The Waltz of the Imposter Syndrome

I know this blog has been bare bones and sadly neglected since July. Sorry about that, but 2016 has kicked my butt (has anyone had a good 2016, seriously?) but I'm getting back on my feet at the moment. At the start of this month, I attended DragonCon, one of the largest conventions around. It's filled with people, costumes, food, and crowds as far as the eye can see. My favorite part of the convention is getting the chance to sit around with friends, and with writers I admire. We usually all end up in the bar at the Westin (insert some cliche about writers and drinking here) and a good time is had by all. Except when it isn't. 

This year, no matter how excited or happy I was to be there, I didn't feel like I belonged at this table with incredibly talented writers and editors. What the hell was I doing trying to have a conversation with someone with awards and dozens of books published? I had nothing to add to this conversation and no one wanted me to be there. Every doubt I'd ever had flared to life and buried me in silence and misery through most of the convention. I isolated myself, limited my time with people and generally flew under the radar with only the occasional reaching out to a few people. 

And all of this, all the doubts, panic, worry, and isolation are a song and dance I've rehearsed a thousand times. The waltz of the Imposter Syndrome plays in one, two, threes and I dance to the tune led by my own insecurities. This year it was amplified by the fact that I have written almost nothing this entire summer. I've barely edited and I've struggled to even finish projects I owed other people. Because of that, my worries of not being enough, of just being a bother no one actually likes, turned all the way to 11 and I almost didn't go back to DragonCon on Saturday or Sunday. 

Imposter Syndrome hits almost everyone I know, and it manifests itself in a myriad of ways, from the humble 'oh, that's no big deal. I just got lucky.' to the 'I can't do that. I'm not good enough." everyone has their own spot that causes the most pain. And the worst part of it is that no one else can save you from the dance you're trapped in. It doesn't matter if you hear 'Your work is amazing' or 'I'm so glad to see you!' a thousand times, your brain can rationalize those away as pleasantries expected from anyone, not sincere words. Instead, your brain latches on to the fact that everyone is talking among themselves and no one is speaking to you (because you are caught in your own mind and not joining a conversation). 

For me, I'm learning how to dance this terrible waltz and occasionally throwing in an extra step, an extra beat to throw off the rhythm of the all-consuming doubt. It may be something little, editing one page, reading an essay that makes me feel empowered, watching a pep talk (JUST DO IT) or sometimes it's as simple as going to bed early to make sure I have the energy to get up and try again. 

Creative work is hard because it is subjective, it's both private and public and forces you to examine yourself closely. When you see those dark, uncomfortable parts of yourself it's easy to start to doubt yourself, your work, and even your friends. The trick is to take the steps that you can and to not let guilt add onto the weight already slowing you down. Missing a day of writing does not mean you don't want it enough; it means you're tired and sometimes you need to be kind to yourself and rest. Writing is not the same for everyone. While I used to think you had to write every day (and that still works well for me most of the time), other people write best in short bursts. The important thing is not to constantly berate and doubt yourself because you're not doing what you "should be doing" to be a writer. 

This post may be a little rambling but it's something I needed to type out, to get my fingers back in the habit of moving, to remind myself that I can write, that I love telling stories whether anyone reads them or not. 

I'm still waltzing but now, I'm writing again too and damn that feels good even for an imposter.