Impostor!

One of the hardest things I have encountered these days has been the shadow of impostor syndrome. I have mentioned it before, and it bears repeating. So I am repeating. Louder for the people in the back, as they say.

One of the luxuries of waking up every day and punching a clock is the process of showing up, doing a marginal amount of work, and eventually watching your bank account fill up with a direct deposit at the end of the month provides immediate validation that you are indeed being productive. Even though when I was working for the University, I could probably get an entire week’s worth of work done in the last three hours of any given Friday.

When you work for yourself, especially in a creative field such as writing, the goalposts are not so obvious. The actual writing might just be an hour or two, depending on what you are working on. The thought going into it, the observation, the grinding things around in your brain is neverending. The bummer is that you are not paid for all that work. You put words down on paper. The days go by and the paychecks don’t drop into your account. Transitioning from regular paychecks to something more intangiable is difficult, and sometimes you will really tear into yourself for not being as productive as you *should* be.

For me, reading is even difficult, because for so many years if I had time to sit down and read a book, that meant I was being lazy and needed a project around the house to occupy my time. Reading for research is difficult sometimes, and reading for pleasure is downright impossible. I just feel like I am being idle, and shirking my responsibilities. Hardly ever considering as a writer, I need to constantly hone my mind with an imput of good writing, as well as producing work.

I love that song by Arcade Fire called “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” especially for the lyrics “Quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock.” It really hits when you understand that beautiful things like music, art, writing, television shows, YouTube channels, movies…all come from people who work in their heads most of the time. Creative things that we all love and experience, that resonate with our souls, are rarely made in some drone-like fashion. They are created by people who stare into space for hours, beating themselves up sometimes, procrastinating, and finally pulling those things from the Aether for the rest of us.

Quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock.

My son and mom and I went on an adventure last week, escaping Colorado just before the Snowpocalypse hit. We drove out to Washington to visit family and even made it all the way out to the Oregon Coast. Some might call it a “vacation” but when you are a writer, you are never really on vacation. It was a research trip. Sitting in a car for a little over a week took us through several different biomes: rainforests, rocky coastlines, mountains, plains, and deserts. We went from 8100ft above sea level to throwing clam shells for the dog to catch in the surf of the Pacific ocean.

Most people come home with their t-shirts and do their laundry to get the sand out of their socks. When I get home, it is my job to process everything that I have experienced, and hopefully try to sell these observations to someone. To convey the story in a way that an editor might take a chance on me to buy, or will at the very least entertain a reader, possibly resonate with them, and inspire them.

The second-guessing is hard because you never really know what will sell in a story until you write it. How will the way you string words together serve the story? That is the hard part. That is the part that leaves me frozen. The bit that tells me I’m fooling myself and I should just apply for another desk job. Am I the best writer? No. But I’m not half bad. And the stories choose me anyway, I don’t choose them. The least I can do is put the words down as they are whispered to me and hopefully I’ve done a decent job.

Money is a necessary evil, but it doesn’t always mean you are doing good work, or the work you need to be doing. Twenty years pushing paper from one side of my desk to the other is evidence of that.

Right now, my learning curve is very steep in learning how to market myself, promote my writing, and try to assure myself I’m not going to die by getting a steady paycheck somehow from all of this. It doesn’t happen over night, so it is best to be patient.

So if you are a creative and you need a reminder that what you are doing is important, please, keep going. Keep going.

The title never fits when it’s the first thing you write

All these years we’ve been thinking like readers when we sit down to write. As a reader, other than the cover of a book, the first thing you know about any of it is the title. So when we make that transition from reader to writer, we might have some unrealistic ideas of what to expect from ourselves when we are writing. The title encapsulates the book, either from a line of prose that wraps up the entire theme, to something symbolic. I have news for you; the writer didn’t start off with the title. Why? Because as they were writing, it is likely they figured out what it all meant as they were chugging along.

So why is it in life, we think we are supposed to have our lives figured out so early on? I read the blog of a millennial the other day who was putting so much pressure on herself for not having everything laid out by the end of her twenties. I remember that I might have done the same. A friend of mine discussed out our careers need to be established by 27, and how she was already past her prime.

What a load of crap.

Funny how these days, kids can’t be expected to cross the street on their own, sit in the front seat of a car until they can drive it, or do half the things I was able to do on my own at their age. But they have a window of nine years now to figure out their entire lives, including four years of college, and the massive debt associated with that. Oh yeah, don’t forget to get married and start a family too in those years.

Green as the grass and twice as wet behind the ears as a fish.

Tonight I’m feeling a little melancholy. Maybe it’s from two solid days of DIY on the house and not enough writing. I re-walled one of the rooms, floor to ceiling. I threw in some insulation too. Today I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t do any work on the house. I didn’t do a lot really. Some laundry, visited my folks, slept in, and made acorn squash rissotto. Rissotto is one of those foods that sounds really fancy, and it is tasty, but when you get to brass tacks on it, it’s really just mushy rice.

