When Viola Davis was called for her first Academy Award this year, I immediately wondered how on earth this could be her first one?The woman is incredibly talented, poised, and I have wished on more than one occasion that she (as Aibilene on The Help)could wake me up every morning:
What stuck out to me the most was a post-awards interview with ABC News, in which Ms. Davis admitted to having impostor syndrome.
“It feels like my hard work has paid off, but at the same time, I still have the impostor syndrome," she said. "I still feel like I'm going to wake up and everybody's going to see me for the hack I am.”
Record scratch. What? According to her IMDB page, she has 76 acting credits to her name, can now add the highest accolade in her field to her already stacked shelf of awards, and she still feels like an impostor?
When I was writing my first novel, I began huddled in the corner of a coffee shop with my screen tilted at a neck cramping angle—afraid people would see what I was trying to do and call me out on it. Do you know what percentage of novels ever get finished? Ever get published? Why are you wasting time when you’ll never be a real writer?
Fortunately, I soon met two people who gave me the kick in the pants I needed to push past that fear and keep going. To own up to my work.That’s what I’m here to give someone today.
As a person who deeply values authenticity, I used to hate the phrase “fake it ‘til you make it” for obvious reasons. But now I know that’s all any of us are doing in the pursuit of our dreams. We put in the work, study our craft, and do our absolute best to do right by our stories and characters. Considering ourselves real writers, however, instead of impostors with laptops takes things to a totally different level. It can require unpacking a lot of fear.
In my new novella, That’s When I Knew, my heroine Chelsea has a pretty severe case of impostor syndrome. She designed a planner that became wildly popular—by accident, really. And she fears that, any moment, her customers are going to realize the woman with her name on the cover is actually a disorganized hot mess who had to design a planner that worked for her or flunk out of college.
Like Chelsea, considering ourselves real writers requires the ultimate bravery and vulnerability of infusing it into our identity, even before we put our work out there. I’d much rather someone fake it ‘til they make it because it means they’re afraid but they’re still doing it.They’re still going for it.
There will always be disappointments, failures, and haters in this world. If you’re a human with a dream that brings you to your keyboard and words that keep you coming back to it, you are a real writer—none of this impostor business.
So get to work, writer, and may you wake up every morning to truths that soundless like fear and a lot more like Aibilene’s voice:
Love at First Laugh collection of eight inspirational romantic comedies, and her debut contemporary romance novel, With No Reservations, releases in May 2017 from Harlequin Heartwarming.
You can connect with Laurie on her website, Facebook page, and Twitter. She is also a regular contributor to The Writer’s Alley blog.