (or don't) every week, I have other things to say, too.

Right now I want to talk about imposter syndrome, a term I only learned in the last few years, but I (and I suspect many other writers) have struggled on and off with for years.

Monday, I was with my dad at a chemo appointment when another elderly gentleman asked us what we did on our computers during my dad's treatments.  I answered that I was a writer, but quickly followed it up with "but what I'm doing right now is..." and then provided a lengthy explanation of a diabetic support group I moderate.

Wow.  I wasn't comfortable saying I was a writer.  That was a revelation.

I've been mulling it over ever since, and one of the conclusions I've come to is that I have been accustomed to "hiding" behind my freelancing.  A lot of writers hesitate to call themselves such until they've actually published something.  Sometimes they have a hard time calling themselves a writer even once they've published, if (say) they self-publish or publish with a small publishing house, or if their book doesn't do very well.

This is an inner struggle I haven't had to deal with in over 18 years, because I have been a writer.  I was a technical writer, and then a freelance writer.  I was selling my work to pay my bills, ergo, I was a writer.

And now I'm not... not selling my work, that is.

So clearly, my current status, whether it turns out to be a temporary hiatus from freelancing or a more permanent career change, has affected how I view myself.  I'm no longer freelancing, so I hesitated to call myself a writer.

A lot of writers struggle with imposter syndrome.  I didn't even know what that meant until a few years ago, but I would have told you I never had any issues with calling myself a writer.  However, looking back, I was always quick to explain I was "just a freelancer" if someone then asked me what I've published.

I feel like now I'm having to learn what other writers already knew: that it's hard to call yourself a writer when you feel like you haven't earned the right to call yourself.  That it's hard to consider simply writing as earning the right, when so much of that identity in our culture revolves around actually publishing.  And not just publishing, but being successful.

I don't want to be one of those writers who struggles with self-doubt.  I don't want to hold myself to such high standards that I always fall short.

And just like that, it seems we've come full circle.  Suddenly we're talking about the same thing that has me writing progress posts every week: A desire not to be so hard on myself all the time.  Rather than always seeing what I don't do, I want to learn to focus on what I do, whether that is acknowledging the work I do, or calling myself a writer.

Tonight, I am a writer.  Tomorrow, I hope I will find the courage to say the same.

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