I would rather have some decent BBQ. Honestly, I don’t know what the big deal with saffron is, I can’t taste it. I can’t even smell it. Never could. Maybe that’s good, because at least I don’t know what I am missing.

Tonight marks an anniversary for me. A year ago, a woman I was seeing at the time and I went on a romantic weekend trip for her birthday. Shortly after that, the whole state was on lockdown. I would only see her once more and then six weeks later, it was all over. It took me a while to get over that one. Someone who said they would always be there…then they weren’t. Something like that makes the walls go up. Since then, my life has changed quite a bit. My job of nearly 19 years ended, I moved back to my hometown because I could no longer afford to live in the Front Range, I got a dog, who at this moment is nagging me to play fetch with her. I have drifted from some people while getting closer to others. I tend to guard myself in talking about these because last year taught me to not get too comfortable sometimes.

Tonight, Facebook brought up a moment in 2018 where my youngest son and my daughter were ice skating. I watched the video and saw the smiles. The genuine smiles. At the time, I wasn’t all that healthy or happy. Bad relationship, bad work environment, a CPS courtroom process finally winding down, resulting in nothing other than a bunch of bureaucrats patting themselves on the back telling each other “Good job!” and nothing being any different.

Six months later, my daughter stopped smiling and stopped coming over to my house. My child support doubled. Work started to look really sketchy as far as job security. The bad relationship I was in finally folded at the end of that year, and it took a while to understand my worth. (She got engaged to someone else six months later–kinda sus).

A year ago tonight, I was sitting in a hot spring with someone I was in a serious relationship with, who may as well have fallen off the face of the earth a week later. I don’t expect a pity party, I just don’t think I could have come up with a title for the last year and the awful and wonderful things that have happened.

The world got crazy and since the St. Patrick’s Day that wasn’t, now everyone hates Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potato Head.

I’m far from being 27 and I know that I don’t have my life figured out. Other than there are a lot of things I wouldn’t want to repeat, and a few I wouldn’t mind going back to once in a while. In some ways I feel truly blessed, and am working every day on how to just let those blessings be good for me. To not push people away because it hurts when they get close. To just be content in the silence of a house I am lucky enough to fix up.

Tonight I’m playing fetch with the dog.

Moving Forward

One of the common themes of the show Mad Men is when literal imposter Donald Draper aka Dick Whitman reaches a hurdle in his life, he relies on the mantra of “Move forward.” Granted, Don is a philandering narcissist whose attachement to others verges on sociopathic at times, really he is right. He is often like someone banging on the outside of the glass, repeating the same thing over and over again that makes the most sense, coming from one of the most flawed characters.

We are all flawed. We have all made mistakes. It is those who choose to dwell in that misery, those who continue to hurt themselves and others because of their own pain who will never rise to the occasion. They have found their comfort zone in misfortune. Some of the rest of us have decided to learn from our mistakes, gain widsom from our pain and…

Move. Forward.

This week I have had some challenges and rather than stew about them like I used to do, I have taken the stoic mindset: Choose not to be harmed–and you won’t feel harmed.” I have registered the disappointment, the frustration, I have cataloged it, I have learned from it, but it has not harmed me. I am moving forward. It isn’t about me, it’s about them. And if this is what it takes for them to feel a modicrum of happiness, then I pity them. Because no one ever found happiness by being petty and causing others grief.

If I were a southern woman, I would say I would pray for them. But I’m not, so I won’t.

To those of you who know my history, a brief explanation to this is said simply: SSDD.

That’s all the thought we need to give it.

Recently, I have moved forward with other things as well. I’m reading a few books to help with my travel writing. As near as I can tell, a big challenge I have to face and conquer is getting out of my own way. That seems to be the story of my life. But right now, I feel like I have the talent to do this, but maybe I haven’t had the drive, nor the plan to actually move forward and navigate this goal.

Even as a kid, I always had talent. School was easy. Boring. I never even took notes in college. I got complacent. I didn’t strive. I barely struggled unless it was self-imposed to give me a challenge. I actually thought that just by having a degree, a better life and a high salary awaited me. None of that did me any favors. It’s a bad mentality to have. I’m reading these books and trying to learn. I’m trying to get over the sentiment that I know it all. I’m leaving ego at the door. I’m walking into it as a fresh-faced recruit. I can write. Sure! But this is more than stringing words together. This is something else.

Finally a challenge. Move forward.

So, I will keep reading these books and I will work on giving my talent some focus to make something out of it, rather than just something to show off at parties. It gets you invited to only a few parties, and then people stop calling because writers have a large vocabulary and often annoy partygoers. So the invites stop eventually.

Better put my non-partygoing time to good use and do what has been something I’ve grown to love about myself over the years. You can’t ever learn too much about something you want to do better.