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Imposter syndrome is the psychological condition of feeling that you aren’t worthy of your achievements, as though you’ve stumbled into success by fooling the people around you that you’ve got training and experience that explains those achievements.
Songwriters can be particularly prone to suffering from imposter syndrome, since most good songwriters lack a degree or other credentials in the field of music; success has often come about instinctively. Without credentials, it’s common for you as a songwriter to feel that you’ve come about your success without, as they say, “paying your dues.”
I really like a quote by James Taylor, and have mentioned it a few times over the years on this blog:
“I started being a songwriter pretending I could do it, and it turned out I could.”
What’s so great about that quote is that it’s a reminder that part of the songwriting process is assuming that you’re going to be successful at it. James Taylor started out by “pretending” to be a songwriter, and the results seem to have surprised him.
But imposter syndrome can indirectly lead to writer’s block, because most creative blocks come about as a result of a fear of failure. And since imposter syndrome means that you question the honesty of your efforts, you can start to fear that your next attempt at a song is going to fail, and soon everyone will know that you’ve simply been pretending.
The truth is: Great songs don’t come about because you’ve got a degree, or because you know how to read and write music, or that you have any credentials at all. Great songs come about because you know how to take listeners on a four-minute journey that pulls them in and connects to them on an emotional level.
If you’ve written a song that you like, and that others like to listen to, you’ve done exactly what you’re supposed to do. You’re not an imposter: you’re a songwriter.
But if you find yourself failing to convince yourself that you’re worthy of whatever praise people offer you for your music, please take the time to read this article, “Imposter Syndrome“, on the Psychology Today website. I hope it will convince you that though it’s a common condition in the creative arts, you have every reason to be proud of every song you write.
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