The Plague of Impostor Syndrome

(I started to write this for my Facebook, but decided it fits better here.)

A friend and I were discussing James Patterson. As negative as my opinion of him is, I Socrates-ed myself by saying “I wouldn’t call him a ‘writer’,” and later in the very same thread defending the practice of being or using a ghost writer. Behold! Evidence of my double-think:
Ghost writing

(now, keep in mind, my statement excludes any shady practices like denying payment, etc.)

After a few seconds of cognitive dissonance (this process is slowly getting easier), I rolled my eyes and admitted I was being a hypocrite. I would love to be a ghost writer for James Patterson–it would be interesting and profitable–so I have no right to bash him for using ghost writers. That does not make him an impostor.

But this post isn’t about James Patterson. It’s about Impostor Syndrome, which means that your concept of what a “writer” is prevents you from believing you are a writer and claiming that title. It’s about being a writer and embracing that title regardless of your own perception of achievement (or anyone else’s).

Impostor Syndrome is shit. They don’t tell you think when you’re in school, scribbling when you should do your math work. You’re a writer then, because you’re creating something that wasn’t there before. It doesn’t matter if it was inspired by something else, it doesn’t matter is no one ever reads it, it doesn’t matter if it’s never published.

And even “writer” has to have a loose interpretation: You’re a writer if you’re a storyteller (James Patterson writes detailed outlines for his ghost writers). You’re a writer if you are physically incapable of writing and must use tools or a transcriber (Who can say John Milton was not a writer? Homer? Stephen Hawking?). You’re a writer if you write for either of those categories, and never for yourself. A writer creates something using words that wasn’t there before. 

I didn’t know that when I was in fifth grade, filling reams of wide-ruled notebooks. Stephen King and Richard Adams were writers, not me. But I know now–yes, I was, even at eleven, and yes, I am, even though my books are self-published and aren’t selling often. I have been a writer the entire time.

You’re only an impostor if you talk about writing, but don’t write (Why would anyone do that to themselves?). Then it’s not Impostor Syndrome; It’s being an impostor.

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