Writing & Editing

247. Why Is Imposter Syndrome So Common?

February 01, 2024 Jennia D'Lima Episode 247
Writing & Editing
247. Why Is Imposter Syndrome So Common?
Show Notes Transcript

Author and cofounder of Anodyne Magazine Veronica Kirin discusses imposter syndrome in the literary world and gives tips on what to expect during the publishing process.

Veronica's website:
https://veronicakirin.com/

Find Veronica on Social Media:
@vmkirin

Anondyne Magazine:
https://anodynemag.com/

AsteriskDAO:
https://asteriskdao.xyz/

Veronica Kirin is an award-winning anthropreneur and author. She is the founder of AsteriskDAO and cofounder of Anodyne Magazine. She is also the author of the awardwinning book “Stories of Elders” and creator of the “Stories of COVID” research which documents the pandemic in real time. She has been named a Forbes NEXT 1,000 Entrepreneur and BEQ 40 LGBTQ Leaders Under 40, and has spoken at two TEDx events. 

Jennia: Hello, I'm Jennia D' Lima. Welcome to Writing and Editing, the podcast for people who write, edit, read, or listen. Our guest today is Veronica Kirin, who is the co founder of an arts and literary magazine, amongst many other positions. This is Why Is Imposter Syndrome So Common? Episode two-four-seven of the podcast.

 

Jennia: Thanks so much for being here today, Veronica. You have a really, lengthy list of accomplishments and titles that you've had. But what would you most like listeners to know about you?

 

Veronica: Hmm, that's a—i-it's just such a funny question to phrase it like that, because there's the typical bio. Like, I've been an entrepreneur for 13 years and I've done all this random stuff and I've got a published book and I've got the magazine and all these different things. I'm a really big fan of challenging the status quo and I think that's why I have so many different projects. I'm always looking for new ways to get into accepted beliefs. And, that's exactly where imposter syndrome comes into—that there's these stories that we've been told about what success looks like and what we should—want for ourselves and what our writing needs to look like and all of the stuff. The stuff! And so, yeah, I'm always interested in new ways to challenge either people or the status quo.

 

Jennia: Yeah. And I think exactly like what you just said. That's exactly why imposter syndrome is so prevalent. Because we do have this set of beliefs or this set of standards we're holding ourselves to. And it might not be the belief or the standard that we should even have.

 

Veronica: Exactly.

 

Jennia: That's why I think this topic is going to really resonate with a lot of people because even with a lot of authors I work with, I see this come up frequently. It's not even, I'm happy with how this has turned out, but it's, what did you think of it? And they're looking for that external validation from someone else and not relying on their own gut feeling.

 

Veronica: Yeah, 1000%. I mean, getting accepted into a publication, adding to your byline, it's so gratifying and so affirming. But, like, you already—you wouldn't be writing. Writing is just one of the hardest things to choose to do in the world. There are so many easier ways to make money than writing.

 

Jennia: True!

 

Veronica: And, so there's an amazing publication that I'm a really big fan of called Chestnut Review. And, they use this story of how, especially in the United States, there was the blight going around and so they cut down all the chestnut trees, but they didn't actually pull out the stumps, and so the trees kept resprouting, and then they would cut them down, and they would re sprout, and they cut them down. And so that's what writing is. That's what this life is, is that you have this inside of you, and no matter what, it's going to come out. And so, yeah, having the byline is freaking great. Trust me, I love it. But it's already there inside of you.

 

Jennia: Yes. It doesn't define you. It's not as if that byline says, yes, you can now really call yourself a writer, or, yes, you can now really call yourself an author. If you already are, you are. You don't need someone else to tell you that it's okay to accept that label.

 

Veronica: Yeah, and I just personally went through my own kind, of imposter syndrome discovery process, because for years—I'm a published author! My book won two awards, and I've done a TED Talk on my book, okay? So you think, here are all the things that you need in order to accept that you're an author. And yet, I know—I know so much like, I want to be a writer, I identify as an author, and yet I'm not behaving that way. I knew I wasn't behaving this way, and I just posted this on TikTok recently because I had this epiphany that I'm kind of scared somehow of what's going to come out of my brain when I write. And I finally, doing all the woo work, and realize there's pieces of myself that I've kind of buried.

 

Jennia: Mhm.

