A few years ago, I stopped writing.
I was trying to build a company, and it was failing because it wasn’t aligned with who I was or what I wanted. I was building it based on what I thought OTHER people thought I should do.
Looking over my shoulder at my peers, I felt like I wasn’t keeping pace. I was listening to the critics, and not my champions, and trying to emulate other people instead of forging my own path.
That conflict – the dissonance of outside expectations clashing with my own internal compass – completely dried up my motivation, my inspiration, and my confidence. Suddenly the words on the page felt forced, contrived, and like I was writing for some invisible jury of my peers instead of for the people who had long been part of my community.
I got stuck there for almost four years.
It sucked. Like a part of me was tethered to a wall somewhere, sad and resigned. I felt totally incomplete, and like the previous success of my blog (I’d once had tens of thousands of subscribers, which for me felt like a lot) was something I’d imagined.
Even the book I’d written felt like a sham, like I’d pretended to be a “real” writer for a while and now this period of darkness was proof that I never really had what it took to begin with. And looking around at friends and colleagues getting published when I hadn’t managed to get a second book out nor built a formidable “platform” of followers and subscribers felt like a failure of epic proportions.
It was easier to walk away. To admit defeat, and to give into the idea that I didn’t belong writing this stuff, because I wasn’t one of “them”.
But after the business imploded completely and took my financial security and my confidence right with it, I had no choice but to rebuild. To rebuild my career. My confidence. My voice. And I knew deep down that the first step was to reclaim my words.
It was hard. I started and stopped and failed a few times. It felt like relearning to ride a horse after falling off and getting hurt. But along the way, I realized a fundamental truth that sat at the core of why my writing momentum faltered.
I had forgotten where I came from.
In my quest to prove myself to a bunch of people who were “influential” but not my people, I lost sight of what had made me feel so much like a part of a community in the first place. The people who knew me, saw me, challenged me, supported me…and who never cared whether I had ten subscribers or ten million. These are the same people that wrote me emails telling me that what I wrote was useful. Helpful. Inspirational. Educational. In other words, valuable and meaningful for them.
They hadn’t gone anywhere during those intervening years. But I had. Because I forgot about what mattered. About why I started writing in the first place. And that I didn’t have to be for everyone, I just had to be for the right people.
Imposter syndrome and self-doubt feed off of that conflict, that feeling of disconnect between who we are at our core and what we’re trying to show off outwardly to the rest of the world. When those things are misaligned, self-doubt has the perfect soil in which to grow, fester, and chip away at our sense of self.
So to fix it, I had to:
- Write what I knew and loved, not what other people were writing.
- Write with my unique voice instead of trying to emulate others or snap to a different style that wasn’t me.
- Quit writing for numbers and “platform” and reach and instead write to contribute to something bigger and hopefully something useful to a few people along the way.
- Quit caring if I ever wrote another book and instead rediscover how to write as a way to explore thoughts and ideas.
Getting back to our roots takes courage sometimes, because it can feel like we’re settling. Like we’re going back to playing “small ball” instead of chasing big dreams. But the truth is really the opposite.
Getting grounded is where our confidence finds its footing, and where we can stare down those imposter feelings and say not today. And the community that’s going to lift you up, cheer you on, and stoke your fire for the big steps? They’re likely the ones who have been there for you all along.
I’ve got my words back.
What have you lost in the fray? And what is it time for you to reclaim?