Have you ever heard of impostor syndrome?
You probably have. So many people have been throwing the phrase around like it’s about to go out of fashion. It’s not like the phrase “going out of fashion”, which went out of fashion ages ago, and is only used in pep-talky blog posts like this one.
Also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome and impostor experience, impostor syndrome is a:
psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.
Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved.
You know it, don’t you? Most of us have felt it at some point or another. It’s a real problem, and it needs to stop right now. It’s responsible for so many potentially awesome works never seeing the light of day. It’s responsible for a lot of wasted hours, hours spent thinking…Am I a real writer?
Are you a real writer?
There’s no such thing as a Real Writer and a Fake Writer, unless you’re talking about celebrities who have their fiction ghostwritten. But we both know that’s not you. You’ve written those words. That Word document, Scrivener file; even if it lies in your Recycle Bin, is more than zero kilobytes. The random scribblings on a piece of paper, that’s actually ink. That piece of paper wasn’t blank. There’s actual ink on that paper. You wrote something. You’re a writer.
You are a writer.
You’re not a fraud. You actually wrote those words. Or typed those words. Whatever. It’s yours.
This brings me back to the heading: You are not an aspiring writer.
“Aspiring writer” has been a pet peeve about as long as this blog has existed, and it’s for good reason. The term is used by everyone, and even everyone’s favourite writing guide, Stephen King’s On Writing, is not immune.
There’s a problem.
You are not an aspiring writer.
You are a writer. You are an author. You are one or the other.
You either write or you don’t. If you haven’t written a single creative word since your high school days, why keep up the facade of being a famous multimillionaire, verified checkmark on Twitter, author? You could just as easily call yourself an aspiring billionaire, or an aspiring owner of 22 labradoodles. Don’t let that stop you. Aspire to own those labradoodles. But you still don’t own any labradoodles…yet.
If you do write, well congrats. You’re a writer.
It doesn’t matter if you’re not published. That’s an entirely different thing: aspiring author. It’s okay to call yourself an aspiring author. That’s something to aspire to. A noble goal for any writer.
Shed impostor syndrome; tell it to go hide in a hole and wither away. Swear at it if you have to. It doesn’t belong here. No way! You’re a writer! You’re no longer the shy, retiring sort that calls yourself an “aspiring writer”. You’re better than that.
You need to realize as soon as possible that there is no magical date on the calendar on which a member of royalty is going to step forward and knight you with the Scribe’s Short-sword of Scriveners.
You are a writer. Do you know how I know this? I know it because you’re putting words on paper. You’re writing. Don’t be ashamed to tell people what you’re doing. What you are.
You are a writer. You may not be a published author yet…but you’ll never become a published author if you don’t write something.
Writers write things.
You are a writer.
Only you can knight yourself with the Scribe’s Short-sword of Scriveners. Whether you’re new to the writing game, or an old soul, it doesn’t matter. You’re a writer.
Russo lists four main reasons a writer like yourself may call yourself an “aspiring writer”. In a nutshell:
You’re a newbie: Doesn’t matter if you’re new to the game, and you’ve only typed out a couple hundred words of your daydream-turned-fantasy-epic. You look at Twitter and WordPress and everywhere writery types hang out, and you’re like: How can I compare? They’re so much better.
Everyone has to start somewhere. And that somewhere is by calling yourself a “writer”. You can do it.
You’re not published: Yet. You’re not published yet. And in the current day and age of blogs and self-publishing, publishing credentials do not maketh a writer.
You’re still a writer. If anything, it makes you an aspiring author, not an aspiring writer. How can you be an aspiring writer if you’re already writing?
Nobody has called you a writer: Well…why not be the one to break that spell? If you’re still struggling to kick away those last remnants of impostor syndrome, let me tell you again:
You. Are. A. Writer. End of story.
Well, not literally “end of story”.
If anything, use your impostor syndrome as writing fuel. In the words of blogger and writer Nocturnaliss:
Don’t just ignore the voice. Befriend the voice. If it makes you feel shitty? Well, use the feeling to write about characters who feel shitty. If you feel angry, or scared, or happy, or whatever… Those voices are fuel for writing.
You can do it.
You are a writer, after all.