 

Veronica: Because I was trying to act a certain way and be a certain way, which is very imposter syndrome-y. And I had to accept that I'm going to learn things about myself and discover either memories or just attitudes, pieces of me, that I'm going to have to reckon with if I'm going to sit and write every single day. There's going to be patterns that emerge. And I think a lot of writers don't realize sometimes the imposter syndrome isn't externally imposed, sometimes it's internally imposed, and it's coming from your own icky shadows that you're not sure you're ready to deal with.

 

Jennia: Completely agree. I think a lot of that too has to do with it. It's so easy with social media to see another author and see what they're doing and everything that's happening for them, and then wondering, why am I not experiencing these same things? Why do I not see the same level of success. But it also feels like a lot of these comparisons are not necessarily things that you might ever achieve, and yet you still have this need inside of you to do it anyway, even if that's not really what you want.

 

Veronica: Yeah. If that author is doing it this way, right, this is the steps that they took, then that must be the way that I need to do it in order to achieve whatever it is. Like, they got to this point, and I want to be at that point too. So these must be the only steps I must have to, you know, get an agent or to—people certainly believe that you have to be fully agented and traditionally published in order to have book awards on your book. And my book went through an indie publisher and got two awards, still You know, the path to wherever you're going to go—and by the way, my publisher didn't help me get those awards, just to be clear, they did not do anything. It's all within your power, is my point. I finally—it took me a year to even just start pitching the book for awards. And finally I was just like, oh, I save myself in this story. There's no prince here, there's no princess. Yeah, I'm going to do it. And so I did it, and I went out and pitched and pitched and pitched, and finally somebody thought it was good enough to give an award to! You know? I think that that's a really important point to expand on. Like, the byline means, I'm wanted, you like me, you really like me—but you have to go pitch. You're the one who is going to save yourself. You're the one who's going to create the career. There's nobody—they're not going to tell you, first do this and then do it. It's all up to you in writing and editing, and that is very confrontational for a lot of people.

 

Jennia: I can see that. Yeah. Especially if you have this assumption that you can hire this person and this person and this person, and then it will all just happen for you. Or if you don't understand all of the behind the scenes work that has to go into making something like that not necessarily possible, but more likely to be possible, and then even that's not going to be a guarantee. And then figuring out a way that you can be okay with that.

 

Veronica: Yeah. I had a publicist for my book for a while, and I don't know what she did. Things got better when I went out and did it myself. I scheduled all of the book talks and the book signings, and I got my book into libraries and bookstores. It was all on me. And I'm like, why did I spend all that money? And hoping, just like you're saying, hoping that they would open some magic door.

 

Jennia: Yeah, exactly.

 

Veronica: And get me in. Yeah.

 

Jennia: So how do you differentiate between imposter syndrome and then just a passing period of self doubt?

 

Veronica: Oo, that's a fantastic question.

 

Jennia: Thank you.

 

Veronica: I feel like they kind of go hand in hand. So when I've worked with entrepreneurial clients, I spent the past six, five—six years as a consultant, helping other business owners with the businessy side of business. And whenever I would see imposter syndrome come up, it always came with an up level. So imposter syndrome would have to do with an identity shift necessary to accept the success that had come along. Or a potential opportunity. Right, so here's the door, and you get to walk through,  right? You have to be the one that walks through the door. And the self sabotage or period of doubt or things like that would happen when the person couldn't shift their identity to say, yes, I am deserving of that opportunity, I generated it for myself and I can handle it. So if I was going to recommend to an author, is this imposter syndrome, or is this just self doubt? That maybe you're blocked up, which, again, not that simple. I would first start by asking, what's happened lately? And dig around to see is there an identity shift that needs to happen in order to get you writing every day? Or pitching all the agents or whatever it is that you want to do.

 

Jennia: Do you have any hints for how someone can determine if an identity shift is needed or is happening, instead of maybe it's something else? Like, maybe they just have too much going on right now to really commit to what they could be doing or if there's something else happening?

 

Veronica: Yeah, so that's really interesting, because if you have too much going on right now to go after what you want, why do you have too much going on right now to go after what you want? What choices—we have to remember, a lot of times our society likes to kind of goad us into giving away our agency, like, it's all their fault. But really, 90% of the time we have agency over the situation, or at least the reaction. You always are in control of your own reactions and thus your own choices. So why not?

 

Jennia: Mhm.

