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How to overcome Imposter Syndrome as a writer

It’s that time of the year, it’s that time of the month. The time when you look at what you have been doing lately, and realise it is all a bit of a farce.

Francesco Dimitri
Francesco Dimitri

Yes, you finished a short story. Yes, you finished a novel. Maybe you even sold a novel. Sold several, in fact. Readers seemed to enjoy them. You got a great review in The Guardian. You’re earning good royalties. But, so what?

You’re still a con. If things go wrong – if you don’t manage to finish the story, or finish the novel, or sell the novel, or get superstar status – then it just goes to show you’re an imposter. A pathetic pretender playing a game well out of their league.

And if things go well – and you do finish the story, or you finish the novel, or you become the next Angela Carter – then it goes to show modern editors are dumb and modern readers are tasteless. But they’ll find out their mistakes sooner or later, they’ll amend their ways, and you’re going to fall from grace, as you deserve.

Like all irrational impulses, imposter syndrome is hard to outwit and even harder to defeat.

Whatever happens, you’re proven right about feeling like an imposter. Whatever happens, you’re like a conspiracy theorist, searching for evidence that your theory is correct. Aliens land in your garden? There you go, the government was hiding them all the time. Aliens fail to show up? Of course, the government keeps hiding them.

Most artists (big and small, world-famous or unknown) have to deal with imposter syndrome. I’ve found a solution that works for me, and I want to share it with you. Here’s the thing, it may not work for you, but I hope it provides some food for thought at least.

The solution is pretty simple: rather than run from the feeling of being a scam, run towards it. Embrace it to the full.

There is no point in trying to find reasons why you’re not an imposter if you already decided you are. So you may as well be the best imposter there is. You’re creating art, after all. The stakes aren’t too high if you make a few mistakes. If you can embrace the feeling, embrace being an imposter to ease your worries – why shouldn’t you?

Although the short story was never written, you will keep pretending you can indeed write it. Although the editors didn’t realise your book is actually terrible, you will keep taking their money. What’s the harm? Yes, maybe they’re deceived. Well, tough luck for them.

And yes; maybe one day the world will realise what a scam you are. But as long as it’s not today, you’re fine, just keep going.

Let the future version of you deal with the problem when it comes. Meanwhile, keep writing until you finish that story, or keep selling your books if you’re at that stage.

All art is about making things up. All artists are tricksters. It’s okay to be an imposter. There’s nothing else you can be.

Find out about our online course with Francesco, Creativity for Writers, and learn how to defeat your imposter syndrome.

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Meet your Course Director

Francesco Dimitri

Francesco Dimitri

Francesco Dimitri is a prize-winning author of fiction and nonfiction, a screenwriter and comic book scriptwriter.

His work has been published in many languages. He is considered one of the foremost fantasy writers in Italy, and his debut novel in English, The Book of Hidden Things is acclaimed as ‘beautifully written’ (New York Journal of Books) and ‘fantasy at its best’ (Terri Windling).

His latest novel, Never The Wind, gained him acclaim as ‘one of the most wondrous writers of our time’ (Fortean Times). His non-fiction titles include That Sense of Wonder: How to Capture the Miracles of Everyday Life and To Read Aloud: Rediscovering the Lost Art of Reading and Listening, a ‘literary toolbox for wellbeing’.

Francesco was on the Faculty of the School of Life and has worked as a corporate and executive trainer with large European organisations, helping enhance the human and story skills brands and businesses need to face the psychological and creative challenges of work and life.

More about Francesco Dimitri

Creativity For Writers

Commit to new ideas and establish creative habits that stick.

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