Self-doubt, Imposter Syndrome and How To Battle Through

Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.”

Self-doubt is something that has plagued me my whole life and I am sure I am not alone in that. When I was younger especially, I had a habit of talking myself out of things I wanted to do, because this inner voice did not believe I could do them. This voice told me it was better to stand back and hide. Run away. And that’s what I did, one way or another, for many years.

Of course these days, as a so-called adult, I know better than to compare myself to others. I am me and I have come a long way since my anxious, angsty teen years which were nothing short of a horror show.

At least, I thought I had.

One of these days I am going to blog about the perimenopause which I believe I have entered but not yet. It’s definitely making everything worse as my teenage me is back to haunt in oh so many ways…

Self-doubt and imposter syndrome being one of them.

I’m pretty sure all writers get imposter syndrome one way or another. Well, maybe not Stephen King. I have to admit, I don’t really get it with my writing. And that’s not to say I’m big-headed about my work. I’m not. Why would I be? I hardly sell a thing. But because I write for myself first, for the pure pleasure and joy it brings me, for keeping me sane, giving me an escape, I could go on…Writing is my biggest passion and it always will be. I don’t think my writing is the best thing ever, but it does make me happy, so I don’t feel like an imposter, because I am just being me, doing what I love.

But for the last few weeks the imposter syndrome has really hit hard in other areas of life. In fact there are only two areas unscathed. Mothering and writing. I know I am a good mother and I know I am a good writer, at least for myself.

But hormones and emotions are having a lot of fun with me right now. Clawing their way onto my back and digging in for the ride. Whispering in my ear that everything I do is a failure, that I’m a failure, that I ought to give up and walk away, that I’m rubbish, useless, pointless. I feel this pressure given only by myself every moment of every day. It’s like something I cannot shake free from.

For the last few weeks I have seriously considered quitting my company. For those who don’t know, I started a writing group in 2015 as I could not find a local writing group to go to that fit in with having kids. I started my own and after a lot of thought and research I branched out into kids workshops. I used to be a childminder and I had really missed working with kids so it seemed to make sense to combine two things I loved, kids and writing and try to encourage the next generation of writing.

This then evolved into me becoming a community interest company in 2017, which was a brave move because it is just me, on my own, doing everything. A few years later and I still can’t shake the feeling that although the idea behind my company is a good one, I am not the right person to be doing it. When I stand in front of new writers and talk them through the ups and downs of self-publishing or building an author platform, I often think, who am I to be telling them anything?

The urge to quit has got very strong lately and it’s hard to explain why, as everything is going very well. It’s hard work, it’s time consuming and the paperwork drives me crazy…but I do genuinely enjoy being with writers, whether they are children or adults. So why the self-doubt? I’ve no idea but I wish it would go away.

It really is like a nasty voice whispering in my ear the whole time. It got so bad last week that I almost decided I would quit…I would go back to dog-walking full time because I’m better with dogs than people, there is less paperwork, less stress, more time alone, no people and so on. This was me wanting to hide. Wanting to run away and avoid the uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. This week I feel differently and several things have helped me be more positive. So how to battle through imposter syndrome?

Here are a few things that have helped me lately;

  • look for concrete evidence that you are doing well. This could be financial, ie sales, or a promotion at work or whatever, but if there is concrete proof through your finances that you or your business is doing well, cling to this and use it to quiet the scathing voice of self-doubt
  • feedback. Another concrete piece of proof you can cling to when the voice of self-doubt comes whispering…last week I had a lovely email from a parent with regards to one of my writing clubs. It made me realise that actually over the years I’ve had a lot of lovely emails from people, so this means I have actually helped and made a difference to some of the people I have worked with.
  • write your fears down. No matter how irrational. You don’t have to show them to anyone else. Just write down what it is that is bothering you or niggling at you. I usually do this in the form of poems that only seem to come to me when I am feeling stressed, panicked or sad. It really, really helps to let it out.
  • find a level-headed person to talk to. Last week, battling the overwhelming urge to quit it all and become a recluse, I really, really needed someone to talk to. I like being alone and never feel lonely, so perhaps I do have a tendency to gently push people away. But I suddenly realised I needed a human to talk to, face to face. I needed a coffee with a friend, someone who wouldn’t mind me babbling on about my self-doubt, explaining my imposter syndrome and helping me work through it. I nearly asked on Facebook, can you believe that? I didn’t, of course, and as it happened, I ended up having a lovely long chat with my eldest daughter, who is a very sensible person. It helped a lot.
  • make a list of pros and cons. Whatever your self-doubt is telling you to do or not to do, write down the pros and cons of doing it or not doing it. I made a list for each company, my dog walking and my writing group. There were way more cons for the writing group and that is understandable. It’s a far bigger challenge where far more can go wrong! But writing out the pros really helped me realise the positives about my company, which I had started to forget.
  • Take some time. If I had made a snap decision after making that pros and cons list, I would have quit my company and googled how to dissolve a CIC. I would have followed through on my upcoming commitments and then bowed out and returned to full time dog walking and writing. Oh, how tempting and blissful that sounded…But I knew that as my hormones and emotions are all over the place, I should wait for the storm to die down and see how I felt a few days later, the next week, the next month and so on. Definitely don’t let self-doubt lead you into rash decisions.
  • try to remember why you started in the first place. This is what I came back to in the end. Why did I start this company? Because I love writing and I want to help other people start writing and keep writing. Because I want them to feel like I feel when I write, to have that escape and that release, to be able to create new worlds, new friends and adventures, to be able to use writing to make sense of this world and this life, to make sense of your thoughts and feelings and hopes and fears, to say something to the world, to leave your mark…Those were the reasons. They are still the reasons. So, as long as I can still see concrete evidence either through financial means or feedback, or both, I know that I am achieving what I set out to.
  • Be kind to yourself. It’s easy to say that, isn’t it? I see memes like that all over social media. Self-care. Self-love. We are all pretty terrible at it and I’m not sure why. That might be a topic for another day. And the advice is there and it’s quite correct, but it’s easy to say, easy to tell someone to be nicer to themselves, but far harder to actually follow that advice yourself. I try to do it in small ways. I have that coffee on the doorstep and some time to breathe. I give myself occasional days off where I just sit on the sofa and chill. I have that wine or cider on a Friday night. I hug and kiss my kids. I surround myself with animals and nature. I read, write and listen to music. Those are the ways I remember to be kind to myself. As for the inner voice of self-doubt, I don’t think she will ever go away but some days she is a lot quieter than others, and that is something.

