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Monday, 16 February 2009

Are you an imposter?


Goldfish_with_shark_fin The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.

Bertrand  Russell


I am an imposter. At least I feel like I am. I feel like I'm pretending; that I've not earned the right. I don't always feel this way but I do some of the time. The veneer is very thin and all it takes is one sharp remark to tear it and then the truth will be out. At least that's how I feel. If I keep writing, if I keep firing out words between you and me, then I feel safer. The words are a distraction. So I write as many as I can. If I can keep them coming then you won't find me out, although I know it is only a matter of time. Of that I'm sure. And then everyone will know I'm not a real writer. The words should be enough. That's all real writers have to work with, that and some genuine talent. I feel that I have to keep writing because as soon as I go silent then there will be room for someone to do one of those fake attention-getting coughs and I’ll know I've been found out.

Do you ever feel like that? I do. As soon as I'm not writing then I feel that I'm no longer a writer. And the more time that passes the more I'm convinced that I'm a fake. You could take me through to my office and pile up the folders on my desk with all the hundreds of thousands of words that I've written and I'd still find some way to shrug it all off as if it was some other me that did all that. I know it’s not true, but, as I've said to my doctor several times, it is possible to have an irrational fear, know it's irrational and be able to talk rationally about it but still be unable to face that fear.

When does one become a real writer? I don't have an MA in Creative Writing. There's no bit of paper in a teak-effect frame in my office saying that I am. I don't have letters after my name. What proof am I looking for?

There's an expression for this: imposter syndrome. It's more common amongst women so I've read but I assure you men are not exempt and I suspect this has nothing to do with genes of chromosomes or any of the biological differences between the sexes. More likely it has to do with how women have been treated over the years but let's not get distracted here. We can talk about feminism some other time.

Dr. Valerie Young was sitting in class one day in the fourth year of a doctoral programme which, as you can see from her title, she must have got through. Another student rose to present the findings of a study conducted by psychology professor Pauline Clance and psychologist Suzanne Imes called The Impostor Phenomenon Among High Achieving Women. I'll let her continue:

In a nutshell, Clance and Imes found that many of their female clients seemed unable to internalize their accomplishments. External proof of intelligence and ability in the form of academic excellence, degrees, recognition, promotions and the like was routinely dismissed. Instead, success was attributed to contacts, luck, timing, perseverance, personality or otherwise having "fooled" others into thinking they were smarter and more capable than these women "knew" themselves to be. 

Rather than offering assurance, each new achievement and subsequent challenge only served to intensify the ever-present fear of being...

"Oh my God," I thought, "I've been unmasked!" 

Clearly flustered, I quickly scanned the room checking to see if anyone had caught me nodding in dismayed recognition. No one had. They were too busy bobbing their own heads in like-minded unison. 

The bottom line is that the good doctor has now spent twenty-five years working with women who feel like imposters, fakes or frauds. She maintains a site called Overcoming Imposter Syndrome, runs courses and – of course – has written a book about all this. I've not read her book nor attended any of her courses so I'm not recommending her as such but the simple fact is that she clearly has a market for her product.

Examples, one famous and three not so much:

Jodie Foster said in a tv interview.. that before her Oscar-winning performance in The Accused she felt "like an impostor, faking it, that someday they'd find out I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't. I still don't." - Gifted Women: Identity and Expression

Social anxiety and personal insecurities are at an all-time high. The situation is probably a bit better than the way it feels (it just has to be)... My stomach is constantly churning--when will my new co-workers figure out how much I actually don't know? I just know they'll find me out for the impostor that I am. – Land of Yajeev

Why is this so difficult? It's a confidence thing. Every time Kelly and I start a new book, I am scared shitless that this is the one that will reek. I'm terrified that we have run out of gas; that our ambivalence is showing and we will become one of those pathetic writers who phone it in. I'm worried that we don't have the energy to do it again. I'm thinking that this is the plot that is pallid, that this story is shapeless. I am certain that this is when it will all fall apart and everyone will see me for the fraud I am. – Cabbages and Kings

You know, I've been working where I am now for almost a year.  It's gone very well.  I've achieved a great deal since I've started, learned a great deal, and met some great people.  And almost every single day I go to work, sit at my desk, and wonder if they'll catch me.  If they'll finally realize I'm faking it. – Stultiloquent, The Observations of a Lifelong Introvert

There were two things that came together for me to write this post. The first was my wife reading an article about Imposter Syndrome and mentioning it to me. The second was a comment made by Marcy on a recent post, When is enough enough? In her comment she includes a quote from the post:

"I shy away from [regarding myself an expert on Beckett] because although I know a lot I couldn't stand up and take questions from the audience with any degree of confidence."

Actually, I would bet that you could to some degree. Based on my experience, I would guess that the only difference between you and those who do regard themselves "experts" is that you actually admit to not knowing things.

I've thought about what she said for a while. Would I be happier if I'd written a book on Beckett? Perhaps. I did write all those entries on Wikipedia, every Beckett play bar Endgame (don't get me started on Endgame) and I don't see anyone hacking them to pieces. I even included a couple of pieces of original thought which I know you're not supposed to but I did back them up. I should be quite pleased with myself and yet I shrug them off as if they were nothing but the simple fact is they took me six months to research and write; the entry for Waiting for Godot alone took me six weeks since I felt I needed to triple check everything. So, why am I dissatisfied with them? I think one of the main things is that I had to cut my cloth to fit. The Godot entry alone is just under 10,000 words although I see someone has added in a section on 'Interpretations from compassion' that makes a few unsubstantiated claims. Anyway, add all the entries together and you'll have a book. That's all I'm trying to say.

