I am an introvert by nature and while I can strap on my “public” big girl pants and enjoy social interactions, if given a choice, I’d happily curl up in an overstuffed chair, book in hand, and occasionally peek out at life for random bouts of people watching. I actually have to “prepare” myself when scheduled to make group presentations or proposals. And attending conferences? Yeah that requires almost a full week for recovery. Not just for my day job, but even when it comes to my passion of writing. To put it in perspective, if asked to do the twenty-minute table topic at my monthly RWA meet, it takes fifteen minutes of silently fending off nerves before I can open my mouth. Seriously. This may explain why I’m much more comfortable behind a keyboard than center stage.
This deep-seated need to not attract attention is why I chose to attend Dr. Valerie Young’s RWA workshop on imposter thinking. It was a great workshop that discussed how you perceive yourself and why. In my case, even with eight full-length titles available, I still don’t see myself as “successful” or consider myself “knowledgeable” as a writer. I can hear your “WTH?’s” and yeah, I know, even I’m muttering it as I read what I’ve typed.
Here’s the thing, there’s this nasty-ass little voice in my head that constantly derides what I accomplish by pushing for more. That could’ve been worded better. That’s been done, find something new. Why can’t do as much as (insert name here)? Even worse, is the snide little bastard, You can’t possibly share anything worthwhile with these accomplished writers. What are you thinking?
That little worm is thanks to numerous experiences that I’m not going to waste time giving space to because it doesn’t deserve it. Let’s just say that insecurity and self-doubt suck ass, and move on.
Moving on. I’m not sure why it took sitting in Dr. Young’s workshop and sharing with some seriously courageous writers for the light to come on, but it did. Dr. Young’s questions of, “What do you gain thinking like this?” and “What opportunities do you lose out on because of this approach?” managed to barrel their way through the ugliness. The clincher came when a discussion occurred around our initial response to a reader’s heartfelt, “I love your books!”.
You would think our initial response would be, “Thank you”, and for the most part it is. What was startling was how many of gathered admitted that silently we would tack on such silent thoughts as “Oh, they’re just being nice” or other detrimental qualifiers.
When hearing our shamed confessions, Dr. Young didn’t pull any punches, asking, “Do you think your readers are unintelligent and can’t recognize a good story when they read one?”
It was a well-deserved slap in the face, because I know for a fact readers are highly selective. They have to be, because there is so much good stuff to choose from. In fact, the next time someone is nice enough to say, “I love your books” I’m going to treat it like the gift it is and say, “Thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I worked really hard on it.”
Here’s the concept that was so hard for me to accept: It’s okay to be proud of your work, and you should be proud of what you’ve accomplished.
I can’t fully explain why this is such a hard idea to accept, but it is. However, I’m determined to shut those nasty little voices up for good, and to do that requires a shift in my thinking. If you’re a writer, whether you’re published or not, I urge you to take pride in your creative accomplishments. Just because you haven’t hit those lists or haven’t signed on the dotted line, doesn’t make you any less qualified than those who have. The things you’ve learned are worth sharing with others, regardless of their accomplishments. None of us are better or less than those around us. Believe that. You’ve worked hard to hone your craft, you’re constantly learning from those around you, and your work is ever evolving. Share your knowledge with others, there may be something you find obvious that may resonate with them, and if you never shared, never encouraged, they may not take the chance to reach for their dreams.
Remember and cherish the fact that you are a writer.