 

Veronica: Why not? What are those choices that's keeping you from that? And then the imposter syndrome, usually, again, is like, okay, I think that I have to do it. There's a should—one of my clients runs a podcast called Stop Shitting On Yourself, and you're shitting on yourself. Somehow you got this message into you that it has to look this way in order to be successful or be valid or whatever. So it's either what are my choices? Or what are the stories I'm telling myself that, you know, they might not be true? And if they are true, right? We're writers. Write it down, get it all out. And if you think it is proving to be true, okay, now, what are the choices you're going to make in order to progress through that or onto a different path?

 

Jennia: When we're looking at what we determine is a marker of success, how much influence do you think outside parties have and not what they should have, but what they do have?

 

Veronica: Unfortunately, there's still a lot of bias within the literary world. My essay that's coming out this month in Zero Readers—which I'm so excited to finally have this get published. I've been pitching it for two years!

 

Jennia: Congratulations! Yay!

 

Veronica: So, just like, demonstrate for folks how sometimes it takes a while. We're not always in control of who's saying yes to our work or whether or not we're going to get published. I actually have an essay coming out soon in Zero Readers, which I'm so excited about because I've been pitching it for two years, so just, like, again, sometimes persistence is so necessary, but literally is on the topic of the ongoing LGBT discrimination in the literary world. It still exists. I mean, I know for sure that it seems like, okay, there's a lot of publications out there saying we're specifically looking for disenfranchised writers, we're looking for LGBT, BIPOC, disabled, indigenous writers. But that bias still exists. And so this, essay is about my own personal story. And so sometimes, yeah, you could be the best writer to ever hit the market in this century and still just get turned away. And it can be gut wrenching. And so that's where, again, coming back to the sense of this is what I'm supposed to be doing. This is the story I'm supposed to write. And for me, this kind of self-soothing that I have is either a) maybe this article isn't as good as I think it is, and I need to refine it a few times, which I have over the past couple of years. Or, you know what? Writing is one of the only things that we leave behind that truly carries our voice and our ideas.

 

Jennia: Yes!

 

Veronica: So even if this doesn't get published now, maybe someday, like so many authors, it'll get published posthumously, and they'll be like, ooh, we made a mistake. We should have published that 20 years ago. So, I just kind of, like I mentioned to you earlier, I just kind of, like, leave it, you know—of course, in clarity of mind, it's a lot easier to say, but there is no such thing as wrong timing, in my opinion. And it can be really grueling and it can be really hard. But if you're meant to write, if you're going to write, it's about the writing. It's not about whatever happens after the writing.

 

Jennia: Yeah. It's not about the accolades or the admiration or who, you know, gives it the five-star review and who doesn't exactly. Because really too, it just comes down to what is creating this doing for you? And how do you feel when you're creating? Not so much the after.

 

Veronica: Mhm, yeah, I mean—look, like I know you and I both agree, it's really easy to sit here and just say this. It's so totally different to just get those rejections. And somehow, I've had people ask me many times, like, how do you deal with rejection? And I'm like, I don't know. I just keep getting rejected and it's fine. It's a game to me. I know, a lot of people take it really personally, and if I could give you a piece of advice: Don't take it personally. I'm running a magazine myself now, Anodyne Magazine. First of all, we have a very specific theme. We're only publishing FLINTA authors, and we're only publishing on the topic of health. So if you send us something that's not that—we got some really cute artwork—okay, that's an automatic rejection. It's not personal. It's just nowhere near what we're trying to publish. Sometimes you might have missed a very specific thing about the submission rules or for some reason, the readers who are on staff that month just aren't going to vibe with you. And they wouldn't have vibed with you if you tried to buy them a cup of coffee in person. You don't know. I really try to encourage people to not take it personally. It's never personal. It can't be.

 

Jennia: Well, and again, like you were saying, it is hard, and it is easy to hear this advice and think, oh, that's exactly what I'll do. But then when the time comes, and then emotions are overriding everything else, and it makes it hard to think logically and remind yourself of this. So do you have any tips for how someone can pull themselves back a little bit and look at it from that framework?

 

Veronica: Maybe—I would say that the book The War of Art really helped me. Like what Steven Pressfield says in that book about just returning to the table over and over again and sitting with this creative energy. The fact that we can create is a huge gift. It's insane. Like, if you look around the world, every creature, every flora, fauna, like, it's absolutely magical that we can literally create worlds. We have Brandon Sanderson over here literally generating worlds all the time—

 

Jennia: And quickly!

