Imposter Syndrome, Again

I was on the #writingcommunity Twitter feed while I was traveling back home yesterday, and I noticed so many people feeling like imposters, worried that they weren’t following the writing ‘rules,’ worrying that they weren’t “real writers.”

It made me sad, honestly.

And it made me remember this post I had awhile ago about Imposter Syndrome, which I’m sharing again with you today.

Why?

Because you’re you. You aren’t fake, damn it. You are real and beautiful and trying. That’s what matters. I wish I could hug everyone out there and say, “Look at how you. You are amazing and shiny. Look at you growing, evolving, trying. What a freaking miracle you are.

You are.

How I Battle Imposter Syndrome

So, recently I was having a big period called, “I Suck At Everything.” It’s pretty much a variant of the dreaded Imposter Syndrome.

What is imposter syndrome? It’s when you feel like everyone is suddenly going to realize that you are: 

  1. A big fraud.
  2. You suck
  3. Basically a big, sucky fraud that’s about to get called out by the YOU TRULY SUCK YOU LYING FRAUD PATROL 

And lots of amazing people have it. What kind of amazing people? People like Maya Angelo who has said, 

“I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.” 

Maya Angelou

So, yeah, Maya Angelou, THE Maya Angelou has it, which kind of only makes mine worse because I think, “Um… I’m not that cool. I’m not even worthy of having imposter syndrome.”

This is even though I logically know that I’ve been on the NYT bestseller list, some of my books were bestselling books in other languages and I’ve even received awards for writing and I get happy reader email. And even though I just looked up “Carrie Jones Quotes” and found all these things I said that someone put to pictures/photos. 

(Yes, I did just google myself).

Anyways, here is the thing: 

Logic does not matter when you have imposter syndrome. 

Some people think imposter syndrome comes from feeling like you’re more important than you actually are. This might be true for others, but – ohmyfreakingword – seriously? I barely think I am doing anything halfway good enough to make this world a tiny bit better. This is so not my problem. It’s totally okay if it’s part of yours though. 

My personal imposter syndrome is linked to my I DO NOT DO ENOUGH syndrome. For instance if I don’t make a TO DO LIST and strike things off each day, I will feel like I accomplished nothing all day. If I accomplish nothing all day, I hate myself, feel guilty, and go to bed depressed. So, I always try to make to do lists like this: 

This visual representation, PLUS the advice of a friend on Facebook (Yes, they do exist), made me realize that I had to do the same thing with my imposter syndrome. I had to start collecting visual evidence to convince myself that I don’t completely suck. 

I remind myself that I have been called out before and I have survived. As someone connected to our local, mostly volunteer fire department, I witness our community come together a lot. It is a beautiful and glorious thing to see firefighters leave their families, dinners, jobs and go out and help other people. I blogged about this. A large, pedantic man caught me off guard less than a week later and berated me for writing schmaltz. That schmaltz was my heart. 

I was devastated. I was irate. I survived. 

I try to remind myself of all the things I have survived, sleeping in a car, witnessing a terror attack, sleeping with the enemy, massive amounts of seizures, assault, in order to realize that people thinking I’m a fraud? Calling me out for sucking? It will hurt. It does hurt. But it can be overcome. 

Reminding myself of the bad things that I’ve survived isn’t something I like to do, because I don’t want those things to define me. I don’t let them define me. But sometimes, it’s good to realize that being a survivor is something I can be proud of. 

Some people have imposter syndrome that comes from comparisons. They see someone else doing awesomely (In the book world, a prize, a list, an invitation to a conference) and think, “I suck because that is not me.”

Mine doesn’t work that way.

Mine is about fear not about envy. Mine is about the fear that I will be ridiculed for who I am and how I think. Mine is about the fear that my abilities are not enough. (Honestly, I can barely tie my shoes because my mechanical skills are so awful.) Mine is about being so poor that you don’t know how you’ll survive, about pain from being betrayed, about being hurt physically,  about public ridicule because of your political views or decisions, about cognitive degeneration, about not fitting in because you grew up outside of what society’s norms are. My fear is about things that have already happened to me and I don’t want to happen again. 

My imposter syndrome is about exposure even when I have already been exposed. 

My imposter syndrome is about a society where truth is never good enough because truth is not pretty enough. My imposter syndrome is about a society where people ridicule your heart, your kindness, your vulnerability and other people applaud that. 

My imposter syndrome is about fear. 

That’s all it is.

Fear. 

So I remind myself with my notebook that I have had joys, that I have had tiny, kind interactions, where I have touched other people’s stories and gotten to glimpse at their truths and their lives and how amazing is that? It is amazing. 

My notebook is to remind me that no matter what happens in the future, I have had those moments, been blessed by them, and lucky. It’s to remind me that you can’t be an imposter when all you’re are doing is being yourself. Your real self. 

Don’t let fear make you an imposter. 

Because you are too good for that. Your story deserves to be told. 


WRITING AND OTHER NEWS

IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, PREORDER NOW!

My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

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HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On February first, I launched my Patreon site where I’m reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more. Come hang out with me! Get cool things!

