Thoughts on Secret Thoughts

Let me begin by saying that I don’t suffer from impostor syndrome. Absolutely not. No way.

At least not until the moment I step up to the canvas and begin painting. Then, all bets are off.

For the last couple of years I have been asking myself just what is wrong with me. I have all the confidence in the world when I’m writing, and heck, even when I’m narrating. But I would just turn myself inside out when I thought about drawing or painting. It use to not be that way. Call it “beginner’s luck” or whatever, but I started off feeling successful with my newly discovered art skill, but as the years went by, I felt more and more like a fake, a fraud, and a hack — a full-blown impostor. It ground me to a halt. No matter how many times people told me that my art was beautiful (and I only believe about 50% of the people that tell me that), I didn’t believe anyone. This reaction made no sense to me.

I, like everyone else, don’t like to be judged or criticized. I know this is part of it, but I realize that there’s a certain amount of exposure that comes with creativity. I’m all right with it in my writing. But my art… it just feels different. I don’t even think I can explain it.

I have no schooling in art, writing, audio engineering, or acting. Oh, I’ve taken a class here or there, gone to a few conferences, read lots of books, and bloody well jumped in and started doing the work figuring out what I need to know as I go along. I have no fear; I know I can learn anything I need to know. I’ve even taken painting classes with Jerry Yarnell. But for some unknown reason, not being school in art, art history, color theory, etc., really bugs me. I have taught myself about artists I’m interested in and can identify their work on sight. I may not know everything about them or their work, or even their creation process, but I can say that about many writers too. Why do I not feel worthy of being an artist? If it’s just a matter that I haven’t put in as many hours as I have for my writing, why can’t I drag myself to do more, to practice?

I realized toward the end of last year that I really needed to work on this, especially if I was going to get back to painting this year. So, I focused on some articles and books for writers about overcoming self-doubt.

There’s still a part of me that venomously hates that word, especially in reference to me: self-doubt.

Now that I’ve spat the awful taste off my tongue, my search took me down some very strange places, places I really didn’t feel I belonged. At least not when I took it from a writer’s point of view. I got into things about intelligence and creativity, multiple talents, creative anxiety, etc. I’m still working my way through some of it. But, in my search and while I was looking for my next audiobook to listen to while I walked, I came across The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women by Valerie Young.

While this book is geared toward women, it also addresses men and the impostor syndrome. It is not slanted to creative types — Valerie Young works more with students, professors, and professionals. I have many people in my life who I really think would benefit from listening to this book.

It was very hard for me to listen too. I kept thinking, “This does not apply to me!” I suspect this is what many women I know would say if I suggested it to them. I kept having to round myself back and remember that I was not needing this for where I was confident, but where I was weak, where I did feel like an impostor in my own life. In trying to stay focused on this and knowing that I was seeing where I felt other people needed to know about this book, I realized that deep inside, many women felt small and insignificant. I kept thinking about all the quotes that speak to the fact that if you feel fear about something, that is the direction you should be heading in.

I have long known exactly where my own feelings of inadequacy came from. So when Valerie describes coming to understand your Crusher, the thing that gave root to the impostor syndrome in your life, I already knew mine. I could feel it.

Now for me, because of how my life has gone, I could see oh so clearly how I overcame this Crusher, which could have stopped me from telling stories, and gave me the confidence that my writing has today. It was sheer, dogged persistence that I could reject my Crusher in regards to writing. But art was always so different. It was clear to see how that became my impostor path.

I didn’t agree with the whole book or the exercises to help, but how much of that was coming from the extreme self-directed part of me I don’t know. I did bookmark a few questions and places that I thought would be helpful if I started feeling like a fraud again. I really do want to conquer this irrational side of myself. It’s holding me back from achieving my goals.

Are you being held back because you feel unworthy or because you feel like an impostor who is waiting for someone to find you out? If so, this book might be worth your read.

Progress – 07/17/17

Fiction words written last week: 10,738 words

Blogs/Newsletter articles/non-fiction written:  119 words

Writing month to date total: 29,096 words

Writing year to date total: 216,313 words.

Drawing/painting last week: 0 square inches painted, for complete paintings, but I did practiced in my sketchbook.

Audio: I spent 5+ hours recording and editing audio.

Week’s happenings: My writing streak continues now at 40 days. This last week was a hard-won week too.

I took the week off from my day job as a bookkeeper so I could spend some time focusing on getting my branding done across my books. I’ve been doing that to the covers, but I hadn’t spent any time on the interiors in that fashion. I figured, “9 days, 14 titles equals 2 titles per day with a couple days left over for writing.”

Well, there’s a saying: Man makes plans and God laughs.

I managed to get 10 of the 14 titles done. That was still while writing and dealing with all the mud that kept getting slung at me all week. I still had to go into work (okay, I volunteered for that one because it’s an important client and things needed to keep rolling along, but it was only a couple of hours). My website got messed up by someone else’s hand; why do people have to be destructive? Grrr! Oh well. I’ve started rebuilding and it will be better than before. Plus, now maybe I’ll get all my websites hubbed together like I’d been thinking about doing. While I continue to hope that Loki cuts off their hands for their “handiwork,” they did spur me to put my thoughts into action. I’m taking my time at the moment – I’ve rushed before and not had a truly great fit, so I want to be sure this time. I had “discussions” with neighbors — when my “live and let live policy” gets stepped on, I will rise up. I had to help both my boys with college stuff. And I fought a war with these stupid bugs that come in my office every year and I’m declaring that my office will be free of the pests this year. I’m proud to report that I might be winning that battle.

I did get some reading done this week. I also had a lot of fun in Stacy’s morning water aerobics class. I swear, after I finish one of Stacy’s workouts, I spend the next two hours walking around and feeling like I have a completely flat stomach once more. Always a great core workout! (grin) I know it’s only in my mind that I’m skinny, but I’ll take that feeling. I’m going to miss those morning workouts. (bummer!) I also got to spend extra time with my kids. What could be better? Mowed the lawn; didn’t get to cutting down some very overgrown branches yet — really need to knock that chore off my list soon.  And I went for several walks and a bike ride.

While I didn’t feel real successful about last week, I can say that reflecting on it now reminds me that there is balance in it all. I “tended the garden” of my books and while I’m sure they still aren’t perfect, I keep moving them in that direction. I’m building. I want something that stands for centuries, not just a house of cards or a sand castle. I’m working toward a career that will last my entire life — I never plan on retiring from my art. I persist.