I had one of those days yesterday. The kind of day where you meet a lot of great people and shake a lot of hands and smile and come home completely exhausted, yet brimming with energy. A day that when you wake up the next morning, you can’t believe it was only yesterday, because it felt like it went on forever in the best of ways.
(Maybe I shouldn’t post something that honest online, but I’m a huge dork, so why the hell not?)
I was sitting in a therapy session and expressing mild satisfaction with the direction of my writing life, and a hope that things will accelerate when my work schedule changes. As ever, my therapist suggested I not wait, that I try to get involved in something sooner, since it might take some time to get organized, meet up, et cetera. She pulled up her laptop and started Googling, and when I went home that night I decided to join the Quebec Writers’ Federation.
Then I got a newsletter, and pressure started to build. I had signed up, I would have to meet these people soon enough. How many books had they written? How many more years of experience did they have over me? And the biggest question, naturally, what would they think of me? This goofball who probably dresses too young for his age and likes to use the word “fuck” in fiction?
I put it away, but kept coming back to it during my breaks at work. I did this so that I could meet writers and discuss writing, find community and support, perhaps kindred spirits. I picked a morning social mixer. It wasn’t very long, I could duck out and retreat to my apartment if I felt overwhelmed.
Of course, I had a nightmare.
A few days later, I’m sitting down with my boss at work to discuss my performance and where I’m going. He said to me, not unkindly, “I can’t move you with these numbers,” and I knew it was true. The same feeling that was stressing me about meeting the QWF was plaguing me at work: I don’t deserve to be here. Any moment, someone will find that unforgivable flaw, and I’ll be thrown out.
I am an impostor.
Curiously, it was after that meeting with my manager that I started turning it around.
Walking back to my desk, I’m thinking on what my manager has said, and my dread at going to a casual social event. I tap into something that has helped me in the past when I’ve been out the door and on my way to meet strangers: fuck what everyone thinks. I’m here for me. So I am going to be me, unapologetically.
I sit back down at my desk, and having somehow, suddenly deciding to stop giving a fuck, I manage to have better connections with my clients, more in-depth conversations, and I am able to see more ways to help them. I don’t care what the clients think, I am there to do a job, and I can do it best by being myself.
I feel instant gratification because I am having fun with my job, my conversations that evening were more conversational and genuine. The next day, I read Lauren Graham’s In Conclusion, Don’t Worry About It and it validates my experiences from the day before. I go to therapy and am told that I have relaxed into myself, and that sounds really positive. I go home and write more of my second novel, edit more of my first, and I feel more awake and present than I have in a shockingly long time.
I don’t realize at first, but I am arming myself against impostor syndrome. I am doing things that will allow me to push back against those feelings with logic. When the voice tells me that I’m not a real writer, I am able to know that I have just written, I am writing, I will write. I may have not written as much as some, but surely they didn’t get to where they are by letting doubt stop them from moving forward. At least not all the time.
By the time I meet members of the QWF, a few at a time as they arrive, I am able to feel at ease. Just like when I started playing soccer two summers ago, I didn’t feel judged about my level of experience. These people were encouraging, interested, and interesting as well. I was happy to see what an eclectic bunch they were, and it was pleasant to talk to each of them. One of them even knew where Cecilia was, having spent some time in Louisiana, and I was floored: suddenly we’re discussing the Cajun cuisine, the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge, and the prevalence of the French language there. I love how I could never have predicted that conversation would take place, it makes it all the more special.
The rest of the day rushed by: I attended a panel where writers shared stories of events that influenced their writing, or had to be overcome so that they could continue writing. I listened to another where queer writers discussed their recent works, and their motivations for the themes they explored within them. It brought me back to thinking about Louisiana, and I’m wondering if that’s the sort of thought that might grow into something I’ll work on later.
So that was yesterday. Now I’m working on a short story in addition to my two novels, and I’m getting involved with a writing group. I feel like I can finally come here and write things, because I have so much more to say now that I’m actually writing again. It’s like dusty gears inside me are moving once again, the machinery is warming up and coming back to life, and I am loving it.
I mean, don’t expect regular updates or anything. Let’s not forget to retain a speck of cynicism.