Writing and Impostor Syndrome

writing impostor syndrome

How One Writer Deals with Impostor Syndrome

You might be surprised to learn even successful writers deal with impostor syndrome. I feel most artists do, but impostor syndrome isn’t just an affliction for creatives. People in all walks of life, no matter how gifted or accomplished they are, question whether they deserve success or feel they’re wearing a mask and fooling everyone who looks up to them.

One review for my latest release (Killer Instinct) says the Thomas Shepherd series keeps getting better and better. That’s a compliment. But it’s easy for a writer struggling with impostor syndrome to ask, “Does that mean my earlier works weren’t up to par?”

Most writers grew up admiring others. That’s when the seeds of creativity were planted. For me, my hero was Stephen King. The first books I engulfed were classics like The Dead Zone, The Shining, Salem’s Lot, and The Stand. Those stories moved me so much that I wanted to capture that creativity, make it my own, and entertain others.

But you might see where the problem lies in this way of thinking. Trying to write like Stephen King is akin to wanting to invest like Warren Buffett, hoping to hit a baseball like Ted Williams, or inspire a nation like Oprah Winfrey.  When you follow in the footsteps of your heroes, you embark on a journey where you’re always struggling to catch up.

I can’t be Stephen King or J.K. Rowling or Dean Koontz. I’m me, Dan Padavona.

And that’s the best way I know to conquer imposter syndrome. Every book I write represents the best story I can tell in that moment. My initial books don’t compare to the novels I write today because I’m a better writer than I was then. There’s no replacement for experience.

“When you follow in the footsteps of your heroes, you embark on a journey where you’re always struggling to catch up.”

By the same token, the books I write ten years from now will be better than my current novels, and I’ll feel a need to steer new readers toward those books and away from the stories people tell me they love today. It’s akin to convincing people not to look me up in my high school yearbook because the current me knows better than teenage me did. No, the Hammer pants weren’t so cool after all.

Whatever challenge lies ahead of you, whether it’s writing a book, preparing a speech for a conference, presenting a study to your coworkers, or trying to be a better spouse, parent, or friend, give yourself credit. You’re doing the best you can in this given time. No one will criticize your current work if what you produce 10 years from now is better.

Imposter syndrome is real. But there’s no reason to let your inner critic stop you from moving forward.

And when you achieve your next goal, that voice in your head will be replaced by optimism and confidence.

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