Writing Secret 7: Write to Fool Your Imposter Syndrome

Writers have a problem product development teams don't have: Imposter Syndrome. That's when you think you're a fraud. Even though you have experience and expertise.

Fear drives Imposter Syndrome. Too often, writers let the fear win. You don't have to succumb to that fear—you can fool that fear with writing. The more you write and publish, the less you allow your Imposter Syndrome to win.

Write More, Especially When You Feel Fear

Nonfiction writing includes thinking and learning. Sometimes, my fear arises from my perceived inability to use the “right words” to get my ideas across. The more I write, the more I realize:

  • My writing can never be perfect.
  • The more I practice writing, the more people can understand my writing.
  • I don't have to stop at just one piece to explain one idea—I can write several pieces.

However, to do that, I have to write and publish. Writing alone isn't enough—I need to publish also.

Sometimes, that's enough to get me through the Imposter Syndrome. Other times, I need to go meta, to write about why I feel fear. I need to write about what scares me.

What Scares You About Writing This Piece?

While this is an excellent question, I don't always have any answer, never mind an excellent answer. Time to fool myself with writing again. I write my answers to these questions:

  • What's the worst thing that could happen?
  • What's the best thing that could happen?
  • How will either affect me in the short- or the long-term?

If I don't write well, readers ignore me. As worst things go, that's not so bad. Will people judge me or my writing? Of course. And the more I write and publish, the less that affects me. Why would I let other people's ideas about my writing (or me) affect my future behavior? Why would I give them that power?

If I do write well, and people like this piece, that's great. Maybe these readers will read the next thing I write.

Use Your Writing Tools

One of the best “tool” I have to overcome my Imposter Syndrome is to use these writing tools:

  • Identify the ideal reader for this piece: Can I write to just that (kind of) person and not worry about the other readers?
  • Set the context for the piece: what are the conditions where I've seen these ideas succeed? Just as valuable, where do I see these ideas fail?
  • Clarify what I learned from each of these contexts so I can add more value to the reader.

These are my normal writing “tools” and help ground me in the topic, not my fear.

Manage Your Imposter Syndrome

If you're new to writing, you might wonder why you feel Imposter Syndrome when you write and not when you work with other people. When we collaborate with others, we can assume someone has the expertise the team needs. However, most of the time, we write alone.

If you had Imposter Syndrome, remember what Voltaire said:

Perfect is the enemy of the good.

Instead of letting fear guide your writing, write more and publish. Fool your Imposter Syndrome.

See all the posts in this intermittent series of “writing secrets”.


About this post: One of the participants in the current cohort of Free Your Inner Writer workshop cohort said she suffered from Imposter Syndrome. Another person suggested we all try writing about our fear. We'll see who else joins the fun. If I have permission from everyone, I'll post links to their published pieces here. Notice we all had the same prompt and we all wrote different pieces.

Michael Hunter posted Release your fears by talking with them.

John LeDrew wrote Me, Myself and My Itty Bitty Shitty Committee

And, if you want more support in managing your fear, see the May 2022 Writing Bundle.

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