Fiction Writing Made Easy

#123: How To Overcome The 5 Types Of Imposter Syndrome

January 02, 2024 Savannah Gilbo Episode 123
Fiction Writing Made Easy
#123: How To Overcome The 5 Types Of Imposter Syndrome
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“Try learning new skills and then putting what you learn into practice right away, because, at the end of the day, you can only really learn through doing anyway.” - Savannah Gilbo

Is imposter syndrome holding you back from writing a novel? Here are the EXACT action steps you can take right now to combat your feelings of self-doubt, inadequacy, and fear—and to overcome imposter syndrome for good.

Read the blog post here!

Here’s a preview of what’s included: 

[01:28] What exactly is imposter syndrome? How can you conquer it?

[06:18] How overindulgence in work can drain the creativity and enjoyment from crafting a novel and may even jeopardize your relationships.

[11:06] Overly independent writers tend to reject assistance or input from others, even when it is necessary, out of the fear of being perceived as incompetent.

[14:13] Writers who believe that continually reading more craft books, enrolling in additional training, or rewriting the opening chapter repeatedly, might eventually amass enough knowledge to create a flawless novel.

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Want to write a novel but not sure where to start? Click here to grab a FREE copy of my Story Starter Kit workbook that'll help you get clarity on your characters, setting, theme, plot, and so much more!

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Speaker 1:

I want you to stop trying to learn all the things simply for the sake of hoarding knowledge for comfort. Try learning new skills and then putting what you learn into practice right away, because, at the end of the day, you can only really learn through doing anyway. Welcome to the Fiction Writing Made Easy podcast. My name is Savannah Gilbo and I'm here to help you write a story that works. I want to prove to you that writing a novel doesn't have to be overwhelming, so each week I'll bring you a brand new episode with simple, actionable and step-by-step strategies that you can implement in your writing right away. So whether you're brand new to writing or more of a seasoned author looking to improve your craft, this podcast is for you. So pick up a pen and let's get started.

Speaker 1:

In today's episode, we're going to talk about imposter syndrome. And did you know that over 80% of the population experiences imposter syndrome at some point in their life? At this point, I'd be more surprised meeting somebody who has never experienced imposter syndrome than meeting somebody who experiences it on a daily basis. It's that thing that not only fills you with dread, but feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem and skepticism about your talent, skills and capabilities. And if left unchecked, it may even lead to you sabotaging your own hard work and giving up on your dream of writing a novel. So in today's episode, I want to peel back the layers of imposter syndrome and really talk about it. Because what is imposter syndrome anyway? What does it mean and when does it pop up? How can you recognize it for what it is and, more importantly, how can you overcome it? So let's dig right in by talking about what imposter syndrome is.

Speaker 1:

An imposter syndrome was first described by two psychologists back in the 1970s, like this Quote imposter phenomenon occurs among high achievers who are unable to internalize and accept their success. They often attribute their accomplishments to luck rather than to ability and fear that others will eventually unmask them as a fraud. What a definition right Now, even though imposter syndrome isn't technically recognized as an official diagnosis, most people, including psychologists, acknowledge that it is very real and it is super common. Today. Dr Valerie Young, author of the Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, has broken down imposter syndrome into five different types, and understanding your type is really important, because each has slightly different habits or patterns that can keep you stuck, which means that each type also has specific things that you can do to get yourself unstuck. And when I read Dr Valerie Young's book, this was a total game changer for me, because I'm guilty of so many of these habits that I never realized were actually imposter syndrome showing up in disguise. So we will link to Dr Valerie Young's book in the show notes, but if you're taking notes, it's called the Secret Thoughts of Successful Women.

