About imposter syndrome and owning your talents.

I was talking to a friend the other day about imposter syndrome. Because I like using big words to talk about myself, apparently. Wikipedia calls it “a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud. Basically, it means feeling like an amateur at something no matter how accomplished you really are.

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A few months ago I took a creative writing class at my local community college. I have a degree in English: Writing & Communications. I’ve had work published in my school’s literary journal, I ran the school newspaper for two years, I’ve been writing poetry and short stories for as long as I can remember and blogging as long as I’ve been mothering. I don’t know that I’d call myself a professional but I have experience in the field and sometimes I even like my writing. Weird, right? But after eleven years of mothering, I found myself in a rut creatively and I thought taking a class with other writers might help (spoiler: it totally did).

When I showed up to the first class and the teacher asked us to introduce ourselves and tell the class what we write I found myself mumbling something along the lines of “Hi my name is Jen, I’m a stay at home mom and I’m kind of new to writing. I don’t really have a specialty.” Wait, what? NEW? I don’t know if I downplayed my writing experience for the glory of being judged as an amateur or if my eleven years of parenting make me feel like I’m moving backward instead of forwards. Or if I’m just really weird. But I am not “new to writing” by any stretch of the imagination.

The truth is that there is a little voice in the back of my mind that is always warning me that I’m probably not very good at this. Even if I amuse myself with my writing and people have been kind in the past – it doesn’t make me a good writer. How many horrible poems have we been forced to read by a friend or classmate? Who’s to say that I’m not another person with terrible poetry. More over, my inability to finish any of the novels I’ve started must be proof of my inadequacy, right? Or the fact that I wake up every morning to find that I’m still not J.K. Rowling?

And it’s not just about writing. I do the same thing with my photography and frankly with my life. I downplay any accomplishment so that when someone finally tells me how mediocre I am, it won’t be too big of a shock.

They say that we are our own worst critic and that is definitely true – but how do we stop being that awful troll booing loudly through our piano recitals and writing sessions? How do we start patting ourselves on the back and staking our claim – how do we find the bravery to tell the world that we’re awesome and talented and that we may never be J.K. Rowling but that someday a struggling writer might lament the fact that they aren’t US?

I wish I could tell you that I have an answer but the truth is that right now I’ve just got an “I noticed a problem and want to do better.” But maybe that’s the first step to figuring this out. Sometimes naming the demon is the best way to vanquish it.

Let’s try something: Name something you are GOOD at. Just blurt it out right now – out loud. I promise I’m not really listening – but say it out loud before your inner internet troll can tell you that you are wrong. CLAIM that talent today. Feel free to tell me about it in the comments.

Do you struggle with this problem?

What are you GOOD at?

an ode to the summer: because all good things must come to an end

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the hazy glow of summertime has nearly reached its end

though the sweet taste of ice cream is still on our lips

 

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the fairy wings of summer are put away

memories full of music and laughter echo but fade

we can still remember the idle hours of yesterday

as we return to the steady rhythm of today

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we reached for the stars and gazed at the sun

(carefully)

 

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we ran wild, we danced without a care.

howled at the moon and posed with a bear.

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we languished idly when the moment felt right

as it often did.

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but now we’ve memed all the moments

 

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we’ve plunged all the depths

we’ve plenty of chlorine to rinse from our tresses

the beach bags are empty

the sunscreen’s run out.

we know what this means:

school’s in, summer’s out.


I’m linking up with Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop. I chose her first prompt this week: Your summer recap in a poem and pictures. Head to her blog for more fun!

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Ninja Writers: Nobody’s Perfect

I joined this writer’s group on Facebook called Ninja Writers. The ninja genius behind the group, Shaunta, shares lots of writing advice and prompts and invites members to share samples of their writing and get feedback from one another. Today she prompted the group to write about a time when their protagonist acted more like a villain.

I’m working within the world of a story I’ve been trying to write for years now – the setting and characters change constantly, but the general gist stays the same. Anyway, here’s a story from the point of view of someone my main character might consider an enemy. I’m not sure when my main character turned into Robin Hood, but we’ll just roll with it, mkay?

Collection day was the worst day of the month. Nothing makes you feel more like the villain in your own story than marching through a poor neighborhood and shaking down tired mothers and overworked husbands. Taking money from a family that should have been used to feed babies or mend fences. But Gus had to make a living, too, had his own mouths to feed – and this was how he earned that money. He suggested trimming down taxes often, but nobody ever listened. Nobody else seemed to care – they drank their wine and ate their rich, fatty meals. They had an extra slice of cake and loosened another notch on their belt loops while the farmers in town tightened theirs to keep their threadbare clothing from falling off their limp frames. The upper crust of society doesn’t see these people, they don’t know how wide the gap is between have and have not – or maybe they just don’t care.

Gus tried to help where he could. He looked the other way when possible so a new mother could afford milk for her baby. He came by after his shift was over and helped put up the fences. He kept asking the king to lower taxes, dodging a look that burned through his soul, hoping his impertinence wouldn’t put his family at risk, too.  But first, he collected.

He climbed off his horse and walked up to a brick house that had seen better days. Children played noisily in the front yard but scampered to the back when his footsteps approached. He frowned at the idea that his presence scared young children, but walked wearily up to the door, attempting to hush the rebellious whispers in his mind. He knocked and waited, listening to the weary shuffle and then stepping back as the door opened, tired mother appearing with an infant in her arms.

“Good afternoon, ma’am,” he said, taking his hat off to greet her. She rolled her eyes at his attempt at polite conversation.

“We ain’t got no money,” she said with eyes slanted, begging him to contradict her.

