I haven’t given you guys a novel update in a while now, huh? I’ve been working pretty consistently, but I’m still in the late planning phases. I’m trying to gear up to actually start writing, but lately I’ve been stuck on some small (but important) character and worldbuilding details that I can’t seem to wrap my head around. I’ve been thinking about Abbigail’s comment on my input and output post, and how easy it is to fall down the input/ “research” vortex. And while I think it’s definitely good to do research and try to understand the subject you’re writing about, I think my hesitation to actually just start writing already is caused by imposter syndrome.
Lately I’ll be working on my story, and right when I start to get excited about how the plotline is progressing, I’ll notice parallels from other stories I love. I usually think this is kind of cool, but lately those discoveries are followed by the crushing fear that I’m ripping off every author I’ve ever read and everyone will notice. On the other hand, I also worry that I haven’t read enough European history, or fantasy, or fairy tales. I feel overwhelmed by the amount of things I “should know” before starting my story and by the fear that my story is too similar to other stories I’ve read. It’s honestly really discouraging and exhausting.
I’m sure you’ve heard the advice to turn off your inner editor while you’re working on your first draft, but for me, my inner editor isn’t the only problem. Since I spent so much time in college analyzing literature, my “inner literary critic” is used to looking for parallels – both within an author’s body of work and between other authors’ work. This would be great if I were writing an academic paper, but it can be seriously detrimental for writing a novel. Instead of writing, I end up worrying that I’m not good enough and my ideas aren’t original enough. I’ve been trying to remember a favorite quote from Tina Fey — “Do your thing and don’t care if they like it” and tell my inner critic to take a hike. I’ve also been trying to remember everything Austin Kleon says in Steal Like an Artist — I really need to beg/ borrow/ steal that book so I can read it again.
I recently read Chuck Wendig’s post on The Toxicity of Talent and Emily Henderson’s post My “Style” Journal and I really appreciated the fact that they emphasized that everyone starts out as an amateur. Remembering that no one is born a novelist or artist or stylist really helps with those fears, but the only way you can really get over them is to push past them and do the work anyway. And it’s way harder than I thought it’d be!
Do you struggle with imposter syndrome? How do you get past those fears? This week I’m focusing on ignoring my inner critic and wrapping up the last few planning details so I can hopefully start officially writing my novel next week!? Oi. Wish me luck!