It is a common theme among writers, although we dislike admitting it to outsiders, that most of us suffer from “imposter syndrome.” Now, this is hardly unique to writers (nor, I expect, to artists of any stripe, all of whom probably suffer from it), but we tend to have it bad. I have seen authors of several highly-praised novels suffer from it because they had not sold anything recently, or because a short story was rejected. Was it all just a fluke? Am I just a one-trick pony? Have they found me out?
Thankfully, I am having my best-ever year in terms of sales and publications, so the syndrome is not having its way with me at the moment. (It keeps trying, though. It does not give up.) But I recently (like five minutes ago) had an epiphany about imposter syndrome and what it takes to fight it.
I know now that although big sales and lots of them are the best way to stave it off, that isn’t the only way. The other day, I was writing my latest and it suddenly occurred to me (as it does) that various of the tidbits I had thrown into my scene partly because I thought they would enhance the mood and partly because I was just trying to keep writing, were coming together in a larger picture. I needed a big event to headline my chapter, some grave danger for my heroes, and I suddenly realized that if I combined all these little facts I had tossed around, they gave me what I needed. They formed, literally, an eco-system that explained how all the things I wanted to put into the story could work.
I was exceedingly proud of myself, not only for creating something out of nothing, but arranging it so it made sense. And I did it with pieces of my story that I didn’t have any idea fit together. Tonight, I had another of those moments. I had various dangers (okay, monsters) that I wanted to throw at my protagonists. How cool would it be, I wondered, if I could throw them all at my protagonists–at the same time? Put them in a bad situation and make it worse, right? That’s how you build suspense. But how to do it? How to make it make sense?
And I figured out a way. I sat down and relaxed for a couple of minutes and worked it all out. How to pit the monsters against my heroes, how to pit the monsters against each other, and how to resolve the problem so my heroes could continue their journey. It was simple, neat, and it worked.
And that’s what writers do. They tell stories that work.
So take that, imposter syndrome! I’m going to bed.
We can fight again tomorrow. But watch out–I kill monsters for a living.
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