Wunderkind Syndrome: the bane of my life.

Now that I’ve finally got a name and a motive for my blog, I lay the first big brick of my Many-Storied Building by talking about something that irks me, and probably irks a few others too.


That’s me!

I’ve finally graduated from university, achieving my Masters in English and giving me the green light to take on the world. It was a lovely day, (but absolutely freezing!) and I celebrated with my family and friends with a nice meal and plenty of wine.

Two months before that day, I wasn’t exactly beaming with smiles…

I was awaiting my results for my Creative Writing Portfolio, which was the first 15,000 words for my horror novel Revenant, and was expecting at least a mark of 57 to ensure that I’d leave uni with a Merit grade. From June to September, I worked my butt off to make sure that it was the best it could be. I read a lot of horror books for ideas when I was on holiday, even drafting it in the villa and staying out of the sun (I’d given up tanning at that point because I just burn without Factor 9,000 sunblock!). I submitted it believing that it was the best thing I’d ever done, and I wanted to show it off to everyone. My confidence was at an all time high.

But then I got my marks back. 54.

I missed my target and my confidence plummeted. When I told my mum about it, I tried to put on a brave face. I was so deflated that only one or two words came out at a time. She tried to life me up, saying: “Your certificate won’t say George Foster achieved an MA missed out on a merit by three marks, will it?”

As you could probably guess, she was right, but I was too down on myself to listen to her at the time, so she left me alone so I could brood in my room. I just opened my laptop, pulled up my marks and feedback and asked myself where it went wrong.

That’s when I realised that for most of my life, I’d been suffering from Wunderkind Syndrome. It doesn’t give you a tickle in your throat or a high fever, but it does give you a real headache.

I first came across the term when reading a blog post on Comet Party, and it was the perfect term to describe how I felt at that moment: inadequate, falling short, wasted potential, the list went on and on.

I define it through some symptoms:

  • Expecting too much out of yourself
  • Relying on talent over practice
  • Wanting to be your heroes instead of being yourself
  • Impatience
  • Beating yourself up whenever things don’t go your way.

When writing my portfolio, I wanted nothing more than to emulate my influences, pay homage to them and achieve similar qualities of writing as they had.  While that encouraged me to push myself to new heights, I was impatient. I wanted to be this otherworldly writer in a short space of time, and I lost my way from there. As long as I got something down on paper and had something to submit by the deadline, that’s all that mattered.

It’s much easier for people to envision the end result of the path they want to follow than the actual path itself. In my case, it’s because I was lazy in my university years, unwilling to put in the work but impatient about being successful. Whenever a seminar came up which required some reading beforehand, I didn’t bother with the reading; I just looked up the important quotes online and faked knowing everything about them. As for my assignments, they were usually done the day or night before. But none of it mattered as long as I at least looked like I knew what I was doing.

Such an attitude to work inevitably came back to bite me when I wrote Revenant. Despite the huge amounts of reading and writing I was mentally unprepared having coasted through university through talent alone. The feedback I got hit pretty close to home, saying that I needed to work more on building a story, and I brooded in my room in front of my laptop until my anger burned out.

But I was encouraged by one thing they said: “You have some very workable ideas here.” In other words: you have an imagination, George. Now practice.

As soon as I figured that out, I began to take more responsibility for myself. I took the feedback for Revenant on the chin and I’ve decided to hone my craft by writing short stories and book reviews in hopes that one day, I can produce a body of work of amazing quality. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll finally finish Revenant and get it published.

A thought occurred: You should be proud of yourself. You see, when you apply for student loans and you end up with quite an amount of debt, it’s not like your loans are the budget of your life. You’re not a business project that simply has to produce an unreal return on investment. You’re a human being who needs to grow, have fun, and learn a thing or two about the world.

So why put the world on your shoulders when it could just sit freely by itself? It’s a much more comfortable way to live.

Dont be hard on yourself

From that epiphany, the headache of Wunderkind Syndrome began to subside like a low tide on a beach. I may not be in a graduate role at some big company or earning bucketloads of money writing or working at my local retailer, but as long as I’m pushing myself doing what I love (this!), and having fun along the way, then I’m happy.

And thus, my blog is born.

To sum it all up, here are my tips to overcoming Wunderkind Syndrome:

  • Take criticism with grace and humility
  • Leave nothing to chance and work your butt off
  • Live your own life as opposed to your heroes’
  • Take every day as it comes
  • Don’t be so hard on yourself
  • Have fun!

I hope this little post made you feel a little easier about the challenges you face. If so, then the first brick of my Many-Storied Building has been laid finely!

Thank you all for reading! Be sure to follow, like, comment, share… You get the idea.

14 thoughts on “Wunderkind Syndrome: the bane of my life.

  1. I have never heard of this term before but I think many of us suffer from this far too much. You are quite right that the world can hold itself up so we don’t need to. It hard to take responsibilities for you impatience like that so well done. Long may it last.


  2. I’ve never heard of this term before but I think a lot of us suffer from it. It’s hard not to compare yourself to others, especially in a creative field.


  3. It can be gut wrenching when you don’t perform as well as you hoped in any assessment but you can only grow if you are given good feedback. With regards to the Wunderkid Syndrome, well if you sail through exams all your life then it will come as a shock when you get a lower grade than you thought. Besides you were not too far off with 54%.


  4. I think a lot of people have experienced Wunderkind Syndrome – I can definitely relate to some of the symptoms. I try now not to be too hard on myself, and celebrate my small achievements. I also work hard, so I know that that was my best. Great post!


  5. OMG! I have never heard of this before but this is so me!!!! I will have to look into it. And I know it is easy to say but don;t be disappointed with your mark. You have achieved so much! It is always easy to see the glass half empty rather than half full. I do that all the time!


  6. haven’t come across the term before but it resonates with me. I barely scraped a 2.2 in my degree as I didn’t properly apply myself in the first semester of my degree year. I also coasted through the first year of my PhD causing me to take 5 years to complete it instead of the 3.5-4 it should have. But I got there in the end and in my eyes only the PhD matters….


  7. Sometimes without even realising we can be so hard on ourselves. Whether that be through comparing ourselves to others or expecting too much from ourselves. We are humans who have emotions that need tending and caring too and when we push ourselves too far out it can really get too much for us. Being dedicated to your craft and passionate about your work is AMAZING in fact its PHENOMENAL – pushing yourself to the point of no return is however not so amazing. Your work will always be there, your passion and your craft will always be there – if you drive yourself to oblivion you may no longer be there to do the things you love so much so be a little easier on yourself!



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