One of the hats I wear as virtual assistant in managing the forum for the 12 x 12 Picture Book Writing Challenge. There are over 1,000 members which makes it a job I definitely can’t do on my own. Lucky me, I have a team of “elves” to help guide our members. One of my elves contacted me unsure if we wanted to keep her on next year. She said all the other elves have more experience, have agents, and/or are published writers. She thought maybe we should find someone more seasoned and established in the picture book industry.
She said she felt like an imposter.
You know what I said to her?
Okay, no, I didn’t really say “pshaww” but now I kinda wish I did. This elf is one of the most responsive people on the forum. If she doesn’t know an answer to something, she seeks out people who do know the answer. She’s encouraging and thoughtful in her detailed responses. The very things she thought made her an imposter are the things are that make her a good elf.
Here’s the thing: You don’t have to be an expert or the most experienced person in the room to be helpful.
Seriously. You know what happened when my elf had to go and find someone to help her answer a question? She learned something. Now she’s able to take that knowledge and help the next person. Of course, I want her to be an elf for me next year. I know she’s knows more now than when she started and I know she’s willing to find answers she doesn’t know off the top of head. Employers kill for that kind of employee.
Here’s Secret #1: Not all of our elves are agented or published. Many of them are now, but when they started elfing for us (yes, it’s verb), most, if not all, of them were NOT agented or published. They had their own areas of expertise but mostly they had a willingness to help other writers make their way through the writing journey.
Here’s Secret #2: When I started with this group, I knew precious little about the picture book industry. I kept my comments strictly to membership questions and tech help. I directed craft and industry questions to people I knew who could answer them. I’m not a picture book writer, but working with this amazing group, watching these writers go through every stage of the writing rollercoaster, and paying attention to our monthly webinars has given me a breadth of knowledge I can share with others. There are still questions I direct to other people more knowledgeable people, but really I think it’s strength to say, “I don’t have the best answer, but let’s find someone who does.”
So, if you’re a feeling like a bit of an imposter, stop. JUST STOP.
Think of yourself as a student. It doesn’t matter what field you’re in. By definition, there can only be one “best” at it. So, if you’re not the best (and odds are you’re not), then accept you have more to learn (you do) and get on with it.
If you let Imposter Syndrome stop you, it may be stopping you from completing the thing you were put here on earth do.