“I know times are tight,” he said slowly, making sure his words were civil but firm, “But whatever you can spare is needed for the rebuilding efforts.”

“We ain’t got no money,” she said again, with venom in her voice. He coughed uncomfortably, desperately wanting to look at his toes instead of her hateful glare. But he held her eye contact.

“Any goods that can be traded then? How are crops? Let’s see what we can arrange,” he offered, mentally calculating how he might turn corn into cash in the next city before heading back to the capitol.

“Allright,” she sighed after a moment, then turned inside and yelled, “Boy, get this man a bag a corn!”

An energetic little boy of seven or eight came running at her call, disappearing around the corner before Gus could so much as blink. The woman shut the door in his face then, her duty done and Gus blinked slowly, then turned and went around the corner to see if the boy needed help. He was already halfway back, dragging a bag almost twice his size full of corn. He met the boy halfway and picked up the bag, patting the tyke on the head.

“Go on back to your momma then,” he said and carried the bag back to his wagon and nearly died of shock when he found it completely empty. Just moments before it had been filled after a four day trip through the city, four hard days on the road – four days of having doors slammed in his face and four days of children running from him as though he were an ogre.

He’d been making his last stop of the night, about to head home to the capitol and his wife and children but how could he go home now with nothing but a bag of corn? He stared in disbelief at the empty street. He thought he saw a flash of brown hair disappear into the woods but after a quick jog into the forest, he met nobody except a few curious rabbits and a perturbed deer. He fought back tears as he made his way back to his wagon, afraid for his job and his family and nauseous at the prospect of figuring out what to do next.

I kind of liked writing from Gus’s point of view – I don’t know that we’d ever really meet him in the actual story and I have no idea why I named him Gus, but there you have it. Also, we never interact with my main character at all, sorry about that. She prefers not talking to people and follows that act first, apologize later mentality.  I’m not sure if she would feel bad for Gus or not. Thoughts?

The NaNoWriMo Tag.

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I saw this NaNoWriMo tag on The Book’s The Thing and thought I’d play along since I’m clearly obsessed with tags right now – at least this one is about writing instead of just another list of books. And since I’m attempting yet another mad dashed month of writing, this one is super timely. This tag was created by Kristina Horner.

(For those of you who haven’t heard about it, November is National Novel Writing Month, and participants around the globe spend the month consuming large quantities of coffee and chocolate, and attempting to write a 50,000 word draft in 30 days.) 

What was the name of the first novel you attempted with NaNo?

The first novel I have entered in my Nanowrimo profile was called Fly Away. It’s also the only one I’ve finished on time…. shhhhh….. no negative talk about writing in November. Let me rephrase that: I even finished my novel that year! Yay!

Give us a 1 sentence summary of what you’re writing this year.

A funny memoir that talks about mostly embarrassing stories from my childhood but then tries to turn the stories into motivational mushy stuff and relate them to my adult life. Is it cheating that I’m writing nonfiction? Not sure, don’t care.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever been given?

I found a great roundup of famous writing advice at Buzzfeed.com. Here are some of my favorites:

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Did you ever take a year off from NaNo? Why?

Somehow I seem to talk myself into at least starting every year but I have a poor history with follow through. Last year I only wrote 362 words. That was my poorest showing though – most years I make it to at least 8,000. Some years I’ve gotten nearly halfway to the finish line. Fingers crossed that I can finally finish another one this year. Or at least write some great stuff.

What’s your biggest inspiration when figuring out what to write?

Dreams and music. Most of my story ideas come from crazy dreams and from great songs. Taylor Swift in particular has a tendency to do such great story telling in her music that my brain is constantly compelled to finish the stories and flesh them out until they become these big spectacular sagas in my mind. Most of my story ideas are just my brain saying, “But what happened next?”

Read us the first sentence from one of your novels.

“Fires blazed across the water, creating a rippling gold wave that flickered and glittered, waning occasionally with the flames, then roaring back to life seconds later.” – from my 2011 NaNo attempt

Why do you love writing?

I love stories in all forms from music to movies to television to coffee with friends. Writing lets me scratch the itch of “what happens next” and “what if” – it takes the crazy thoughts in my head and freezes them in time and makes sense out of the white noise in my mind.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this month? Consider yourself tagged!

summer: poetry in motion

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summer looks like wet beach towels, hung to dry

sand covered feet, salty sweet air, water slides

blisters from long walks at the amusement park

sticky faces from too much birthday cake

there’s no such thing as too much birthday cake

exploring new places and visiting old favorites

posing with stone statues that know us well

curling up with a good book, pitching an old tent

bright blooms and loud booms that bring

an explosion of color

long days on the road, lazy mornings in bed

big accomplishments, small victories

bonfires and golden brown marshmallows

family game night and movie marathons

life in excess is the motto of summer

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Find the prompts here.

He’s talented, too: MM may be the next e.e. cummings

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My son is learning about poetry in school right now. I’m not sure how much of a hand his teacher had in helping the kids write these, but I’ll choose to imagine that my son is simply the next e.e. cummings and I should start working on helping him publish his first anthology, stat.

Here are some poems he’s written for class. I was kind of blown away when I read these.

Dad

Working, busy

Works all day

Always kind and happy

Father

 

Mrs. [P]

Organised, sweet

Watching, helping, reading

Wife, teacher, reading, english

Teaching, writing, helping

Helpful, giving

Teacher

 

Up high

The sun is so hot,

the sky is so high, high up,

so I can’t reach them.

Unch

We will munch

Monday’s brunch.

I have a hunch…

Rain

There

was a knock

at the door.only a

rain drop was there.

More drizzled on

the door.  

Copyright MFE © 2015, obviously. Don’t be a jerk and steal my son’s amazing poetry.