Imposter Syndrome

Do you feel like an imposter with your writing? You’re not alone with this feeling. 

This week I’m celebrating the sale of a client’s project to a dream publisher—a project I first saw (and loved) two years ago. I knew the moment I read the manuscript that it was something special. I resonated with the author’s story and her writing, and I felt very strongly that many others would too. Eventually.

My instinct was that it wasn’t the right timing to put it out to publishers. I suggested she take some time to polish the manuscript, while also working on her blog and building her platform. I told her the market just wasn’t ready for it, and I didn’t want to show it to publishers at the wrong time. I promised I’d be watching for the right time and the right editors to send it to. She handled all of this like a professional. She hired an editor and improved her manuscript. She continued blogging—and being patient.

Meanwhile, I was second guessing myself, something I do far too often. It’s risky to ask a client to be patient, to trust me to find the right timing to give their project the best chance for success. Do I really know what I’m doing? What if I’m wrong? What if this long wait doesn’t pay off for my client?

Who am I, anyway, to be advising anyone about anything? What do I know?

I get mired in Impostor Syndrome more than you’d think. In fact, I think most agents do. And I’d bet most writers do too.

Impostor Syndrome is when you have those moments of thinking: I can’t do this! People think I can do this, but I’ve got them all fooled! I’m a fraud! A poser! A fake! I’m not REALLY an agent/novelist/physician/teacher/take your pick. They are going be on to me soon!

Most of us suffer from this occasionally.

But then … we have those moments when we’re reminded that we do, in fact, sort of know what we’re doing. I had that moment yesterday when the editor I’d hand-picked for my client’s book called me with an offer. I’d been patient, watched the market, determined the timing was right—and it paid off. I had to take a moment to acknowledge that I do know just a teensy bit about what I’m doing. Maybe I’m not an impostor after all.

I think it’s important to be aware of the insecurity that makes us sometimes feel like a fraud; and to remind ourselves that we do have talents, skills, and abilities. The most helpful thing I’ve done to keep my confidence strong is a simple sticky note on my computer:


“This is what I do.” Every day when I sit down to work, that simple phrase reminds me that I know what I’m doing; that I don’t need to waste energy thinking it’s too hard or I can’t do it; that I’ve put years into learning this job; that I can simply start the day with confidence, do my job, and always be open to learning how to do it better.

What about you? Do you ever feel like an impostor? What makes you feel that way? What reminds you of the truth about yourself?