Speaker 1:

Now, with all of that being said, let's dig into the five types of imposter syndrome as identified by Dr Valerie Young, along with how these types of imposter syndrome show up for writers and the action steps you can take to overcome imposter syndrome. So the first type is the perfectionist, and perfectionism and imposter syndrome go hand in hand. Perfectionists will often set extraordinarily high goals, standards and expectations for themselves, and then, when they fail to reach those goals or expectations, they experience major self-doubt and feel like they might actually be a total fraud. Just last week, one of the writers in my notes to novel course asked me how do I stay motivated when everything seems to get in the way of my writing? And after talking for a few minutes, we realized that she just had really unrealistic expectations that were essentially setting her up for failure. This writer worked a full-time job, she had two kids under the age of 10, she volunteered at her local church and she was caring for an elderly parent, all while trying to write a novel from scratch.

Speaker 1:

Now, I'm not saying this writer couldn't write a novel while juggling all of this, but her goal was to have a finished and ready-to-query draft in three months, which was unrealistic. So every time she thought about writing or whenever she sat down at her desk, she felt uninspired and like something must be wrong with her because she wasn't feeling motivated to do the work. However, it was really just her unrealistic expectations that were zapping her motivation. So what I mean by this is that if she were to write an average length novel of, say, about 80,000 words in three months, that means she would have had to write about 6,500 words per week, and that's a lot, not to mention the fact that she wanted her draft to be in good enough condition to query. That means she would have needed to build in editing time too, and possibly even some time to get some outside feedback. So her timeline just wasn't realistic, no matter how you looked at it. So who could blame her for feeling uninspired and unmotivated? I know I certainly couldn't.

Speaker 1:

Now, if you relate to this writer, I hope you know that you're not alone. I resonate with this type of imposter syndrome the most, and it's something that I have to work on actively every single day. So if this is you too, then here is the action step I want you to take. First, you'll need to accept that it's literally impossible to be perfect all the time. There will always be something that you could have done better. So it's really important just to accept that. So it's really important just to acknowledge and accept that. Second, I want you to focus on giving yourself grace and start celebrating the small wins that occur along the way. Oftentimes, we can be so focused on one big goal that we're never satisfied, even if we've been doing some pretty awesome things along the way. So it's really, really important to celebrate those small wins. The second type is the superhuman. So have you ever felt like if you pushed yourself a little more or worked a little harder than everyone else, then maybe you could measure up and then maybe, just maybe, you wouldn't be exposed as a fraud? If you're nodding your head, don't worry, you are not alone.

Speaker 1:

But this type of workaholism can lead to serious burnout and mental fatigue. It takes the creativity and the fun out of writing a novel, and it could even sabotage your personal relationships. It's just not healthy. A rider I worked with this year had recently joined a critique group and everyone else in the group except her had written and published at least one book. For some people, being in this type of scenario would be inspiring. Sometimes it's really awesome being the least experienced one in the room, but for many writers this can be a breeding ground for insecurities to fester, and that's exactly what happened in this writer's case. Because her peers had already written and published books. They'd gone through the entire writing, editing and publishing process already. They knew what certain terms meant and they had connections in the industry and they didn't feel as nervous or insecure about some of the things that new writers stress over. So, long story short, this writer that I worked with told me that every time she went to her critique group meeting she felt like she didn't measure up to the other writers. So the other writers in the group could crank out a first draft in three to six months, but it was taking her that long just to brainstorm and outline her novel because it was her first one. It was taking her that long to brainstorm and outline her novel, and instead of running her own race, she tried redesigning her schedule and getting up early and staying up late to write at the same pace as the other writers in the group. And no surprise, she burned herself out pretty quickly doing this. Now, if you can relate to this writer again, you're definitely not alone.

Speaker 1:

But here's an action step that you can take to start combating this type of imposter syndrome. First, stop comparing yourself to other writers. Yes, we're all guilty of this from time to time and in a sense, it is a little bit normal. But when your sense of validation comes directly from how you think you measure up to others, you're never, ever going to feel good enough. Instead, you need to learn how to be confident in your abilities and where you're at right now. No one expects a newbie writer to have the same skill level as a seasoned pro. So let off the gas a little and let yourself grow without the insane and unrealistic pressure. Type number three is the natural genius. These type of imposters set their internal bar ridiculously high, just like perfectionists, but the difference is they don't just judge themselves based on their ridiculous expectations. They also judge themselves based on getting things right on the first try. So if they can't master something immediately, then that's when they start to feel like an imposter, and this is another one I feel like many writers can relate to.

