Today’s post is about the guilt-inducing, crippling phenomenon called imposter syndrome. Writers seem especially vulnerable to this, from Maya Angelou to Neil Gaiman to yours truly. Granted, the only award I’ve won for writing was from my university newspaper–but that’s just the point. Awards, publications, accolades, and adoration don’t make you a “real writer”: only writing makes you a real writer.
“What’s talent but the ability to get away with something?”Tennessee Williams
Imposter syndrome goes by many names, but I’m not going to dissect the psychology of that today. It’s been done! I’m here to tell you what fairytales (specifically, The Princess and the Pea) can teach you about overcoming this common writing challenge.
The main conflict in the story is the princess’s redundant call to confirm she is a “real princess.” The princess proves this by:
- Being a princess by birthright
- Announcing herself as a princess at the door of a neighboring castle
- Looking like and acting like a princess, probably (despite being soaked by the rain)
- Passing a test that proves she is a princess by being physically harmed by a lowly pea
- Marrying a prince and surpassing her princess status to queen (perhaps analogous to graduating from being a writer to an author)
Allow me to speak plainly: if you are putting the words from your head on a document or paper, you are a writer. You can aspire to be a published author, or a novelist, or a hundred ways to define success, but you already are a writer. That is all the proof you really need for yourself or anyone else.
Another reminder for you: it may have already been said, but it hasn’t been said by you. You have your own words, perspective, and voice.
Write like you have nothing to prove.
When you feel like an imposter, look at how much you’ve written. Even if you don’t think you’ve written anything worthwhile, it’s all part of your progress and identity as a writer. Like the princess, it’s something you were all along. Now go crush some