 

Veronica: I don't—I don't want to talk to him. He writes too much and I don't understand how he does it. But like, you have this incredible gift, and if you are the type of person who can create worlds, create ideas on paper, fiction, nonfiction, all of it, that's the gift.

 

Jennia: Mhm.

 

Veronica: That's what it is all about. And so, yeah, walk away, feel icky, shake it off, yell into a pillow, do whatever you need to do. But also you're involved in something so much bigger than yourself—

 

Jennia: Mhm.

 

Veronica: —that's going to last so much longer than you. Somebody 1000 years from now is going to find my book and dust it off and be like, who is this weirdo? Like, it's going to be there. So maybe, yeah, maybe I'm protected by living within the fun mysticism that comes with being a creative. But ultimately, what you've created has been created now, and it just can't be destroyed. It doesn't matter whether or not somebody else liked it.

 

Jennia: I find that to be a really uplifting statement, because again, it goes back to, what are you doing it for? Are you doing it for external validation or are you doing it because you have that drive to create? Well, you did create. You already succeeded. That is the success.

 

Veronica: Yeah, if you were doing it for external validation, you wouldn't last long.

 

Jennia: No, I would think not.

 

Veronica: I should tally up how many rejections I get every year. You're not going to do this for external validation. You're not.

 

Jennia: Going back a little bit to the external factors and the pressures that they apply. How much of a part do you think social media has on this increase we're seeing in imposter syndrome?

 

Veronica: Hmm, I definitely think it's playing a role. My first book is all about technology and the high tech revolution. So we really dug into social media a lot in my interviews, and—I don't want to just slam on social media because ultimately what came out of the interviews I did and what I really realized through that process was that all of this is a tool.

 

Jennia: Mhm.

 

Veronica: What is it being used for? Right? There's this joke that I see where somebody says, like, oh, I don't like TikTok, it's all like, young girls dancing around in their underwear. And then the follow up to that joke is, what does that say about you? Because TikTok is literally an algorithm. So, like, if that's all you're seeing, that says a lot about you.

 

Jennia: That's true. I see a lot of dogs.

 

Veronica: To that end, if you're seeing a lot of stuff that's making you feel like crap, you can change it, actually. You can go into the search bar, and you can find author suggestions, writing coaching, editor coaching, and start following other types of posters who are going to make you feel better. I follow a lot of writing and editing influencers, and I try really hard just to go towards what's going to make me feel good.

 

Jennia: Yeah, that ties in so well what you said earlier about how it is all these choices and why are you making certain choices when they're not really benefiting you or getting you closer to what you're hoping to achieve? And this is just such a wonderful example of that, about, yeah why are you taking this in if it's hurting you? You know, maybe this person who's doing so well, but their success is bringing you pain because you're using it as a comparison. Stop looking at their account, maybe, and see if that makes a difference.

 

Veronica: Yeah. The other side to that, I kind of, like, knocked Brandon Sanderson for a second, and that's my imposter syndrome. Like, how are you writing so much every day? Like the guy must—he must be putting out, like, a thousand. The other way to look at that is, what does he know that I don't know? Because it's not all magic. We like to think about writing as, like, this magical thing that's happening. And I absolutely have mentioned some things along those lines myself during this conversation. But what does he know that I don't know? On the one hand, I can let Brandon Sanderson make me feel really bad about myself.

 

Jennia: Right.

 

Veronica: On the other hand, I can say he knows something that I don't know, and I'm going to go find it. And maybe I'm going to even ask him. He can send a message these days.

 

Jennia: And I've heard that he is pretty good at actually answering people's emails and messages. So there you go.

 

Veronica: Right? Yeah.

 

Jennia: That's a great way of looking at it too. So it's like, it's not just inspiration, but it's also almost giving yourself a little bit of a blueprint that you can follow to see if that works for you instead of just throwing your hands up in the air and saying, oh, he's better than me. He always will be. The end.

 

Veronica: Yeah. Because this is a craft.

 

Jennia: Mhm.

 

Veronica: You absolutely can learn it.