Speaker 1:

So many of us start out expecting to produce a draft that matches the quality of the books we read, but this is super unrealistic. The books we read are someone else's finished product. They've gone through multiple rounds of editing and they've had multiple sets of eyes looking over them to make sure they're as cohesive and as perfect as possible. It's a totally unfair comparison, but we do it anyway. A writer I worked with recently was so scared to move through her first draft without knowing everything about her fantasy world. She would show me pages from her favorite stories and say things like see this how did that writer know how to plant a clue about this thing that would matter later? I don't even know how to think about this stuff this early on in the process, and she would feel so bad about herself because to her it seemed like her writing would never compare. But again, she was comparing her draft in its early stages to someone else's finished product. It was not a fair comparison. So, long story short, I was able to finally encourage this writer to just keep going and to trust that she would figure out how to plant all the clues and foreshadow things once she got to the end of her draft. And so she did. She finished her draft and she was so surprised at how much of a difference it made in her ability to go back through her messy draft and do all those things she saw in other books.

Speaker 1:

So if you can relate to this writer, I have an action step for you. First, I want you to challenge yourself to try new things. One of the biggest faults of this type is being afraid to try new things out of fear of failure or getting it wrong. So the best thing you can do to overcome it is to feel the fear, but do it anyway. This is a mantra I have on a sticky note by my desk Feel the fear and do it anyway. And if you try this, just know it's not going to feel good or natural the first time, or maybe even the first dozen times, and that's okay. But I do want you to stop playing small out of fear of striking out. You won't hit any home runs if you don't try right.

Speaker 1:

Type number four is the soloist, and the soloist goes through the entire writing process alone. They believe that asking for help means that they're a fraud or a phony who has no clue what they're doing. So, in other words, they are independent to a fault. These types of writers will refuse help or input from others, even when they need it, in fear of being thought of as incompetent. And oh gosh, I relate to this one a little bit too. It's so hard to ask for help sometimes. Right, I feel like writers have this extra hard too, because, a our stories are so personal that sometimes it's not just about feeling incompetent, we also don't want to feel judged. And then, b writing is kind of a solo activity in general. But it's super, super hard to grow and to become a better writer in a silo. I know this for a fact because nearly every writer who comes to me for help has tried going at it alone, usually for years and years, and they've finally grown so frustrated and sad that they haven't manifested their big, beautiful writing dream that they just need help. And asking for help ends up being less uncomfortable than going another year of not publishing their story. But also, I'm a writer too, so I really know how this feels firsthand. I also know how it feels to get feedback and to get help, and I'll tell you that I'm never, ever going to do it alone again.

Speaker 1:

It's just not worth the time and the frustration when you could reach out for help, improve your skill set and accomplish your goals. So if you can relate to this, if you think you're a soloist, here is an action step for you. First, I want you to try asking for help. You might need to give yourself a little pep talk first, and that's okay, but just remember that there's no shame in asking for help. You don't know what you don't know and, trust me, it's better to ask for help than to just stumble along in the dark trying to figure things out for yourself. Second, you can try reframing the way you think about writing. So in my notes to novel course, I encourage my students to say that they're discovering their first draft, not writing it, and that word discovering just takes some of the pressure off the process. You can also remind yourself that, just like a toddler learning to walk, you're learning to write a novel. You would never reprimand a child for messing up or not doing things perfectly when they're learning to walk right, so why shouldn't you receive the same grace while learning to do something new, like writing a novel?

