• Kaaren Poole

Imposter Syndrome? A Different Take


All of us creatives are probably familiar with “Imposter Syndrome.” It is, apparently, a way too common affliction and, what’s worse, it’s rooted in falsehood. Yet, it takes its strong hold on us. I remember being in a workshop by a talented, famous, and financially successful pastelist who paints animals. She told the class of being at a prestigious awards dinner. She looked around her table and saw seven famous artists. What am I doing here? She wondered. Well, the answer was obvious to all of her students but to her, in that remembered moment, it was a question without a satisfactory answer.


I’ve pretty much dismissed imposter syndrome from my visual art life, but it holds on tight as far as my writing goes.


With four art instruction books published by traditional publishers and four works of animal fiction that I’ve written, illustrated, and self-published it should be a no-brainer that I’m a writer. Yet, I experience strong episodes of writer imposter syndrome quite often, especially when I’m with other writers in workshops or discussion/support groups or retreats.

In those events, inevitably someone will begin the conversation about the burning need for writers to write. Everyone agrees. He’s wanted to write stories from as young an age as he can remember. She acutely feels something is wrong when life’s been too demanding and she hasn’t been able to write for a few days. They talk of the burning desire to write what they feel, see, and imagine. Writing is, simply, the way they do and must express themselves.


Meanwhile, I sit there quietly, having no such experience to share. If I could substitute ‘draw,’ or ‘paint, or ‘sculpt,’ or ‘work in my art journal,’ I’d be right there with everyone else. But ‘write’ doesn’t capture my heart as it does theirs.


Or so it seemed. But it bothered me, and I thought about it a little more.

  • I considered how my paintings tell stories.

  • I realized words are an integral part of so many of my art journal pages.

  • I looked back at the sketchbook I worked in as I was preparing to illustrate my first Milkweed book, Tales of Love and Courage at Milkweed Manor (available on Amazon, by the way). As exemplified by this drawing of Felicia, I understood my fanciful notes were every bit as important as the drawings.

  • I recognized my love of words and their origins, and how my dictionary of etymology is one of my most treasured books.

  • Then I realized the parts of my writing I enjoy most are the ones that ‘paint a picture.’

And my conclusion? It’s all one. I’m not an imposter after all.

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