QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Monday, October 18, 2010

Guest Blogger Christine Fonseca: Understanding The Imposter In Us All


Have you ever noticed that we writers tend to lack confidence in our abilities? We often feel like frauds, terrified that someone will figure out we have no actual idea how to write. We think that because we don’t outline the way someone else does, or have perfect grammar within our phrases that we are somehow flawed. We equate our rejections with failure, and the time it takes us to get an agent or sell a book as proof that we have no idea what we are doing.

In short, we feel like an imposter.

This Imposter Syndrome, as it is sometimes called, happens frequently with gifted women and creative types – and I think the cause may lie in the actual attributes of both giftedness and creative personalities.

Like gifted people, writers and other artists struggle with a level of emotional intensity that can make ordinary feelings very overwhelming. This applies to the positive feelings – joy, happiness, bliss, satisfaction – and the negative feelings – anxiety, bitterness, jealousy, and anger.

I think it’s the intensity of the feelings that, when unmanaged, can lead to a lack of confidence and self-doubt.

Let’s look at the few trends I see when my writer friends and I chat:

  • Self Esteem – A lot of us struggle in this area. We tend to measure our successes against each other, allowing the rejections to get the better of us. We forget to seek our strength inside.

At these moments, we need to remind ourselves why we write in the first place – remind ourselves of the courage it takes to not only craft a story, but put it out there and query it. It we cherish that courage and strength, we can refocus our perspective and a lot of the esteem-zappers we face day-in and day-out will melt away.

  • Praise – Yeah, we don’t get a lot of constructive praise in this business. Sure, most of us have our cheerleaders that pick us up when we are down. But they tend to offer general praise, which feels good but really does not help us when we are feeling like a fraud. What we need is specific feedback on our skills.

Objectively looking at both our strengths and the areas we can work on is a great way to combat some of the problems with lack of constructive praise. Creating an action plan that allows us to build on our strengths and work on our weaknesses is another great way to combat our lack of confidence.

  • Emotional Intensity – As I mentioned before, gifted people are not the only group prone to intense emotions. Creative, artist types are as well. This level of emotional intensity will often tip the scales, making the natural struggles with confidence that most people feel into something huge and overwhelming. At these times we will often fall into the trap of comparing ourselves with others, connecting rejection with “I’m a lousy writer.” Trust me, I know how easy it is to do this.

Instead we need to remember to be objective. Ask our CPs and other writer friends for specific feedback. Ask them to remind us about ourselves, especially when we can’t find it ourselves. We will still be intense, but that intensity can be harnessed as creative energy instead of a confidence vortex.

So what’s the bottom line here? I believe that it is the very nature of being an artist tends to lend itself to periods of waning confidence. Talking about it with friends, remembering why you write in the first place and having a realistic view of your abilities is a great way to combat these moments and let them go.

* * *

You can learn more about Christine Fonseca and emotional intensity on her website, blog, and in her book, EMOTIONAL INTENSITY IN GIFTED STUDENTS.

19 comments:

Wen Baragrey said...

Wow. I follow Christine on twitter, and I'm keen to read her book. Especially after reading this post. This makes so much sense to me. I feel a whole bunch less weird, right now!

Thank you, Christine!

jbchicoine said...

Well, that certainly explains a lot. Oh the poor Writer-Artist combo...

Julie Anne Lindsey said...

Wow. You hit it all head on! I go through tons of ebbs and flows in my writing life. Days as a writer can be daunting, blogging, crit groups, social media, editing, life and yeah, can't forget the actual writing LOL. Thanks for a great article.

Traci Van Wagoner said...

Whew, I feel better now that I know I'm not the only one thinking I'm a fraud. Thanks for the timely post. Now, perhaps I can move forward with confidence and finish the latest revision of my current wip.

Laura Davis said...

And here I thought I was the only one that felt that way. Thank you for this post. It was very encouraging!

Elana Johnson said...

Oh, I feel this Imposter Syndrome quite acutely. Great article, Christine!

Solvang Sherrie said...

I feel like an imposter not only when I write, but every time I'm asked to take on some sort of leadership role. I'm saving this post for those days that I need a confidence boost. Thanks!

Mary Lindsey said...

Thanks again, Christine. Can't wait to read your book. I see it is available in an electronic format now. Yay.

Jamie Grey said...

Great article! I struggle with all three of these things. My crit partners are invaluable for keeping me on track and not falling into the low self esteem/impostor trap!

edentylerwriter.com said...

Really, really great advice. It's hard to stay objective in a business like this (it's such a passion!).
Thanks for putting it into perspective. These are things we all know, but tend to forget so easily. I need to bookmark this or print is out so I remember!!!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Wow, perfect timing, Christine! So it's not just my son who's going to benefit from your book. I will as well (beyond how it was going to benefit me as a parent).

It's so nice to know I'm not the only one feeling like an imposter. :D

Julie Musil said...

Christine, this comes at a perfect time for me. Thank you!

Lydia Kang said...

Great blog post Christine! Love the expert advice. It's so helpful.

Christine Fonseca said...

Thanks so much everyone! I am so pleased this topic resonated with so many of you.

Jessica Love said...

Thanks for this post, Christine!

I head about Imposter Syndrome when I was in school for my teaching credential and I was AMAZED to find out there was an official name for what I was feeling. I don't just feel like this when it comes to writing, I feel it in every single aspect of my life.

I wanted to read your book anyway, but this makes me want to read it even more. :-)

Danyelle said...

This is so true! It's good to be reminded of this every so often--& having a good support system is key, I think. :)

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great post. I can so relate to having lack of confidence in my writing. Thanks for the advice.

Margaret Duarte said...

Well said. As a writer, I know where you're coming from and appreciate your putting it into words and offering some solutions. Thanks for sharing.

lbdiamond said...

Oh yeah, I totally agree. 100%!