The Insidious Impostor Syndrome

On my last blog I wrote about my experience at a book signing recently–an experience colored by many anxieties and doubts. I’m very happy to say that despite my irrational fears, I was indeed invited back for next year’s event.

Today I’d like to talk to you about something related, impostor syndrome. A lot of authors suffer from this condition and I’m no exception. Recently, I was reminded of how much this affects me as a writer and a human being.

As the majority of writers today, I struggle to make myself known and get people to buy my books. I work my butt off and sacrifice a lot to sell a handful of books a month if I’m lucky. One of my books, Desert Jewel, is part of a series I’m very proud of: The Jewel Chronicles, a fantasy with a strong romantic element which I wrote using a world I knew well in my past to create a parallel-type universe as my setting. Some of you know I spent a lot of my childhood and  young adult years in Africa. I used what I knew to create a speculative world where everything was the opposite of the real one. I buried deep personal beliefs about prejudice and superstition in the plot and colored it perhaps with a bit of anger against the power-hungry men who even today keep the people of many African nations poor and helpless.

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As I write the third and last book of the series, I find myself procrastinating, making excuses not to write. Because I very rarely do this, I began wondering why that is. Is it because my story is coming to an end and I want to hold on to it as long as I can? Is it because I’m afraid of not knowing how to further push the story forward? Or is it because I’m discouraged by the extremely low sales of the past two books?

I guess it is a little of all three above, but I also realized something else–I’m suffering from a serious bout of impostor’s syndrome. Let me explain.

In May of this year a young adult fantasy was released to almost instant success and critical acclaim. I didn’t know much about it, other than it was set in an African-like world. Being the African groupie that I am, I was curious and checked out its synopsis. I immediately found several parallels with Desert Jewel–not the same plot but many of the same elements. The story incorporates Afro-Brazilian mythology, the idea of a girl with a special gift who will save a repressed people, and a romantic attachment with someone on the “other side” of the rail tracks, so to speak. Being an expert at self-doubt, my first reaction was, “This was her first book and she sold thousands of copies already and is in every freaking bookstagrammer’s page. I’ve sold a handful of copies of my book in over two years. I suck at writing obviously.”

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Ever since then I’ve carrying this growing doubt with me–am I a good enough writer? Are my stories interesting enough? Am I tricking myself into believing I can write? A doubt that has been hampering the writing progress of my WIP. This, my friends, is what impostor syndrome is all about. I have a publisher that believes in me, a few readers that love my books, good–even if not tons of–reviews and yet I still doubt myself. Frequently.

How many of you suffers from this too? How do you fight this self-defeating feeling? I fight it by writing on, despite that little voice that tells me nobody wants to read what I write. I keep writing even when I’m scared people think I’m an old fool who has nothing interesting to say. I keep on writing because it’s where my voice is, the one thing that gives me wings.

You can read more about impostor syndrome here and here and here.

Tales of an Introvert

This is the story of how I managed to sabotage myself thanks to my introvert anxieties.

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend SaSS18, a much anticipated and large romance authors’ signing in Norfolk, Virginia. It was a dream come true (I got in because someone had to cancel at the last minute) and I was determined to make this opportunity my foot-in into the circle of wonderful authors who always seemed to be invited for these events.

Frightened and stressed young business woman

Even before the day of the event arrived, my anxieties were already kicking in and by the time I checked in at the hotel I was not feeling so good. It only got worse. When the doors opened to the public I was totally overhwlemed. A nonstop stream of self-defeating mantras flashed in my head:

  • You suck as a writer.
  • Nobody reads your books.
  • People think you’re boring.
  • You’re too fat.
  • No one wants to talk to you.
  • They all think you’re an idiot.
  • You don’t belong here.

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No matter how much I fight these inner voices, they are often too strong for me. And this was the case that weekend. Afraid that I would be the one in a corner alone while everyone else was having fun, I ditched all the fun events, those where I could make an impression by talking and networking with other authors and readers.

Afterward came the self-loathing, anger at myself for once again making myself invisible. Apart from a couple of people, no one will remember that middle-aged woman who barely moved out of her table for the whole signing.

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Names have already began being picked for next year’s event, and I’m not holding my breath–why would they pick someone they can’t even remember? I’m in about three event pictures out of hundreds and I have no one else to blame but myself. Everyone was sweet and welcoming, but my anxieties did what I had promised myself I wouldn’t allow them to do; they ruined something I had looked forward to so much.

Have your anxieties ever done anything like that to you?