Do you feel a fraud when you write content?

Do you feel a fraud when you write content?  Do you think “one day somebody’s going to find out I’m really not good at this”?  Even pro copywriters do.  Strange but true; I read it on the Professional Copywriters’ Network blog only the other day.

Maya Angelou fraud quote

I certainly felt a fraud when I first hung out my slate as a copywriter.  I went freelance because I didn’t think an agency would employ me (OK, that was partly because I was a beginner in my 50s; I also didn’t want to work for a boss any more).

It wasn’t that I couldn’t write: I’d been writing features for magazines and newspapers for years.  There’s a book about Alsace with my name on the cover (I only wrote the wine section; travel writing came later for me).  I’d just written a big exhibition for the tourist attraction where I worked.  I’d felt the exhilaration of writing “in the zone”.

And when I told people I was a copywriter they accepted the fact.  They asked me to write for them.  They paid me.  They even recommended me to their colleagues.  Suddenly I was a professional copywriter.

But I didn’t feel like one.  I felt like an impostor.  I thought “one day, someone’s going to find me out”.

The same thing often happens when people write for their business.  Maybe it’s happened to you.

At first you feel a fraud.  You tell yourself “I can’t write” or “I don’t know enough about this business to explain it to anyone”.  But as soon as you start doing it, you become someone who writes about your business.

You can’t possibly be a fraud because you’re actually doing it.  That’s logical and incontrovertible.  You are a writer.

Whether you’re good at it or not is a whole different question – but there’s an answer to it.  The more you practice, the better you get, like anything else.

Small children don’t learn to walk in an instant: they fall down – a lot.  Sports people don’t win their first matches: they have to learn to be winners.

Singers don’t (usually) go platinum with their first record – and if they do, it’s because they’ve put in a lot of hard graft before they ever went anywhere near a recording studio. Musicians play scales for hours before they tackle the hard stuff.  Even Mozart didn’t write his first concerto until he was about six: he practiced.

Great writers aren’t born great, either.  They work at it – refine their style, polish and prune and perfect.  Rewrite, edit and prune some more.  Rip it all up and start again from a different angle.  Wish they hadn’t.  And do it again.

Practice, time, patience, desire, passion are the drivers to success.  Or possibly just necessity, because you can’t find another poor sap to do it for you.  (If that’s how you feel, give me a call!)

So don’t feel bad if you aren’t Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway and Dana Stabenow rolled into one.  You just haven’t had quite as much practice as them (yet).  That doesn’t make you a fraud.  (Actually, it’s probably just as well: can you imagine a blog written by their combined forces?!?)

So if you’ve been putting off getting started because you aren’t yet good enough – don’t take your own word for it.  Publish and be damned, as the 1st Duke of Wellington said to his ex-mistress: turn pro.

And let the world tell you how good you are.

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