Solitude, Impostor Syndrome, and Energetic Tackiness

This is officially the longest I’ve gone without human contact in – well, my whole life.  And while I would love to compare my experience to some monastic awakening, I’m pretty sure I’d have had to abstain from the copious amounts of red wine and Boardwalk Empire I’ve ingested in the space of that time to qualify for anything sublime.  OK – to be fair to me, I haven’t had that much wine…

(Seriously, HBO, what are you trying to do to me?  First The Sopranos, then The Wire, and now this?)

I have, however, spent quite a lot of that time in silence, hanging out with my thoughts, as it were, which is unusual for me as anyone who’s spent 10 minutes in my company will attest.  There’s this little elf in my brain that says, “All thoughts must be spoken or they become the terminal maladies of angels and fairies!”  And I listen.  Quite often to my own chagrin.  It’s interesting, though, because I’ve noticed something I think I knew before but never gave much credit – those thoughts evolve quite a lot when they’re not interrupted by yours truly.  Not into anything amazing, mind you, but they do evolve.  And sometimes – now, for instance – I find myself confronted by a number of cosmological coincidences that bear at least a little attention.

I have recently entered into a creative partnership of sorts with another writer.  The official title we’ve given it is “Accountability Partners,” a term that apparently finds its roots in the weight-loss and faith industries…we may have to revisit that.  We had our first discussion on Sunday evening, and I’m afraid that this poor, unfortunate soul was met with a three-fold version of my talkative self, because a) I’ve been alone for a week, and b) I’m a bit overwhelmed with the whole becoming-a-writer business.  And something I unloaded in that first (incredibly therapeutic) talk was that I have struggled with a fear of being seen as (discovered to be?) a complete and utter phony my whole darned life.

The first time I can remember reading the word “phony” in the context I intend for it here was in Catcher in the Rye.  Holden Caulfield used the word like it was going out of business and I totally got his meaning.  Because in the angsty, self-involved world of teenager-dom, authenticity is the most valuable commodity there is.  What is coming of age in the U.S. if it isn’t staking one’s claim, molding one’s shoe for the unique and influential footprint one will leave as an adult?  In my teenage years I may have forgotten the word, as well as where I’d read it, but I remembered its meaning through and through and through again.  “To thine own self,” and all of that.  And the value I place upon this notion of being real has not left me: the name of my website, and technically of my business – Present Pathway – comes from my favorite poem of Edgar Allen Poe, which begins, “Thou wouldst be loved? — then let thy heart / From it’s present pathway part not!”

So this is all balderdash, right?  How can it be that I’m at once driven by a search for authenticity and overwhelmed by a fear that I’ll be found out for the phony I really am?

How many times do the gangsters in my favorite HBO series go to confession?

Life is just like that.   The problem, of course, is that words spoken are often (not always!) forgotten, while words written – well, you get my drift.  Here I am, edging ever deeper into my early-mid-thirties, and I’m only just now following my dream of becoming a writer?  And you know who hears this underlying and very loud voice coming from my psyche shouting, “I’M-A-FAKE-AND-YOU’RE-GONNA-FIND-OUT-SOONER-OR-LATER-HOLY-CRAP!”?  Editors.  Even over the phone.  Or Skype, rather.  Even when they don’t answer their phone.  I’m pretty sure it’s why they don’t pick up.  They’re refusing to pick up because I’m scaring them away before I even make contact with a psychic dose of desperation and fear.  How do I know this?

Enter Cosmos:  I follow a couple of excellent blogs about writing.  And it is from these bloggers that I have learned two very important terms in the world of writing (and everything, really, I guess): “Impostor Syndrome” and “Energetic Tackiness“. And it got me to thinking about my fears of fraudulence…and my difficulty in approaching editors.  And while these terms do not solve my problems, they give them names, which, as anyone who has suffered from an unknown ailment will concur, is huge.

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10 thoughts on “Solitude, Impostor Syndrome, and Energetic Tackiness

  1. Steph Auteri says:

    My own solution for imposter syndrome, which still dogs me: Remembering all the things I’ve already accomplished, and all the positive feedback I’ve received. It can be helpful to keep a “warm fuzzies” folder for the best emails and tweets you receive… things you can look back on when you’re at a low point.

    I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog! 🙂

  2. maxzografos says:

    bravo ! Also, I wish our call would last twice the time it did, but my sugar levels are unpredictable, I just had to eat something. Will be better prepared next time. xoxo

  3. ann says:

    see how i dived right into the whole self-exposure thing? therapeutic, indeed.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Well daughter, I truly cannot remember a time in my life that I was totally alone and so I envy that. Not that I would want to do it very long or even very often, but would like to experience it.
    I cherished the times I drove the locked back road down to Fishermen’s Camp to clean out fire pits and outdoor toilets as, a few times, I was totally alone. However, it was also a favorite thing to do for Michael and Matthew so it only happened a couple of times. And, it was important to hurry and get back as quickly as possible as there were so many other things that needed to be done.
    At this point in my life, if I were totally alone, it would mean something had happened to the love of my life, so guess I will continue to appreciate all that I have. Good thoughtful post—-you are not a fake…… are and have always been a writer. Spoken like a true MOM.

  5. JeskaJoy says:

    “I’m only just now following my dream of becoming a writer?”

    Don’t be so hard on yourself babe. Some people never end up following their dreams.

    So, Great work!!!!

  6. ann says:

    hehe…that’s another post all together, m’dear…hope all’s well with you! too long no see!

  7. I’m just now following my dream as a writer as well, and I just turned 40. Gotten a few sales of small pieces, nothing to get all steamed up about. Yet! So there’s hope for both of us, right?

    Maybe what was dogging me is dogging you–not the sense that we’ve been fakes our whole lives, but that our self-concepts have been wrong the whole time! If we feel we’re “writers” (whatever that means), and then someone tells us that our stuff sucks, and we never make money from it, or sell anything, then not only are we bad writers (whatever that means), but the whole gestalt of our self-concept as “writer” was wrong to begin with! Not thinking of ourselves as writers, that’s like Shylock not being able to think of himself as Jewish anymore–devastating!!!

    Luckily, I don’t think that’ll be the case here, for either of us. No one who spouts of St. Augustine, philosophy, Shakespeare, religion, Poe and self-concept can be a failure at writing. From one Imposter Syndrome sufferer to another, good luck!

    • ann says:

      mr. belanger, you have officially made my day. many, many thanks.

      • Ann, glad I could help. And call me Steve, please. I get called Mr. Belanger enough at my day job!

        Having quite the imposter weekend myself, just now. I’m gettin’ over it and movin’ on. Here’s hoping for good writing for both of us.

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