11.28: Impostor Syndrome, with Alyssa Wong

Alyssa Wong, Campbell Award nominee and Nebula Award winner, joins us to talk about impostor syndrome. This is the frame of mind that many successful writers suffer from, in which they worry that they’re not really good enough at writing to be enjoying their success. Worse, this mindset can prevent us from continuing to create.

Many of us suffer from this, and we have some strategies to cope with it.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Jeff Cools, and mastered by Alex Jackson. 


Grow sideways! Write something that you’ve never tried to write, genre-wise.

“You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay,” by Alyssa Wong, which is available to read here.

9 thoughts on “11.28: Impostor Syndrome, with Alyssa Wong”

  1. Hi! Huge fan of Writing Excuses, can I lick your face?

    Ok no. Who says that??? On a serious note, weird how relevant this episode is for me right now! I won second place in an African short story competition, and suddenly found myself in 4 full page stories in local papers. Still navigating the experience, but I got a distinct feeling that it is moving faster than I planned. Like “Yes, I’ve dreamed about this, but not this soon! Not after just a short story!” There is a pressure to keep feeding the fame beast, but at the same time I want it to slow down haha.

    My friends and family who are thankfully very supportive, are unfortunately also adding to the pressure, telling me the ways I should keep growing the fame, but my immediate worry was “When will I have time to write?” I’m adjusting slowly, and try to look at fame as a raw material which can be useful to build an audience for my book – when I finally finish it.

    That said, fame is much more toned down in Malawi than in the West. Madonna visited a nearby hospital with her adopted kids yesterday, and it was a short story on the bottom half of the second page of the newspaper as a “by the way”. My cousin who is a doctor there didn’t even know until after the fact. We’re not as crazy is what I’m saying.

    No one has asked if they could lick my face, and hopefully they never will.

  2. Hey guys!
    First of all I just wanted to thank you guys SO much for doing this podcast! I’m already on my second complete listen through of all the seasons, and I’m still learning allot of new stuff. So thank you all for teaching us to be Chefs not Cooks;) I really appreciate that!
    On another note, I have a question/request. Back in season 6 there was a can of worms to grab one your stories and then break it down in 3 act structure, 7 point structure and then MICE Quotient. I’d LOVE to see you guys do that. More so though, I’d love to see that for each one of your stories, and see the difference for say a Fantasy, a Thriller, Comedy/Action and a Romance. I really think that it would be very informative and helpful.
    Anyway, thank you all so much for what you do! We in podcast land really appreciate it!

  3. The cure to impostor syndrome is narcissism.

    The following quote is what I remember when I am feeling self-doubt. The topic of impostor syndrome brings it to mind. I use the quote to remind myself that, while I still have a lot to learn, I am good at what I do. And, when someone tells me they like my work, I must not allow myself to suffer false modesty.

    “There’s something wrong in not appreciating one’s own special abilities, my girl. Find your own limitations, yes, but don’t limit yourself with false modesty.”
    — Sebell to Menolly in Dragonsinger by Anne McCaffrey

  4. I had a situational leadership course last week, where we went through the DISC profile (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DISC_assessment), which groups people along introversion-extroversion and task-oriented-goal oriented axes.
    The man giving the course remarked that people with a very task-oriented and introverted personality are bad at taking compliments in group settings.
    Of course, management training courses are not very scientific, but it might explain why some people have more trouble with this than others.

  5. On the question of why positive self-affirmations may work: I am not a psychologist, but it seems to me that if you take a look at the concepts of attentional bias, availability bias (and the availability cascade!), confirmation bias, frequency illusion, and selective perception, all from the field of cognitive biases, there’s an underlying theme that ideas that we have recently encountered or frequently encountered are more likely to get reinforced as we interpret new events. In other words, if you start your day with a positive affirmation, you are more likely to notice, pay attention to, and so forth the positive things that you encounter which reinforce that initial affirmation. So in effect, you are making positive use of the cognitive biases! Good work!

  6. Okay! Fake it until you make it? And then… someone says you’re just faking it? Nah, couldn’t happen to me, could it? Stage fright? Just because all those people are looking at… are my pants unzipped?

    Imposter syndrome. The fraudulent foursome, plus Alyssa Wong (who is the one and only, real true Alyssa Wong!) tackle this issue, and give warnings about what happens when you level up in the game of life, and how you too can help your friend handle karaoke when they aren’t prepared! And right now, in the archives and over here


    You can read a transcript! Just don’t ask to lick their face, okay?

  7. Great timing with this episode. I never thought I’d experience imposter syndrome, but after my debut novel launched a couple weeks ago, I’ve felt it acutely. Also, I’m the first person in my critique group to level up. It feels uncomfortable. I’m embarrassed to talk about my successes and my frustrations with them because I’m afraid it will come across as humble bragging.

  8. Impostor Syndrome pretty much crippled my career for more years than I can to admit. In many ways, I was a victim of my own success. Virtually everything I submitted for publication over a few years was accepted. I received several Editor awards and was even nominated for a Pushcart in 2003. And then I hit the WALL OF REJECTION…. hard! I felt like a complete sham. I wondered if I’d just gotten lucky and lacked any talent whatsoever. I questioned everything I wrote, rarely finishing anything because I doubted it was any good…never allowing it to see the light of day.

    It’s taken me far too long to get my courage back. I still get rejections, sure… but now I’m get sales again, as well. Those little successes go a long way to taming the Beast O’ Doubt and Self-Loathing XD

    … as a sidenote… I understand the Family Issue quite well. My grandmother looked at my first International sale, set the book down, and said, “So, when are you going to write something serious?” Ah yes… the sweet, sweet words of encouragement…

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