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Michelle's Musings

The Curious Imposter Syndrome

The first half of this year afforded more writing successes than I've seen in years. Granted, my writing has been a work in progress, and I'm in official student mode most of the time. I'm even applying for a months-long fellowship. But this year alone, I've won a prestigious poetry award; I've seen my work performed as a choreographed routine on a public stage; and I was published earlier this month in a fairly heady literary magazine (The Sun). While I've also received my share of rejections, one rejected piece is a short story contest entry that the contest sponsors asked to publish in their literary journal later this summer. Despite this apparent honor, I found myself questioning whether the offer was legitimate even though I'd already received payment into my PayPal account.


As the title of this blog indicates, I'm grappling with some form of the imposter syndrome, defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as "persistent doubt concerning one's abilities or accomplishments accompanied by the fear of being exposed as a fraud despite evidence of one's ongoing success." While I'm not worried about being exposed as a fraud, I was a tad uncomfortable listing my accolades here because of this lingering sense of not being worthy, a sentiment I suspect is common among newly published writers.


In the classroom, fellow students and I are encouraged to share our successes. Such milestones provide inspiration for us to keep plugging away even when rejections pile up. Some students have commented on the relatively high rate of publication among our classmates, and I find that being asked to share my accomplishments mitigates any sense of being a braggart.


In spite of trafficking in something akin to the imposter syndrome, I still feel the sting of disappointment when the rejections roll in. As I continue to submit work for publication opportunities and to writing contests, my odds of getting an acceptance also grow. In a sense, it's a numbers game; but more importantly, I'm creating additional work to submit. I'm even exploring different genres—all of which can only improve my writing. "Putting myself out there" is, I believe, illustrative of a committed writer and not of an imposter.

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