Some (Almost) Freewriting on Imposter Syndrome

 Alan Levine

Alan Levine

I suck and that’s okay.

No. Really. I’ve been sitting here for a legit eight hours trying to come up with a decent draft for a single blog post. I kept attempting something clever and coherent and meaningful on Imposter Syndrome because, hey, we just need to call this shit out more. There’s no reason for us to hide it.

But then something went horribly wrong and nothing was coming out right and all I kept doing was ranting about potheads from college even though I can’t remember any of their names and Christopher Paolini even though I’ve never read his work.

Despite my enthusiastic attempts to produce something worthwhile, I ended up in a downward spiral where every single sentence was trash to my eyes.

I couldn’t write a simple blog post about Imposter Syndrome because I thought nothing I produced was good enough.

Believe me, the irony isn’t lost here. Even though it’s cliché to be meta these days, and even more cliché to be meta on the meta. And meta on the meta of the meta. Because nobody could do it after Wes Craven.

But I digress. I know if I leave this chair, I’m going to start playing the avoidance game. (It’s amazing how important the laundry can suddenly become.) And so I’ve just erased everything once again, written, “I suck and that’s okay,” and am seeing what happens.

Let’s start with Paolini, seeing as how I dared to bring him up again. He’s the dude who wrote the Eragon series, the first of which was originally drafted back when he was fifteen. I remember this well because I was at the dusty old age of sixteen when I first heard.

A professionally published fifteen-year-old, eh? May as well hang up my calligraphy pen now, adorably angsty teenage Milo thought to himself in his adorably angsty teenage way.

Of course, I didn’t stop writing. But I did start feeling increasingly like shit about it.

And despite me having therefore since become the suckiest writer who ever sucked because I didn’t pen my first novel by age fifteen which then ended up backed by Alfred A. Knopf, other writers have tried to take my crown.

“Wait, you’ve written a novel? But you’re just a baby! I should give up now!”

“Oh geez, I can’t show you my stuff now that I’ve read yours!”

“Thanks for the feedback, but I know you’re just being nice. There’s nothing good about my work!”

Bitch, please. These poor souls are so misguided. How could they possibly not know that I’m the worst writer in all of existence? These drama llamas need to stop wasting time and get back to their craft. You know, the crafts they actually have a future for.

But back up, I was talking about Paolini. See, I didn’t find out until years later that Paolini had two super supportive, well-off, well-educated parents who had homeschooled him, self-published his book, and then spent over a year with him touring the country and selling the book (with Paolini often in a medieval costume) before Carl Hiaasen caught wind of it through his stepson.

And this extra information spells out some really good news for you, dear reader. It means that no writer is actually superior to you in their ability to write.

No. Seriously. If you think somebody’s better than you and it makes you feel like balls, you’re probably just focused on the wrong thing. If a writer’s successful, it’s because they have access to resources you don’t and/or they’re not telling you how much work they actually put into what they did.

Their success as a writer doesn’t actually reflect on your own writing ability at all.

But you can totally work hard and that’s what counts. The whole talent thing just kind of flows after that. Anybody who tells you otherwise is a lying bastard who deserves the roasty toasty flames of Hell.

Look, Ms. Literary Fiction Bestseller isn’t Ms. Literary Fiction Bestseller because she’s better than you. Ms. Literary Fiction Bestseller has just had more resources via any manner of privilege that directly and abundantly matched her personal wants and desires in life, desires that in turn helped her to work hard in order to take advantage of said resources via any manner of privilege. Ms. Literary Fiction Bestseller’s success did not bloom from ground equal to yours, and so to label her as more superior in her craft than those who are going at it by other means (i.e. you) is illogical.

Ms. Literary Fiction Bestseller also probably failed a lot. It’s just that nobody may be talking about that bit.

Ever since I was a charming little writer kid, I’ve tried really freaking hard and failed too many times to mention. Some days, I’m really proud of myself for working so hard and never quitting. (Well, okay, always coming back after quitting.)

But other days, I’m downright embarrassed that the magical novel fairy never kissed me on the cheek while I slept. I’m embarrassed that writing didn’t come easy to me. I’m embarrassed that I actually had to put in effort. I’m embarrassed that these things are still true for me today and probably always will be.

And why is that? Why should I somehow feel like I’m not on par with my peers in the writing community? Since when did hard work become something to cover up in order to expectantly engage in a perpetual pissing contest? Or seen as proof that you’re an inferior writer? How come virtually all of us seem to have near-crippling feelings of inferiority and inadequacy towards our craft? When our very craft is, in fact, built upon the ideas of editing and revision? When did we take a weird-assed turn on the road of personal and societal accolades in the art world?

Because the cool thing about artistic outlets such as fiction is that there’s plenty of room at the table for everyone to be awesome. Seriously. There are so many genres and viewpoints and character combos that it’s unfair to ever try to compare one story to another. In fact, it’s downright senseless.

So fuck everyone. Focus on your work and your work alone. Just because everybody else’s is good doesn’t mean it has anything to do with yours. In fact, there is nobody else’s work. There’s nobody else, even. You’ve invented language itself. And the idea of documenting it on that fancy thing called paper? Genius.

Just do it. Be all you can be. Go get ‘em, tiger.

Don’t worry about me, just leave me here to wither away and die. For I’m still the suckiest writer who ever sucked, now and forever, because I didn’t pen a professionally published work by the age of fifteen.

And don’t you dare try to take away my crown again. I’ll scratch your eyes out.

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