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Posts Tagged ‘imposter syndrome’

Most of us, at some point in our lives, have dreamed of working for ourselves. We sit in our office cubicle, or other equally dismal assigned work space, and wonder what it would be like to not have to answer to that asshole of a boss anymore, or sit next to that whining hypochondriac, or deal with the petty power plays of the supply clerk over the next set of copy paper requests. We imagine how nice it would be to set our own schedule as we tool away at our dream job training unicorns to tap dance. Or maybe something equally a fantasy, like being a writer.
I certainly entertained those thoughts. And when the day came that my husband agreed I could give up the (fruitless two year, hundreds of resumes sent) job hunt and stay at home to give my writing a full-time chance, I was giddy with joy. FINALLY, I could live the life I wanted. All those stories that had been dancing around my head, all those characters demanding to be released, could actually see the light of day. No more alarms, no more power suits, no more office bullshit, and no more disorganized bosses. I stopped being a Certified Administrative Professional, and became a WRITER.
Yeah, you can stop laughing now…

 

lol-cat

I love the smell of folly first thing in the morning…

 

My grand plan was to get up every day when I felt like it, write for a few hours, have lunch, piddle around the housework, fix dinner for the hubby, and finish off the day with a few more hours of writing. I went and bought myself some spiffy writing software (Scrivener is awesome!)*, a cool electronic pad that captures hand-writing (Wacom is awesome!)*, and smooth heavy-bond paper for my fountain pens (Levenger is awesome!)*. I fussed over how my desk should be laid out, whether I should go for time or word count, listen to music or not, have the TV on or not, and about a bazillion other silly things that really didn’t matter but did because I’m a little obsessive/compulsive that way.

In the beginning, I actually did get some stuff accomplished. I (slowly) finished a novel and some short stories, made pretty regular entries here at this old dump of a blog, and did at least two articles a week for an on-line “news” site called Examiner.com, now defunct. I did that gig mainly to get myself back into writing shape, knowing I wouldn’t make a living off it, and left well before their fall. I have made queries and submissions for both the novel and stories, essentially to a large field of crickets, it seems, given the non-responses I’ve received. And I started a second novel. So, in the grand scheme of things, maybe it doesn’t seem all that bad.

Appearances are definitely deceiving.

That early enthusiasm soon fell victim to my own lack of urgency. When I don’t HAVE to get up at a certain time, I don’t. In fact, I’m very cat-like in that regard. I’ll take a nap just about anytime. And when I say nap, I mean at least four hours of unconsciousness cuddled with the actual cats in a cool, dark room. And being naturally a night person, night was when I was awake. I’d see my husband off to work in the morning and promptly head off to the vault for my day’s snooze.

And not being responsible to anyone else’s agenda, when I was awake I wasn’t nearly as productive as I could have been. Hey, look! There’s a game I haven’t played in a long time. Maybe I should make something out of this fabric I’ve had for the last twenty years. Wow, I sure do have a lot of books I need to read – better get started. It’s amazing how fast time disappears when you’re not accountable.

Then came a couple scary events involving hospitals, bill collectors, and mortgage companies. The depression seemed to envelope me whole and what little productivity I’d managed rapidly fell off into nothing. Soon it was mostly sleeping and computer games, because nothing really matters, least of all me. Hiding is what I seem to do best. It’s so easy to put things off when there are no hard deadlines, no people to be responsible to, and no requirements beyond feeding the cats and the husband. And that little dark cave in my mind that began as a refuge, slowly transformed into a prison…

 

Wearing all black

But only until they come up with something darker…

 

I follow several other writers – a couple best-selling/award winners, and a few crawling up the ranks – all of whom are further along their journeys than I. Somewhere along the line, I began dissecting their schedules (if they didn’t outright tell their readers). They all blog more frequently than I, and post on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram numerous times a week. They usually write, or are at least engaged in some aspect surrounding writing, like editing or marketing, everyday. The up-and-comers send out dozens of queries and/or submissions a month, while the established pen mavens have to figure out how to balance all those offers with their already tight schedules. They talk about having to pay the mortgage, dealing with children interrupting their writing time, and imposter syndrome. They are going through all the same issues I am, but they have managed to keep the keystrokes active. They press through even on those days when it seems that writing is more a chore and less the passion they thought it would be.

They do it because they HAVE to, not just because they want to. They are beholding to their families, their editors, their readers, and any number of others involved in the chain of production from inception to publication. Don’t get me wrong: they still love what they do. But like with any career, once it starts rolling, there are other people to think of, and you’d best not let them down.

And that’s what I finally realized I’ve done. This writing thing isn’t just about me. My husband is carrying the household expenses on his shoulders while I piss away my day killing zombies. My family and friends support me and offer encouragement, despite me sleeping curled up with the cats all afternoon. There are even people who aren’t any of the above that read this blog regularly – or at least as regularly as my erratic entries allow – and still follow me regardless.

And that’s why self-motivation is an oxymoron. It doesn’t exist for me. I don’t give a crap for myself, so it doesn’t matter if things get done or not. You can’t motivate someone who doesn’t care. But I’m not operating in a bubble. I know that now. And I just can’t stand to let others down.