Over to you. Do you suffer from self-doubt or have you ever experienced imposter syndrome in all its ugly glory? How did you deal with it? Please feel free to comment and share!

Poem; Fine Wine

I need time for fine wine

Actually, it’s pretty cheap

Long as is doesn’t taste like vinegar, I’m good

And I refuse guilt

On a Friday, having survived

Because that’s what life is

A bloody fight and you know it

Like I know it

And we laugh about it and mostly

We swear fucking loads about it

And that makes us laugh more

Reveals the tension, the underlying strung out, pain and regret and

Anger

Licking lips, shaking heads, shaking it all away, we say

All you can do is laugh

All you can do is fuck it

Because life is short!

Fine wine, at the right time

Is never, ever enough

It lifts you up, lifts you out

The glass in hand, the bubbles glistening

The tall thin stem

The fragility of glass, like human pain

Human potential and blood

Your mouth rejects then consumes it

Your body likes it, your mind craves it

Music gets louder, means more

Touches you, nodding

You are gloriously amplified

Even, alone, typing, thinking, feeling, smiling

Taking lost selfies

You are smiling, with your fine wine

Your reward, your reward for the fight

And what does it mean

Except, anything can happen, anything will

Probably, you will roll into bed and sleep with

A smile on your face

But you don’t know that for sure when you start the fine wine

You feel the possibilities then

Of words unspoken, of laughter, light, danger

It’s all a ball of reckless desire and needing to be seen

It propels and laughs slyly

Trips many a fine human up

Ties them in knots

But not you

You know, fine wine, cheap wine

But only on a Friday

It is a caged beast, after all

Book Launch Plan!

Launching a book is scary! So scary in fact that I’ve been putting this one off for months, maybe even years. As is the usual with me, I tend to write a first draft in about 3 months and then go into subsequent drafts and rewrites and edits that last for years…I then procrastinate about how ready the book really is, worry endlessly about whether it’s had enough beta readers and generally do everything I can to put off actually releasing it.

Why? I think because in writing a book, you put your heart and soul into it. You immerse yourself in it, become obsessed by it, fall in love with it and in releasing it, you hope to have some kind of recognition of that, in sales and reviews, and as most indie authors will know, this is by no means easy. If you have money to spare, it helps. Money will buy you an editor, a decent front cover and an advertising campaign. High sales and plentiful reviews are still not guaranteed but you’ve got a better chance. For writers who don’t have a single spare penny? It’s a much harder and more frustrating process which at times barely seems worth it.

Anyway, I digress. There are many reasons I delay book releases and fear of failure is the biggest one. I don’t have massively high hopes but I do hope and dream of decent sales and positive reviews. And if I put off the release? Well, I delay the fear and can sleep better for longer.

But! The time has come. I am currently nearing the end of The Boy With The Thorn In His Side Part 6, and when that’s done, I will have five unpublished books waiting for release dates. Five!! That’s insane. I think that says a lot about my relationship with writing! Endless ideas, addictive/compulsive tendencies and then utter fear and denial. It also explains why I’ve written my whole life but only starting publishing in my mid-30’s.