 

Jennia: Yeah. And I think sometimes we forget that it is a craft, and it is not just some innate skill. And that it requires work and anything that you want to be better at, you need to put that time in, you need to keep working. You can't just hope that one day you'll figure it all out on your own. I mean, there's a reason that we have so many people who do offer these classes and these sessions and write these books, because that need is there.

 

Veronica: Keep working towards it, keep going. And—but, you know, it's okay to feel shitty too. Like no toxic positivity, it's also really hard and it really sucks. So it's okay to have those moments.

 

Jennia: Yeah. I appreciate that you said that because I think it is easy to just get yourself into that headspace of, well, I'll just push through and it'll be okay, everything's going to be fine. But that's not acknowledging how you feel right now and that's not acknowledging the difficulty that you're having in that moment and for what might be an extended period of moments.

 

Veronica: Yeah. Hey, two years on this one piece of rejections, like piling up. *piling noises*

 

Jennia: Yeah. And coming from someone who, I mean, even just looking you up, you've done so much. So for someone who's already fairly well known, in my opinion, to be able to come back and say, yeah, two years of rejections, that just shows, yes, it really is going to just happen to most of us, if not all of us.

 

Veronica: Mhm.

 

Jennia: It is just a normal thing.

 

Veronica: One thing that I—it's totally, it's part of it.

 

Jennia: Mhm.

 

Veronica: It's part of it. It's just—I've heard of writers going for 100 rejections in a year—

 

Jennia: Yes! I have too.

 

Veronica: —or they're trying on purpose to tally them up. Ultimately, it's about the habit of submitting. There is only going to be one that says yes. In fact, you want that.

 

Jennia: Yeah, that is true. I think that's true for a lot of things.

 

Veronica: Which means everyone else has to say no! Yeah. I mean, there's been times where I'm like, this is perfect, this is a perfect fit. How could they have said no? And so you have to live with that for a while and, I mean, it's okay to just live with the disappointment for a while.

 

Jennia: Yeah. I mean, that's great advice.

 

Veronica: It's real!

 

Jennia: It is! Yeah, because it is showing, you know, we are going to have this variety of emotions that are going to go along with everything and that we are a person behind all of this writing. And we need to allow ourselves to go through whatever we need to go through so that we can move on and go to the next step.

 

Veronica: Mhm. I mean, honestly, you're not going to get good at pitching unless you get rejected. Your first pitch is going to be terrible. Sorry, babes, but your first pitch is going to be awful and then you're going to see—like, I remember the first pitch that got accepted and I was like, okay... what was the structure of that pitch? And I actually had just taken a pitching class, and had refined my pitch. And that was the pitch that got accepted. So I was like, all right, now I see a little bit in and so I can start to do the alchemy of pitching and replicate this structure and do it again. And then a whole bunch more got rejected, and you know, so like—you have to. It might be elementary, but expect to get rejected a whole lot, especially when you're first starting out, and even still...

 

Jennia: This has all been extremely valuable advice. And I think that even just this emphasis on give yourself more agency, that's really what a lot of this seems to boil down to. And realizing that you are not the same person as these other people. And if they really are someone that you aspire to be like, or you want your work to be accepted the same way theirs is—like you were saying, look into why. How did they get there? What are they doing? And just making it constant learning. Just like you're constantly learning with your writing. Constantly learn about the other side of it.

 

Veronica: Yeah, just like you said, agency. I can be really bummed and disappointed about every single rejection, or I can make it a game.

 

Jennia: And why not make it positive, you know? There's enough going on in our lives that, why add something else?

 

Veronica: Yeah, yeah, yep. So what are your choices? What are you going to do about it?

 

Jennia: Well, thank you so much for being here. I think this is going to be very helpful for a lot of people who are going through some of these same feelings right now and wondering how can I pull myself out of feeling this way and how can I stop myself from making these comparisons?

 

Veronica: Yeah, absolutely. And I'm always willing to connect as well. I'm very easy to get a hold of. I'm probably too easy to get a hold of.

 

Jennia: Yeah, I know that feeling.

 

Veronica: I just want everybody to write, so go do it. The end.

 

Jennia: That is the perfect ending line, yes. If you need a tagline, there you go. Thank you so much.

 

Veronica: Thank you, Jennia.

 

Jennia: And, that's all for today. Thank you for listening. And please check out the show notes for more information. Next week, Jackie Krantz will be returning, and this time she'll be sharing about a press that is run by graduate students. Please join me then. Thank you.

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