So things are going to change. Even if it means using that damn alarm again…

 

 

*   Disclaimer: I have received no monetary sponsorship for these claims. I really do think they’re awesome and use them often!

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Does there come a point in your life when you have to realize your dreams are really delusions?

As children we all had grand ideas of what we would be when we grew up. Cowboys. Ballerinas. Darth Vader. Astronauts. Firemen. Spiderman. Rock star. Most of those childhood dreams fade over time. A lucky few actually do grow up to be ballerinas or astronauts, but the rest of us have to settle for more mundane lives as administrative assistants or plumbers. In the grand scheme of things, almost nobody gets to realize their life-long secret dreams.

Chris Hadfield as Aladdin Sane

Retired astronaut/rock star Chris Hadfield goes full Aladdin Sane.

http://io9.gizmodo.com/you-cannot-handle-chris-hadfield-as-david-bowie-1440353662

And those that do manage to grab a piece of their desired pie find it comes with a definite shelf life. Professional sports participants often find their age betraying them. Gymnasts peak in their late teens. NFL guys still playing in their thirties are considered ancient. The human body can only take so much. You end up working longer and harder, and dealing with slower recovery, just to maintain what you’ve always had. The growing complaints will eventually make even the strongest among us surrender.

Those of us in the arts would like to think we don’t have age working against us, but, alas, it’s probably the most brutal when it comes to favoring the young over the old. Everybody’s looking for the “fresh perspective” or the “new voice,” and if you can buy liquor without being carded you need not apply. Actors undoubtedly have it the hardest (especially females) because nobody (read: people in charge) wants to look at a grizzled grey-hair. That’s what real life looks like and we’re selling fantasy, dammit, so bring in that big-boobed blonde and we’ll call her Mom.

Other artists can have life-long careers because they don’t depend as much on their faces and bodies as the thespians and dancers do. But you’d better be making your mark in your twenties, or you’ll be left in the dust. It’s hard enough to get noticed in that crowd of wanna-bes when you’re young and beautiful. It’s a rare fossil indeed that breaks through the noise later in life. It does happen, as Susan Boyle can attest, but it almost shocks the world into tears.

I’d like to shock a few people myself. I’d like to be on that list of late bloomers along with Ms. Boyle, Grandma Moses and Harriet Doerr. Circumstances derail some people from their desired paths, while others just keep on keepin’ on until finally something breaks and there they are, published/recorded/acknowledged. I’ve been wondering what keeps people going despite the odds, and especially despite the years of rejection. My scientific side was trying to root out a quantifiable equation that I could plug into my own internal system and then – Voilà – I would be my own success story.

Of course, it doesn’t work like that in real life. There are three factors that most people seem to agree are part of becoming a success in the artistic fields. I examined those to try and figure out how each of them worked in the grand picture:

  • Talent: Some people believe that talent is all you need, but there certainly are examples out there where talent has nothing to do with the equation. The Kardashians fit into the latter category, unless you include figuring out how to be famous for no reason a talent. But if you want to sing or dance or write, you’d better have a smidge of innate ability or you’ll just be another one of the crowd of like-minded also-rans.
  • Skill: You’d think that would be important, being skilled (i.e., well-trained) in your chosen field, but there’s lots of examples of successful people out there who aren’t particularly skilled, and tons of very skilled people who aren’t successful. But even a bad piano player is better than a non-piano player, so some skill in the chosen field is necessary.
  • Luck: Seneca reportedly said, “Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity.” And actor Eric Bana believes that, “…luck gets you on to the stage. But it has nothing to do with keeping you there.” It seems to be that one intangible you can’t predict or force, but you’d better be ready for it if it happens.

If you look at any “success story” you’ll find a combination of all three of the above in that story, in various relative degrees. But that still didn’t explain to me why there are so many examples of artists out there who toiled away in obscurity for years – and even decades – before they made a break through. It took me a long time to figure out. A lot of articles were read and psychology studied, only to find the answer was under my nose the whole time (as the true answers are want to be).

“… If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will.” Laurell K. Hamilton

Believe in yourself. Behind every success story is someone who believed they would be a success. They believed regardless of what others said. Often they believed IN SPITE of what others said, because sometimes that kind of anger is the best motivator. But believing in myself has never been my strong suit. Depression doesn’t allow you to believe in yourself. It’s imposter syndrome on steroids. Every day I battle to convince myself it’s worth getting out of bed. Then it’s another battle to do the house chores, or weave a new belt, or write this blog. A constant battle just to do the things so many take for granted, to drown out the “You suck – what’s the point?” The more I thought about it, the more depressed I got. Every day – every minute – a battle. It wears you down. It tears at your soul. It tries to drown you in darkness.

Then I realized that – most days – I win. I get out of bed. I do the chores. I do the weaving or needlework or sewing. I do the writing. I play with cats and wash the dishes and muse over story lines in my head. I keep working. I keep trying. That means somewhere – in some distant abyss of my cold, black heart – I actually do believe. I wouldn’t keep fighting the depression if there weren’t something fueling the desire to keep going. Do I get things done as fast or in the manner others think I should? No. Screw them. I believe. Sometimes that’s all that matters.

believe-in-yourself-be-you

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