So, with that in mind, one of those five books will be released in December! I decided on December as it’s a good time to release a book, when people are thinking about Christmas presents and it’s dark and miserable outside and people want a book to curl up with. That gives me almost three months to plan the launch. I’m already daunted, although I have done this before. I am tired just thinking about it.

Having already ruled out a physical launch (as an indie author I am too afraid no one will come and very good at self-sabotaging myself) I do need to make a plan and stick to it.

So, this post is my book launch plan for YA novel A Song For Bill Robinson, potential release date Friday 6th December. I will probably add to and revise this plan as time goes on and as always, please feel free to comment! If I have missed anything, let me know! Any good ideas? I’d love to hear them!

  • Decide on release date
  • speak to cover designer again to prompt first sketch of ideas
  • go through book again for final typos etc
  • decide on a good tag line for promo etc
  • make a list of ARC reviewers and ask in Street Team and Facebook page
  • contact possible ARC reviewers
  • send book to agreed ARC reviewers
  • organise a blog tour
  • revisit Pinterest board and add to/revise/work on
  • start making release day and release countdown graphics on Canva
  • organise advertising, free or paid, decide!
  • contact similar genre authors to organise giveaways and/or blog spots/interviews
  • start making quote graphics on Canva and start sharing to Instagram etc
  • contact YA booktubers!
  • contact YA book reviewers!
  • put print copy together to release on same day as ebook
  • organise Amazon or Goodreads giveaway?
  • create a Facebook launch day event and a separate Instagram one?
  • invite other authors to event to share posts/books etc
  • create graphics for online launch events
  • create launch day competitions for Facebook and Instagram
  • Put together a series of blog posts to release up to launch day about the book
  • set ebook at 99p for one week only
  • invite people to Facebook event and hope they come!
  • submit the book to competitions/awards!
  • drink lots of wine and remember that at least I tried!!!

In The Writing Zone…

It’s my favourite place and I love it here. Yes, I am currently well and truly trapped in the writing zone. For anyone who is not sure what I mean by this, imagine being given full access to the thing you love doing the most. Imagine that thing giving you pure, unadulterated joy. Imagine that thing going really, really well and filling you with feelings of satisfaction and excitement. That is how I would describe the writing zone.

Of course, I’m a writer and I write every day if I can. Sometimes life gets in the way and it doesn’t happen. Sometimes I am trapped in the editing zone for what feels like years…This is not so bad. I actually love editing and revising my books. To me, this process is really interesting, as you begin to shape and mould your first splurge of words into something that others can hopefully one day appreciate.

But I have to admit that writing the first draft of a new book is the most fun thing ever, and perhaps the most addictive. If it is going well, and I am well and truly ‘in the zone’, then the book is all I can think about. Here are some signs that I am in the writing zone, with no sign of emerging any time yet…

  • when I am not writing, I am thinking about writing. The book in progress dominates my every waking thought. It follows me around like a daydream I can’t escape from. If I go for a walk, the book is in my head. If I go to bed, there it is again. There is no escaping it and I wouldn’t want to.
  • when I am writing, I’m writing fast. Super fast. It’s been there all day teasing me and making suggestions, so when I finally get at that keyboard, it’s a bit like an explosion. Certainly, it’s messy and there will be plenty to clear up later in further drafts, but right now, speed is everything. I need to get that story out of my head!
  • when in the zone, time does not exist. I don’t even think to look at the time. It’s just not relevant. I will keep going until I feel there is a good place to stop and leave it for tomorrow.
  • I am happy. Really happy. This new book has probably been in my head for years and the book is happy to be getting its turn and the characters are really, really happy to be having their voices heard, and so I am happy too. It gives me an enormous sense of satisfaction and relief to be finally writing a book that has had to wait so long.
  • I’m excited. I kind of hate the start of the day, because normally writing has to wait until the evening. So I feel guilty, but can’t help wishing the day away so that I can get to the end of it and start my writing.
  • the writing is my reward. I can’t allow myself to have this reward until everything else is done. So, the day-jobs, the children, the pets, the husband, the house, the errands all need to be sorted out, before I can allow myself this wonderful indulgence. This is a great motivator because there is no way I am not getting my writing time!
  • I am distracted. There is a running joke in my house that I react to things a few minutes after I’ve heard them…and this is probably true. I’m so distracted by the writing zone, that it’s hard to focus on anything else. I get really forgetful in this state and my family certainly notice it.
  • I feel like myself. I think when I am sucked into the zone, I am more ‘me’ than I am at any other time. Which sort of means, I am multiple ‘me’s’ ? Slightly worrying perhaps, but I think more than anything, writing and loving writing are what make me me. It is the love that has been with me the longest and saved me the most times and provided me with so much it’s impossible to even try to explain.
Basically me!

So, that’s me, ‘in the zone’. I’m working on two new books, (one is the first in a four book series, and the other is the fifth in a sixth book series) at the same time. It’s utterly crazy but I wouldn’t have it any other way.