Life as a Fraud


Every writer is different. As Agatha Christie once said, "No one else can write like I do... but I can't write like anyone else." We are, each of us, a different concoction of creativity, narcissism, daydreams, entrepreneurialism... the list goes on! But there is one thing that seems to pervade the life of writers almost without exception: we all fear we're frauds.

There it is. I said it.

I feel it. Even industry giants like Lee Child feel it. There are plenty of writers who have not publicly said as much, but I have never heard a writer, if asked directly, deny it - and I've heard quite a few asked.

So why is it that we feel that way? We study and practice our craft. We sincerely pour our effort and creativity into what we do. Shouldn't those things assure us that we belong in this circle of wordsmiths, and encourage us that we are real, bona fide writers?

No, apparently not. What pouring our skills and passion into our art seems to do, on the contrary, is rip away any sense of surety and confidence we might otherwise dupe ourselves into having. We cannot write without fear; we must write immersed in it to produce anything really good. If we are truly writing without fear we aren't pushing our boundaries. If we push to the limits of our ability, then we feel the strain of it like a marathon runner feels the burn of pushing through those last few metres at top speed. There can be no looking to the side or behind. The race must be against one's self, and comparison only made, if at all, when the dust settles and the work is over.

If we are regular, prolific writers, we functionally live in that place of effort, pushing beyond our confidence, maximising our creativity as we fashion an imaginary experience worthy of captivating a reader. Living in that place seems to have one, inevitable result: we feel like frauds, never confident that what we are currently doing really qualifies us to claim any mastery of our craft.

Before you think something like "When I get that first best-seller, then I'll feel it. I'll know that I've made it then." The truth is, that doesn't happen. The pressure of creating a second one, a third one, and a fourth, is sometimes so crippling that it pushes writers to create one-hit wonders and then quietly fade away. This has been true many times over.

The way to avoid it?

Accept it now. Own your insecurities. Understand that it is the very fact you feel like a fraud that makes you more likely the real thing. It means you are pushing yourself, stepping out there and laying your soul bare. You may feel like you're living life as a fraud, but the reality - through the failures and successes - is that you will be living out an artistic existence, the existence of a writer.

Jeff SpenceComment