Team Spotlight: Imposter Syndrome

Emily Fahey Team

This spotlight feature series poses different writing-related questions to our team. We hope you enjoy learning more about our staff through this series, as well as finding various solutions to common or tricky problems that every writer faces. In this edition, we asked the team the following question:

How do you deal with imposter syndrome as a writer or editor?

Karly (Fiction/Creative Nonfiction/Poetry): For me, the best thing is to recognize that even the most celebrated voices in their fields face imposter syndrome. Acclaimed fiction writer Neil Gaiman once shared an anecdote (which I’m sure I’m badly paraphrasing) about having a conversation with another man that shared his first name at a fancy event, who said, “I don’t really belong here with all of these great thinkers; I just went where they told me,” to which Gaiman replied, “You were the first man on the moon! I think that’s pretty important!” Gaiman concluded that if even Neil Armstrong suffered from imposter syndrome, there may be hope for the rest of us. I think often of that story. It does, indeed, give me some hope.

 

Rachel (Fiction): As a writer who has struggled with confidence issues in the past, it can be extremely difficult for me to recognize myself as a writer. I’ve read many articles and been part of many conversations where the main question is: At what point do you become a writer? Is it when you’re published? Is it when you’re writing routinely, every day? It’s so easy to be hard on ourselves when we’re too busy to write every day and publication seems like it’s far down the roadso far that we begin to question if it’ll ever happen. But in my case, there’s a very simple answer. I write; therefore, I am a writer. It can be anything from bits of poetry to jotting down half-formed, muddy ideas, to just staring out the window imagining an epic tale unfolding. In all these scenarios, I am a writer, and that’s all there is to it.

I once attended a lecture by the insanely talented and immensely popular writer Brandon Sanderson. And to my surprise, he opened with some hard truths: Because of the fickle world of publishing and the sheer amount of luck needed to rise above, there’s no guarantee that you will be published or even recognized. And that’s okay. The best I can do is to constantly improve my craft and be joyous in my own creations, no matter what labels I might put on myself. Sometimes all I need to get back into a positive, carefree state of mind is to take a step back and remind myself of how far I’ve come since I first started writing a terribly cliché fantasy novel when I was twelve. I’ve come a long way, and I’m still going strong! I’m writing things that only I can write, and that makes me wholly original, not at all an “imposter.” As long as we remember to be kind to ourselves, and to keep learning and writing, imposter syndrome will be a thing of the past.

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Hannah (Creative Nonfiction/Poetry/Fiction): One of the best ways for me to combat imposter syndrome is to talk with other writers. I might vent about my current writer’s block, ask for help brainstorming fixes to plot holes, or ask for feedback on an essay. I’ll usually find that I’m my worst critic.

But it takes trust. I have to be willing to trust that my writer friends will be patient and kind—but truthful—as they offer me critique and advice. I love getting the hard truth that I need to rewrite a beloved paragraph while being told they’re intrigued by my premise. It shows me that they believe in my writing enough to push me toward improving it. And that’s an encouraging thing.

Emily (Fiction/Poetry): As a writer, “winning” NaNoWriMo 2020 did a lot for my confidence. Writing 50,000 words is no small feat, so when I have moments of self-doubt, I can look back at that accomplishment and remind myself of the hard work and consistency it took to reach that goal. 

As an editor, I had a recent interaction with a client that boosted my confidence in a roundabout way. I was editing an academic paper to prepare it for publication for a client whose dissertation I edited last year. After two full rounds of editing the paper, I realized that her audience was in Europe, not in the U.S. as her dissertation had been! To my great relief, I found that the English Style Guide for the European Commission has similar rules to the CMOS, particularly with capitalization, which had been a significant edit throughout the paper. So in the end, even though I made the most rookie mistake possible as an editor (not confirming the audience and style guide), I got to nerd out over the English Style Guide for the EC and assure my client that she could take my changes to her co-author and back them up with confidence. It was a good reminder that even though I made an initial mistake, it was a unique situation, I had the know-how to fix the problem, and I got to familiarize myself with a new style guide that may help attract future clients!

 

We hope our collective experiences as writers have given you some new sources of inspiration to turn to. Our next Team Spotlight will be a “Back to School” edition. Something unique about the Scribe Source is that we have three team members and one team “alumna” who received minors from the Publishing and Printing Arts program at Pacific Lutheran University. Check it out to hear Hannah Comerford, Emily Fahey, Rachel Sandell, and Rachel Diebel answer the question:

What made you decide to pursue a degree in publishing and editing, and what was the best editing lesson you learned in school?