Writing, Impostor Syndrome and Self Doubt

notepageEver feel like a fraud calling yourself a writer? There’s a name for that: impostor syndrome.

Here’s when you can start calling yourself a writer: when you have external evidence of your skills– ie. the moment you put pen to paper!

It’s easy to feel like you’re deceiving others and that when people find out you said you were a writer but you haven’t published anything. Self-doubt has plagued writers since the beginning of time. The truth is that no one knows what they’re doing when it comes to art, but the act of doing is the act of creating.

Overcoming impostor syndrome is as easy as owning your hobby as a skill. When the self doubt creeps in remember discipline is about remembering the end goal–not what’s in between.

Just because you aren’t published, it doesn’t mean you’re not a writer.

Please share in the comments:

Q: What do you do when self doubt creeps in?

Further Reading:

Writer’s Digest on Self Doubt

Terrible Minds Blog on Self Doubt

Published by Carly Watters

Carly Watters is a SVP, senior literary agent and director of literary branding with the P.S. Literary Agency. She is a hands-on agent that develops proposals and manuscripts with attention to detail and the relevant markets. PSLA’s mission is to manage authors’ literary brands for their entire career. Never without a book on hand she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents and is actively seeking new authors in including women’s fiction, commercial and upmarket fiction, select literary fiction, platform-driven non fiction and select memoir. She occasionally represents children's book projects. Carly is drawn to emotional, well-paced narratives, with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in.

27 thoughts on “Writing, Impostor Syndrome and Self Doubt

  1. For me, winning NaNoWriMo helped me feel comfortable about claiming that I am a writer. Before then, I felt like a fraud. After successfully writing a book in 11 days, I felt like I earned the name of Author.


  2. I’m a journalist with published work, so calling myself a “freelance writer” was never awkward. But calling myself an “author”? Different story. It truly wasn’t until my book sold that I felt comfortable referring to myself as an author — I personally needed that milestone crossed off to feel legit.


  3. This is a great post for a Monday morning. The keyboard awaits and because I am a writer!! I will write. The process has to occur before the publishing and life sometimes gets in the way. But even if it does, writers will write. I call it the joyful burden. Thanks, Carly


  4. I love this post! I use to feel like a fraud when people would ask me what I’ve written but now I steer the conversation toward what I’m working on rather than what I’ve done.


  5. Carly, this is timely for me as I’m approaching the end of my 1st novel draft. On Friday and Saturday I had an exciting time writing and my confidence soared. This morning I woke up feeling like a fake (I write 6 days a week regardless of how I feel). This post helped me believe that I’m a normal writer. Thank you!

    Blessings ~ Wendy ❀


      1. Thank you, Carly. It’s definitely been an interesting ride. I really appreciated your words of encouragement to debut writers in the tips section of your agent ‘interview’ in the Oct. issue of Writer’s Digest Mag. ❀


  6. I suffer severly form “Impostor Syndrome”. How do I combat such negative thinking? I don’t think I am successful at that either. However, I do try making a habit of repeating out loud “I am a writer” so that I behave as such. Sometimes it works, but then I fall right back in to that old frame of mind of self doubt, although I have accomplished the task of writing a whole manuscript, but because it remains housed on my laptop… well the rest goes without saying…


    1. Have you shared things with critique groups or critique partners? Done a writers conference? Or joined a writing class? A big step is getting your work out there and shared, but it has to be worth it for you.


  7. Thank you. Only yesterday I was thinking I can’t call myself a writer because I haven’t published anything and my cousin in India is publishing short stories in magazines there left right and centre, no matter how shitty they are. (That’s my opinion I know, but some of those stories will not be published here in Australia or America for that matter, may be Indian standards are different, I don’t know) and I was seriously doubting how I can say that I am a WRITER…..
    This post gave me a kick start again to dust the cobwebs of self-doubt off my head and the draft of my memoir and restart so I can meet my own set deadline of finishing first draft by June this year. I am halfway through and currently consumed by many other projects. The only time I would probably get to write will be the 30 minute lunch break at work – write during that time and have lunch at the desk while working is the plan that I have – see if it works.


  8. I started telling people I was a writer for the first time a few years ago at a party with people I didn’t know. I don’t know why I did it, maybe because I was a little drunk, but was so unnatural of me to lie! But was I really lying or I was just immune to my inner critic?…
    I felt like a fraud for a very long time, I still feel like a fraud. But it’s true what you said, if we put pen on paper, then we are writers. Why do we need the ‘evidence’ of being published to stop feeling like a fraudster?


  9. Q: What do you do when self doubt creeps in?

    Drink? Seriously; I understand now why that might be a side effect of writing…

    I finally have something to add to the conversation here – a topic I know well! I am a Forestry Technician by trade; a mother by accident, a wife purely by delusional choice… all “hats” I have no problem in giving a name to, and wearing proudly. But for some reason, “a writer” seems so…out of reach. Perhaps its because I struggle to find words to transcribe my thoughts late at night when everyone is sleeping. How can I call myself a writer when it seems I am constantly pursuing words to make articulate thoughts?

    Thats it – Im a “word pursuer”.

    Hey, its a start!?


  10. I have to be around the right people. The people who either believe in themselves enough to pursue a writing career or the people who are already in the writing industry. If I’m around negative people, when I’m having a bad day (or season of doubt) I can’t lean on anyone for support. I can’t share my work with them because they don’t take it as seriously as I do. And if you don’t believe in yourself first, usually, no one else will.

    In the end, I just turn my brain off, begin typing, and share the results with whomever will listen. I’ve gotten enough positive reactions at this point to sustain faith in myself. I can do this. Don’t over-think the process; just write and let the pieces fall where they may.


  11. When self doubt creeps in for me I always try to remember the reason that I enjoy writing, or wanted to write in the first place. I think that there is a difference between a writer and a published author. If you never actually want to publish any of your writing what are you considered then? A non-writer? Your still considered a writer in my books!


  12. I never understood the term “aspiring writer”. It makes no sense to me. Aspiring means: directing ones hopes or ambitions toward becoming a specified type of person. But if you’ve already written one, two, three novels, you ARE a writer. You are also an author. You authored those books, even though they may not be published YET. It’s discouraging when people tell me I’m not an author. If I’m not an author, then how did I write these novels? If they said, you’re not a published author I would understand. But not an author? Or just, an aspiring writer? It’s no wonder we’re hard on ourselves. I think there should be a new term, a nice term like UPauthor (unpublshed) or SPauthor (self-published. Oh, well, they’re called Indie, so that’s fine).


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