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Hey writer! Yes, you. Has anyone told you lately? You suck.

by Caitlin McColl 14 days ago in advice · updated 14 days ago

On Imposter Syndrome

Hey writer! Yes, you. Has anyone told you lately? You suck.
Photo by Walid Hamadeh on Unsplash

Hey writer! Yes, you. Has anyone told you lately? You suck.

Now, these words will most often come from yourself - that caustic, mean little voice in your head otherwise known as the Inner Critic.

Writers, it seems, have tissue-paper-like skin, not the thick, leathery elephantine hide we should be equipped with to keep us safe from barbs, jabs and critiques from well, anyone and everyone who will have some sort of opinion on our writing and the stories we tell.

These external voices, who don't know you from Mrs. Thompson down the block, will feel they have the right to say:

You know that non-fiction article you wrote about backpacking through Asia and finding yourself? It sucks.

Or maybe from your former best friend from highschool:

You know that fantasy story you wrote about giant ants from space taking over the world? I just wanted to let you know it sucks. You really should have written about giant grasshoppers from inside the earth, because that's more interesting and believable than aliens, doncha know?

Combine everyone who's ever laid eyes on your words telling you that your writing is a waste of virtual ink and that you should really go back to your old job stocking shelves at Save $-R-Us, with Mr./Mrs. (or insert other identification) got up on the wrong side of the bed voice inside your head telling you anyone else on the planet could write better stories and articles, even some person living in a remote yurt in the wilds of Iceland, you'll start thinking:

What's the point of all this? Why should I bother? I suck. People tell me I suck: My high school English teacher I ran into randomly in a pharmacy told me I suck. Well, they asked what I was doing these days and I stupidly said, 'oh, I'm a writer', and then they paused, that little bit too long you know? before saying 'I see,' and plastering one of those fake smiles on their face. Or there's that old lady in the hair salon after reading my poem started to say 'well in my day...' which is basically tantamount to I suck.

So I should just delete all my stories from my computer and bum all the manuscripts of stories I'd printed out to send the old-fashioned way to traditional publishers because traditional publishers are weird like that and apparently intent on killing the remaining trees on earth, for some reason. Or use the pages to line Mr. Fluffy's litterbox. That's what the Universe is telling me. People online in writing platforms are telling me 'you should really cut back on the number of commas you use', and 'the story is okay, but there are quite a few typos'.

What is this all saying? It's saying that Save $-R-Us really needs its stockist back.

If you're a writer, I'm pretty sure that the majority of you (if not all) have felt the same way as the above.

These feelings of Imposter Syndrome are only compounded when online writing platforms like behemoth Medium, or competitor Vocal or other fellow fish in the online-publishing-sea Quora or Newsbreak or more niche websites like ThoughtCatalog don't recognize you the way you wished/hoped/dreamed/imagined.

You think to yourself:

I've wanted to be a Writer (note the capital W), for as long as I can remember! Or at least as far back as the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic, because what else are you supposed to do when the whole world is on lockdown, besides baking sourdough with homemade starter?

Whatever the case: you want to write, and you want to share your words with others. You want get accolades and appreciation and thumbs-ups or hearts or claps or whatever icon-based form of approval there is online. You want people to say. "OMG your article on recycled man-made reefs being a new hope for saving the oceans has changed my life!"

But when you don't get that? Or when you get someone replying to your piece online, and you get all excited but when you read it all it is is someone dumping a link to their own article how to save the world in 5, no 3, easy steps without any other word of support? Then what do you do? Just throw in the towel, throw up your hands and say:

"That's it, I'm not a writer and the writing world can go screw itself!"

Well, you could do that but I don't recommend it. What you need to do is remind yourself why you started writing. Or who you are writing for. Are you writing for yourself? Are you writing to leave a legacy of stories for your kids and grandkids?

Me? I primarily write for myself because I enjoy it. I've always loved it. I've been writing since I was about 5 or 6. Were they amazing stories? Was the story I gave my dad as a fathers day gift when I was around 14, about some creepy monster thing that some kids found frozen under some ice the next NYT's best seller? No, of course not.

If other people like my stories on these writing platforms, that's awesome and I'm happy that I've entertained or enlightened them in some way. If not? That's okay. Everyone has their own opinions.

There are even people who critique Stephen King or J.K. Rowling for (expletive)'s sake! And it took J K Rowling how many years and how many rejections before she got Harry Potter into the zeitgeist of the 21st century? You get the picture.

You're a writer, which is amazing. But, sorry to burst your bubble, you aren't special. None of us are. Not even King or Rowling. We're all just people trying to do our best, doing what we love and enjoy - putting pen to paper or fingers to keys.

In the words of William Wordsworth:

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.

That's really all any of us can ever do.

~~

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Caitlin McColl

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