Dear Faithful Reader,
Impostor Syndrome is an entitled 1%er buzzword if ever there was one, so what does that say about me that I not only know what it means but have often felt its sting?
What if I say/do/reveal the wrong thing, and everyone will see I am just ME!? Heaven forbid.
While social media scrolling last week, Imposter Syndrom caught my ear. Spoken by a beautiful, seemingly accomplished woman wearing elegant clothing, my finger paused long enough to hear her say,
When I feel like an imposter, I pretend my life is a fancy wedding, and I am crashing it." I aim to snog all the cutest men (she must have been a Brit with all that snogging), grab the most significant slice of cake, and cram it into my mouth before anyone figures out I belong.
This made me laugh. This spoke to me. This got me out of a funk.
I didn't post a single piece of writing while on my trip to Europe. Zip-Nada-Nil. While I hauled two journals, my laptop, and three notebooks around an entire continent, my desire to write completely evaporated. I did manage to scribble 3/4 of a not-very-good poem. I tried capturing the aching beauty of synonymous calls to prayer and tolling church bells in the early morning hours on the streets of Sarajevo. Notebook open, delicate cup of Turkish coffee at my elbow, centuries-old cobblestones under foot, I assumed the pen would flow. Alas, words, my faithful friends, totally abandoned me.
A few days later, I saw Pope Francis speak in front of the Budapest Parliament building.(Well, I heard his voice through a microphone from my advantageous perch across the Danube River. ) So moved by his message of love and solidarity with the poor and oppressed, I sat and typed for three hours only to stop, close my laptop and abandon all attempts to shift raw emotion, into coherent thought, into interesting words. Who cares? Who is my audience? Why bother - for what? I was so over it.
Eight countries, tons of amazing people, hours of wandering in and out of places I have only read about, and two subpar attempts at capturing… anything. Oh, I journaled about places, weather, food consumed, the stuff to cure insomnia, but there was no portal from heart, to head, to hand. No ability to capture anything I was experiencing.
Most alarmingly, as people ask that dreaded question, “What do you do?” I found myself swallowing the words,
I write. Instead, I deferred to my role as spouse and parent. These are not bad, but they don’t define my life or encapsulate my passions. It was a huge step back from the confident - albeit - knee quaking; I’m a writer, which led to podcast essays, launching my blog, taking online writing classes, and submitting my work to literary journals.
What was happening?! When did I decide my writing needed to be weighty, mean something, hold up under the analysis of higher education? Did someone tell me this, that I was lacking? No, I told myself. Before, merely the process of writing gave me joy and pleasure. Now I analyze everything to death. It robs me of joy and cripples my confidence. I have reached a place where I know my writing can be much bet, but I don’t know how. With my Grammarly app, my ProWritingAid, and my spell-check, I agonize over every word choice, praying my punctuation will come out all right, knowing my sentence structure is terrible because I write how I talk - all over the place, herky-jerky, hopefully bringing everything around at the end but don’t hold your breath.
When did I decide Alice Picks Up a Pen should be Alice Picks Up a Pen and Writes a Blisteringly Brilliant Piece the New Yorker will be Begging Her to Reprint? Sheesh. My essay bits for a friend's blog were titled, Conversations With Alice Wyatt. Imagine sitting down with a friend and thinking each sentence needs to be perfectly formed, grammar correct, the thoughts flowing gracefully from one to another, the wrap-up a summation of all previous conversation streams. Would I ever invite anyone over for a cup of coffee? Of course not.
Yet I have done this to myself. After giving it the boot several years ago, I invited Imposter Syndrome into my heart. Why? I do not know and have decided not to spend time and energy figuring out why. Probably it is just a season. The initial flush of excitement and accomplishment has passed; I am now in the hot, dry summer, needing fresh motivation and grit to keep going. And keep going I will. I have decided to follow the advice of a total stranger from a social media stream.
Henceforth, my writing career (isn't that a pretentious word for someone like me to use?!!) is a big fancy wedding! I shall don my prettiest dress! Adorn myself with my blingiest bling! I shall swoop a champagne goblet right off a passing silver tray, take a sip and make a beeline for that four-tier wedding cake. As I carve out the biggest slice I can get away with, I shall scan the room for handsome men: champagne, cake, and a potential snog. Watch out, world, here I come.