"I'm not a real writer."
Sounds familiar, right? Anyone who has spent time writing or in the company of writers have likely said this or heard someone else say it. "I'm not good enough to call myself a writer. I'm not published. I'm not like [insert name of famous author here]."
According to Merriam-Webster, "The term 'impostor syndrome' can be traced to a 1978 article by the American psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, 'The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention.'"
A quote from their article:
The term "impostor phenomenon" is used to designate an internal experience of intellectual phoniness that appears to be particularly prevalent and intense among a select sample of high achieving women…. Despite outstanding academic and professional accomplishments, women who experience the impostor phenomenon persist in believing that they are really not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise. Numerous achievements, which one might expect to provide ample objective evidence of superior intellectual functioning, do not appear to affect the impostor belief.
Although originally referring mainly to women, the term "imposter syndrome" is now used to describe the feeling of inadequacy shared by all artists, and other humans.
The feeling is common and familiar, but why are writers—I'll focus on wordsmiths, specifically, for the time being—so quick to devalue their accomplishments and reject their role? After all, many writers hail the profession as a calling, something they must do. To hear writers speak about why they put pen to paper, you'd begin to believe in destiny. So why do so many insist they aren't "real" writers?