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WHAT IS PATREON? 

A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

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“Least Threatening Woman in the World” Self perception and writing

I am the least threatening woman in the world.

When I sat down to write about something, that’s the sentence that flew off my fingertips:

I am the least threatening woman in the world. 

And then I thought about what it means.

I

That one is sort of obvious.

Least

the smallest extent

Threatening

There’s a lot of definitions for this one, but I think that the one my brain was going for is “causing someone to feel vulnerable or at risk”

In the world

Wicked hyperbole because I’m an author and we’re into hyperbole.

But seriously, I am the sort of woman that even the most insecure people don’t care if their spouse texts. This is essentially true in all things work and life related.

Or am I? My perception of myself is pretty unthreatening, but one of my friends recently told me I have no chill and I could totally throw-down. He meant it as a compliment. Another friend told me, “You are so super mellow and chill. What was he talking about?”

Different people perceive us in vastly different ways, but even how we perceive ourselves can be all over the place.

So, when I think, “I am the least threatening person in the world,” am I actually just falling into a writer stereotype of self-loathing? Am I really saying, “I’m ugly and boring and nobody is intimidated by me because I’m basically nothing?” Or is it something else?

And why do so many of us writers (and comics, and artists, and bankers, and humans) do this? When this negative self definition is obviously not a helpful tool.

Writers and Self Loathing

Back in 2015, the New York Times asked two writers on their thoughts about writers and self loathing. 

Thomas Mallon wrote, “The aggrieved writer’s immortal longings represent, finally, a loathing not of the self but of the human condition, a desire to thwart the tragic fact of death. Writing has always offered a particularly good means of doing that.”

I read that to a friend and he rolled his eyes. “You aren’t self-loathing. You’re self deprecating. There’s a big difference. You’re afraid to claim your success. I think it might be a woman thing or a New England thing or something.”

“Are you telling me that I’m afraid of being successful because I’m a woman? Or because I’m from New Hampshire?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Hm,” I said because honestly? That’s a pretty big assertion that takes a lot to unpack.

Or maybe the self deprecation is because of my New England-ness and me being a woman and told not to ‘toot my own horn’ because it’s “tacky.” But maybe it’s also a thinking thing. Writers think a lot. We think about humans and society and our place within it. We think about character growth and motivation and that means that we sometimes think a lot about our own selves.

Anna Holmes wrote in that same Times piece, “Although I don’t buy the idea that self-loathing is a requirement for writers — I know too many writers, particularly men, who hold themselves in perhaps higher esteem than they should — I do think that writing demands a certain amount of self-awareness, and that self-awareness and self-loathing can be two sides of the same coin.”

Being judgmental about who we are, knowing our own flaws and faults, it can be hard. It’s hard to face our lack of personal perfection – not just for writers, but for all of us. And while we often give our friends and family space for errors or ‘flaws’ or screw-ups and forgive and love them anyway? That’s not always so hard to do with ourselves. To be self aware means to know we are imperfect. But our imperfections aren’t the end of the world. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that.

Making Ourselves a Trope

And the thing is that when we write about writers? We are making ourselves a trope and often continuing that cycle of negativity. I remember a couple of years ago when I had a five-second meltdown about how I could never watch another movie or television show about a writer.

“It makes me depressed,” I sputtered. “They are all just — they are either super wealthy or alcoholics or creepy.”

Apparently, I’m not the only one who has thought this. In 2017, Ben Blatt published a survey of some literature called “Writers are Self-Loathing: 50 Writers on Writers, In Fiction.”

Okay. It’s fiction, not movies, but it’s all about our culture and how we define ourselves.

Blatt wrote, “Writers don’t have the best reputation and they have no one to blame but themselves. Instead of writing stories where writers are attractive, heroic, and strong, they describe the writers within their own works as eccentric, depressed, reclusive, broke, and egotistical.”

Blatt gives example after example of writers putting writers down, defining them in not a very positive light.

Here are some excerpts that I took from his Signature article.

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I’m going to beg the rest of you out there, don’t define yourself as miserable, as nothing, as non-threatening, as invisible. Don’t believe yourself to be the trope. And maybe think about why that trope is there? Negative self awareness and self loathing and self deprecation. It’s like an evil trinity that holds us back, keeps us down. We don’t need it.

Writing News

Time Stoppers!

You can order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere.

People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.

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I’m WRITING BARN FACULTY AND THERE’S A COURSE YOU CAN TAKE!

I am super psyched to be teaching the six-month long Write. Submit. Support. class at the Writing Barn!

Are you looking for a group to support you in your writing process and help set achievable goals? Are you looking for the feedback and connections that could potentially lead you to that book deal you’ve been working towards?

Our Write. Submit. Support. (WSS) six-month ONLINE course offers structure and support not only to your writing lives and the manuscripts at hand, but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors.

Past Write. Submit. Support. students have gone on to receive representation from literary agents across the country. View one of our most recent success stories here

 

Apply Now!

Moe Berg

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

OUR PODCAST – DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

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