You’re a fraud and we all know it
After you pull through the anxiety and push through the wall of self-doubt, you somehow finish your manuscript expecting to feel like a writer. But you don’t feel like one.
At any minute now somebody is going to find you out. Too late. Already happened.
You’re a fraud. Can’t you feel it?
Your writing isn’t good enough. You said the wrong thing. You didn’t schmooze the right person.
It’s normal. We all feel it. I know I feel it. The first step is admitting you and I both have a problem.
I wrote a book you may or may not like, or even bought, but what do I have to say about writing that would make you care? I’m an unknown quantity to the vast majority and perhaps just a random tweet. I’ve written one novel. What can I bring to the table on any semi-regular basis that isn’t just a top ten list of tricks? If I don’t deliver I’ll be found out.
I talk to a number of writers (an all encompassing description across industries on all levels) on any given day and they feel the same insecurities. Nobody is hiding in a corner in the fetal position. But take out ego, or the need for validation, wipe all that away and there’s still this grain of fraudulence deep down in the recesses.
A grain expanding into a beachhead, anxiety and fear washing up on the shores of self-assessed preconceptions. Some mask it better than others, some overcompensate. No matter how popular a name is, they still get up in the morning like we do and hopefully put on a pair of pants. They still take a shit. Fun Fact: Everybody shits. The only difference is that some have taken more than others.
The condition has an actual name: imposter syndrome.
We reach a certain level looking up at the next, feeling the same way we did on the one below. We’re just higher in the food chain. That’s it. The worry of being found out remains. About staying relevant in a vicious cycle that doesn’t give a damn. It expands the higher you climb.
What about the work?
The work is the last thing on anyone’s mind. Our trade isn’t in content. It’s bartered in opinions and judgment. A one-star reviewer complaining about how ‘they didn’t read the book and they don’t like their Kindle because it wasn’t charged because they didn’t plug it in and Amazon won’t tell them why even though they never bothered to email customer service’ can sink your book.
Your ranking isn’t high enough? It’s because you’re a bad writer. Must be. Algorithms are based on fact. 40 thousand people haven’t read your title? Failure. Don’t get a thousand hits on your site a day? Failure. You wrote a short story? That’s not popular. Neither is your genre. Oh wait, apparently now it is but only because a particular person said so.
Let’s not even talk social media numbers, because we all know numbers equal quality.
When Shotglass Memories was on pre-order, my book dipped below 10K and shot back up over 200K in ranking depending on the half hour. After Han Solo told them to never tell him the odds, he should have added: never look at the numbers.
Your ranking isn’t high enough? It’s because you’re a bad writer.
If one doesn’t meet these requirements should they considered themselves a fraud? Of course not.
How does this all circle back to writing and being found out? Lots of questions. There’s a simple answer: none of it matters. Not a single thing mentioned above matters. All it does is make you feel awful.
Last year I wrote Crippling Anxiety and Why Nobody Cares (About Your Book). The internet doesn’t care about you and the focus shifts back to the work. It comes back to the actual writing.
We want our work to pay our mortgages and feed our families but that’s not reality. We sell a few copies, get docked by the powers that be, then again when we have to file income tax. Even very successful authors have jobs teaching classes or writing in other industries.
The rest of us are writing in the brief free time before or after work, trying to adhere to every rule found on the internet to feel like actual writers and not the frauds we think others think we are. If we don’t follow these rules to the letter then we won’t have the perfect marketable manuscript on a silver platter that doesn’t exist.
If it did we’d all be reading the same singularity. None of us would be writing. Books would be cooked. Cats and dogs living together….
And who are “they”? Who are these people that dictate the rules of existence? The Pentaverate fueling the masses with The Colonel’s chicken? Maybe Matthew McConaughey in the fifth dimension?
You’re an imposter. It’s the secret everyone knows because we all share it and nobody cares.
More so, you wrote a book. Or a novella, screenplay, magazine article…you get the idea.
You’re a writer. So am I. That’s not fraud. That’s an accomplishment larger than that granule of doubt. Circles of pretension and validation disappear when you focus on the work. Writing becomes a flat circle. Beginning to end. Rely on your talent. Tell your story. Crush it. If you’re going to stress about something then that’s the part you should worry about.