Fuckin’ imposter syndrome, man

I never totally bought into the idea of imposter syndrome. I mean, I had heard people talk about it, but those people were the ones who were very clearly Making It Work, so I didn’t really believe it existed. But then I was furloughed. In a fit of fuck-the-world-ism, I came up with an idea for an article and sent a pitch out to every editor I could google.  After all, if I was suddenly going to have a ton of free time I was going to pretend to be the writer I wish I was, not the unhappy office worker I really am. I have since done some research and discovered that pitching the same thing to a load of places is not the way to do it. But what can I say? We live and learn.

I knew the article I wanted to write, but I didn’t really expect anybody to want me to write it. I was just happy to say I’d tried. So, imagine my surprise when I got a reply to say ‘this sounds great, go ahead and write it for us’. Or, more accurately, imagine the panic attack I had. I was not ready for a ‘yes’. I was only prepared to spend a couple of evenings watching Schitts Creek, pounding Lidl pinot grigio, and cursing The Establishment. Or, The Man. Or some other faceless entity I could blame my dissatisfaction on that wasn’t myself. But that wasn’t to be. So I freaked out.

When I was over my initial panic (which included leaving my phone in another room so that the email would stop staring at me, and then making a risotto because forty five minutes of stirring rice is very soothing) I got to work. I had given the article quite a lot of thought when I was writing my pitch, so I kind of knew what I wanted to say. Plus, I was writing about something I felt passionately about. Which is all to say that the writing itself came very easily. I basically had it done the day after I was commissioned.

Did I stop there, though? Did I congratulate myself on a job well done and submit it early? Absolutely not! I fiddled with it. And I fiddled with it. And then I fiddled with it some more. I read it out loud like a crazy person. I wrote whole additional paragraphs only to delete them again. I could not leave it alone.

The day before the article was due, I was still messing with it. Not in any big way. I was just tweaking things that didn’t need tweaking, as I had been for the previous seventy-two hours. And then I got paranoid. I could suddenly see a thousand holes in everything I’d written, and how somebody on Twitter would use each one of them against me. I came up with myriad ways my article about me and my own experience could offend somebody else. I worried that I would somehow go viral for being tone deaf, which might be my biggest fear, even over rollercoasters and axe murderers.

In the end, guess what? None of that happened. A couple of people were mildly nice on social media and then the entire thing disappeared, as well it should, because it’s the internet and that’s how the internet works.

I was excited about my article. So when it was published I shared it on Facebook, and Instagram, and sent it to my family Whatsapp group. And as soon as nice friends and family members started saying ‘well done’ I began to reply with ‘thanks, it’s no big deal’. But, I mean, it kind of was a big deal. If I ever end up being the hugely-wealthy columnist I aspire to be, maybe I’ll dismiss it. But, in the mean time I had the idea, pitched the idea, and got the idea commissioned. It wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for that. I definitely deserve to feel a little bit proud.

I thought that was it until it came to pitching my next idea. Even though I technically had a 100% success rate, I got scared all over again. I suddenly felt like an idiot emailing editors as if I was a writer. Who was I to call myself a writer? Just because I write every day and somebody had even paid me to do it? A writer? Really?

While I was working away at the half-finished pitch which was chilling me to my very core, I got another email. This one came from a very nice lady who ran an online showcase I had done a reading at. She was running another one and wanted me to be involved. So, naturally, I read what she had to say and decided she was only contacting me to be nice. I replied to say I’d do it, fully expecting her to say ‘thanks, but I didn’t mean it’. But guess what? She wanted me to do the thing she had asked me to do, because if she didn’t she wouldn’t have asked.

I don’t totally know what my point is here except to wonder exactly when I, the person writing this because I like writing, will finally feel comfortable calling myself a writer. Out loud. To anybody but my own reflection. I thought writing all of this down would make me see how ridiculous it was. I thought maybe someone would come across it one day and feel a little less crazy, so it would be worth sharing. But now that I’m two minutes away from hitting ‘publish’, I wonder why I would ever think it was worthwhile. So, that’s fun. Again. Fuckin’ imposter syndrome, man. It’s a thing.

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