Imposter Syndrome and the Writing Community by Julia Ember

Photo credit: kafkan on Flickr
Before I got back into the swing of writing creatively, I spent several years trying to be an academic. I made it through my Masters and two years into my PhD program before depression set in and I realised I was pursuing a goal that made me unhappy. Imposter syndrome was a term I used to hear all the time: at conferences, in the postgraduate halls. In the academic circles, it was sort of expected that everyone below the rank of Full Professor felt it. Worse, that it was desirable. We were all afraid that we didn’t belong, that our work was inferior, that we’d somehow deceived our respective PhD programmes into admitting us, that we just weren’t smart enough.

People don’t talk about Imposter Syndrome quite as much in the writing community. Unfortunately, I think it’s equally prevalent. Underlying the anxiety of Imposter syndrome is a feeling that you don’t belong. Many writers start out on the fringes of the community and they’re afraid to engage with established writers because they see themselves as interlopers. For many writers, that feeling of not belonging and the fear of exposure don’t go away.

Back in October, I went to my first writing conference (yay!). I was terrified that people would ostracise me because I didn’t have an agent. I internalised a lot of that fear and told myself that if they didn’t like me it was because I was worthless as a writer.

I’m happy to report that I made lots of friends at all stages of their writing journey and I didn’t feel left out. However, when I talked to other writers, it was amazing to realise just how many of them were suffering with anxieties like mine. An agented writer thought she had conned her agent into thinking she could write, since she’d been on submission for a year. A multi-published author was struggling after with internalised self-doubt after her publisher dropped her. Even the keynote speaker, a NY Times bestselling author, talked about her fear that her fans would realise her previous novel had all been a fluke.

I’m not going to pretend I have the answers to solving Imposter Syndrome or other forms of anxiety. I do think it’s important to remember that so many other writers go through the same experience, no matter what level they’re at. Maybe those shared experiences are what ‘membership’ in the community is about? We all have experiences to offer. Fears or not, you aren’t alone.

Note from Julia: I am more than happy to respond privately to anyone via e-mail ( who is experiencing anxiety or feelings of impostor syndrome if they want to chat but aren't comfortable sharing on the blog comments.

A world traveller since childhood, Julia Ember has now visited over 60 countries. Her travels inspire the fictional worlds she writes about and she populates those worlds with magic and monsters. Unicorn Tracks is her first novel and will be published by Harmony Ink Press in April 2016.

Twitter-sized bites:
Do you struggle with Imposter Syndrome? @jules_chronicle says you're not alone. (Click to tweet)  
"For many writers, that feeling of not belonging & the fear of exposure don’t go away." (Click to tweet)

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