Speaker 1:

Type number five is the expert. If you like learning more than you like doing, then you're probably the expert. This type usually measures their competence based on how much they know, and typically they put off starting anything until they know all there is to know, without a fear of being exposed as inexperienced or unknowledgeable. This type is a little similar to the soloist and the natural genius, but instead of feeling like you're not a quote unquote real writer unless you can do it on your own, that's more of the soloist. Or like you have to get everything right on your first try, that's the natural genius. The expert likes to collect information as a kind of armor against failure. So these writers think that if they just read another craft book or sign up for another training or rewrite the opening chapter for the billionth time, then maybe, just maybe, they will have all the knowledge needed to write a perfect novel.

Speaker 1:

Last year I worked with a writer who wanted a manuscript evaluation of their story, because he felt like something wasn't working, but he didn't know what. So he sent me all of his materials. He sent his draft along with this giant spreadsheet that had tables of all these different plotting methods on it. So the hero's journey, the save the cat beat sheet, the snowflake method, the key scenes and conventions of his genre. I mean, you name it and he probably had it on his spreadsheet. So when he sent all of this to me, he also said in his email my story doesn't match all of these different plotting templates, so should I just give up? Does this mean that my story's fundamentally broken and I've done something completely wrong? And my answer was no, of course not. So I read his draft and, long story short, his story was actually fine. It was a very normal first draft that needed some things removed and other things clarified. His story was actually really interesting, but he couldn't see the forest for the trees. He had spent so long collecting all the information about all the different methods that it was almost his downfall, so he almost gave up on his story because of it.

Speaker 1:

Like this writer, we tend to do a lot of things to convince ourselves that our self-doubt has merit, and in this writer's case he used all the different plotting methods as a way to quote unquote, prove that he wasn't good enough or smart enough to figure things out and thank goodness he asked for help and for a second opinion because, like I said, his story was actually really enjoyable. It just needed a little more work, as most first drafts do. So if you can relate to this writer, I have an action step for you. First, I want you to stop trying to learn all the things simply for the sake of hoarding knowledge, for comfort. Try learning new skills and then putting what you learn into practice right away, because, at the end of the day, you can only really learn through doing anyway. Second, I want you to try narrowing down who you learn from to one or two trusted mentors and or pick one or two writing methods that really resonate with you. You're going to make so much more progress and gain a much better understanding of the craft by going deeper into a few methods or models than trying to learn all of them.

Speaker 1:

Now there's a few things I want to say before we wrap up, and one of them. I just want to go through the different types really quick. So type one was the perfectionist, type two was the superhuman, type three was the natural genius, type four was the soloist and type five was the expert. If I could summarize one main takeaway from all the advice in this episode it would be to just write anyway. So feel the imposter syndrome however it shows up for you, and then just write anyway, because imposter syndrome is never going to go away completely. It might decrease as your confidence and your skills grow, but then you try something different or do something new and all of a sudden imposter syndrome is back at a whole new level. So the very best thing you can do is start recognizing imposter syndrome for what it is and then, when it shows up, you can just say, hey, imposter syndrome, I see you over there. And then just keep doing your thing, because I really believe that if you fail to recognize it, you might fall victim to the doubt and fear that will inevitably come up and you might even quit something that's really important to you, like writing a novel, or, even worse, you might not try to do it at all. So that's it for today's episode.

Speaker 1:

As always, thank you so much for tuning in and for showing your support. If you want to check out any of the links I mentioned in this episode, you can find them in the show notes listed in the description of each episode inside your podcast player or at savannahgilbocom forward slash podcast. If you're an Apple user, I'd really appreciate it if you took a few seconds to leave a rating and a review. Your ratings and reviews tell Apple that this is a podcast that's worth listening to and, in turn, your reviews will help this podcast get in front of more fiction writers just like you. So if you're there, go ahead and hit that follow button, because there's going to be another brand new episode next week, full of actionable tips, tools and strategies to help you become a better writer. So I'll see you next week and until then, happy writing.

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