Last week I wrote a blog post about Imposter Syndrome. I was floored by the responses I received from readers and writers after it went live. For two days my email inbox was crawling with dozens of responses about what I’d written. Most of them were from authors – some of whom I don’t know personally. A few were from readers. All of them thanked me for calling out what it is to feel like a professional failure, even though you’ve had a modicum of success. I ended that blog piece by saying, “STOP THINKING YOU ARE AN IMPOSTER AT THIS WHOLE WRITING THING. You write, ergo ( and don’t I just love being able to use that word!!) YOU ARE A WRITER!!!
Why don’t they get that?
A few authors wrote me that they felt like failures, and not “real” writers, even though they had sold thousands of books, recently signed new contracts, and generally had well known names in the romance writing community. I was stunned by these revelations. My questions to each of them was : HOW DO YOU DEFINE A REAL WRITER and HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS, because it obviously isn’t in sales, or name recognition. The other question that blew through me was WHY? Why do you feel like a failure? You’ve written a book – some of you several books. They’ve been published – some traditionally, some independently. You’ve received royalties – some a lot, some not so much, but still…money! Readers know your name. Readers await your next book release. Readers WANT to read your work. So, again, WHY do you feel like professional failures?
I’m gonna take a wild guess here to answer that question, and I’m gonna ask for a little patience while I present my case, because some of you are gonna get all hot and bothered ( and not in the good, romance reading way) about what I think.
Since I write romance, that’s the genre I’m going to latch on to here for my discussion. The majority of romance writers are WOMEN. The majority of romance readers are WOMEN. The majority of people who pay cash-money for books of all genres are WOMEN. The majority of people who read for pleasure are WOMEN. The majority of people who make the most money on the planet and are responsible for the majority of decisions made ( and most of them are bad ones!) are ( wait for it ) MEN.
The definition for professional success for most men is very different for woman. Men equate success with money, material possessions, social status, and titles ( CEO, CFO, etc.) Women equate success almost the same way, but where a man will wear his success with pride and boast about it, women, it’s been my experience…will not. They tend to brush off well meaning compliments and try to turn any conversation away from themselves.
Again, this is my opinion based on years of being around very successful MEN and WOMEN and seeing how they react so differently when given praise or asked about their accomplishments. I’ve been in a room filled equally with writers of both sexes and the male voices are usually the loudest, the ones filled with the most hubris, and the ones bragging on their next book sales. The women, when given praise about their own bestsellers and highly anticipated new releases, have typically waved off the compliments, and redirected the praise. When you ask a male writer what he is working on you get chapter, book, verse and verbal diarrhea about the plot and everything else. Women will give you an elevator pitch and then move on to another topic.
Women do not like talking about themselves. Most women, that is. There are a few who drone on incessantly as if they were the only ones on the planet or in the discussion. We all know people like that. But for the majority, women still tend to take a back seat when it comes to broadcasting their successes and this is the reason I think they feel like imposters, frauds, and are faking it.
To these wonderful woman I say OWN IT!!
Own your success. Wear it like a badge of courage for all your hard work.
I raised my daughter to be proud of herself – her successes and goal achievements. I raised her to accept her failures, learn from them and grow with them. I raised her with the knowledge she could walk through any door with her head held high, knowing she could make of herself anything she wanted. I thank the gods of everything she is the woman she was always meant to be. She doesn’t brag, but when given a compliment, accepts it, graciously. She doesn’t extol her own virtues and successes, but she doesn’t dismiss them with an embarrassed hand wave when someone mentions them, either. And she is forever lifting others up both verbally, spiritually, and emotionally.
To all the female writers I know who suffer thru imposter syndrome please know this: YOU ARE NOT AN IMPOSTER and no one has the right to make you feel less than a success.
Own it. Be it. Wear it. YOU ARE A WRITER.
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