We are all our own harshest critics. I certainly am. I wasn’t always – when I was a teenager I was a genius and the world was blinded by my brilliance which is why they failed to recognise that. Yeah, right. In her article, The Inner Critic, author Sharon Good makes this comment:

* The first step in dealing with the inner critic is to recognize it as a separate entity from yourself.  

It is a voice within you, but it's not you. This voice has been your constant companion since childhood, and it's likely so much a part of you, like the air you breathe, that you hardly even notice it.  

Realize that these are the combined voices of all the authority figures you grew up with -- parents, teachers, religious leaders or just about any adult. When you were small, not heeding these voices could result in physical or emotional pain or humiliation.

I found this interesting. It states the obvious but so often the wisest words of wisdom do exactly that. I look at some of the things I've written that have affected people and I scratch my head because all I've done is exactly that: state the obvious.

Those lucky few of you who have a copy of my first novel, Living with the Truth will recognise these words:

For my father
despite the fact he never finished it

The dedication was always going to be 'For my father … something, something' although it was years before I realised what the 'something, something' was going to be.

My father lost his sight after he retired from work. Gradually it slipped away from him. By the time I'd finished my novel he could no longer read and so I offered to read it to him. He'd not heard any of my work since I was a teenager at which time my 'genius' escaped him I'm afraid.

I read the book to him over several sittings but we never got to the end of it. I don't know why we never finished it and I'm not simply saying that because I don't want to talk about it. I honestly don't remember why we stopped. He never said he liked it. He never said he hated it. I don't think he really got it.

We used to trudge up the stairs to his study. And he'd call out to my mum:

"We're just going upstairs to read our Jimmy's story."

"It's a novel, Dad."

"Aye, that's what I meant."

Of course he meant no insult by calling my novel a 'story' because it is a story but I would've been so much happier if he'd at least said 'book' but it wasn't a book, not then, just a manuscript, not a real book.

Now, let's not paint my dad in too dark a shade here. He was actually very supportive and he would often come into the front room when I was a teenager and get me to play him some of my tunes. Music made sense to him. All you had to do was like it or not like it. Words needed thinking about. He read but never fiction. My mother was the same.

My parents are both dead now. And yet still my inner critic lives on, impossible to please as always.

There's a bit of writing that had a great effect on me which I've mentioned before. It's by Camus, from his novel The Plague. In the book there's a character, Grand, a low-level clerk with a passion for writing who has been working on the same opening sentence for years, unwilling to move on until he is convinced his first sentence is perfect, something very romantic and imagistic involving a horse and a complicated narrative perspective.

Triumphantly he read out the sentence:

"One fine morning in May a slim young horsewoman might have been seen riding a glossy sorrel mare along the flower-strewn avenue of the Bois de Boulogne."

But, spoken aloud, the numerous "s" sounds had a disagreeable effect and Grand stumbled over them, lisping here and there. He sat down crestfallen; then he asked the doctor if he might go. Some hard thinking lay ahead of him.

horsewoman_in_the_bois_de_boulogne-400 A Morning Ride in the Bois de Boulogne

I used to be like that, putting in the proverbial comma and then taking it out again. You can drive yourself potty doing that. More and more I became dissatisfied with words; they were all inadequate, imprecise. This is how I began to realise I wasn't the genius I was so sure I was in my teens; I couldn't string a sentence together and get it right. I was an imposter, a pretender to the throne.

Nowadays I don't pretend so much. Or at least I'm more open about my pretences. I realise that anhedonic character I am prone to be is never going to be completely pleased with anything I ever do. So I use other people more often than not as benchmarks. If my wife is pleased with a poem, it gets a number and goes in the big red folder. And that's it.

It's easy to lose perspective and find yourself writing the same sentence over and over again until you get it right.

Without looking you can find you've lost perspective and find yourself writing the same sentence over and over again until you get it right.

Without thinking you can discover you've lost perspective and find yourself writing the same sentence over and over again until you get it right.

Without thinking you might suddenly realise you've lost perspective and find yourself writing the same sentence over and over again until you get it right.

One day you might suddenly find you've lost the plot and find yourself writing the same sentence over and over again until you get it right.

One day you might suddenly find you've lost the plot and discover you've been writing the same sentence over and over again and it's never going to be right.

One day you might suddenly find you've lost the plot and discover you've been working on the same sentence or poem or novel over and over again and it's never going to be right.

One day you might suddenly discover you've been tinkering with the same sentence or poem or novel for days or weeks or years and it's never going to be right.

One day it will dawn on you that you've been reworking the same sentence or poem or novel for days or weeks or years and it's never going to be right.

Some day it will dawn on you that you've been reworking the same thing for days or weeks or even years and it's never going to say exactly what you wanted to say.

One day it will dawn on you that you've been going over the same ground for years and it's never going to say exactly what you wanted to say.

And one day you've have forgotten what you wanted to say in the first place and you'll wonder if what you had to say really needed to be said at all.

I'm not famous or successful. I may never be either. Probably when I'm dead – that's the way it usually goes. Possibly. Who knows? But I don't think it's too early to put what talent I have in perspective. And I'm sure there will be a few out there reading this "bobbing their own heads in like-minded unison."


Rachel Fox said...

You know this already but of course all the best writers (and people) have times of self-doubt (minutes, days, years...). Call it imposter syndrome if you like but think of someone you know who never experiences those kinds of feelings...complete idiot right? Talented writer with something to say? Possible...but unlikely...

You really must get some of the Don Paterson aphorisms (they are my this year's craze!). Take this from 'The Book of Shadows' (and from the multi-award winning, no-one-can-deny-it proper writer):

"Not as clever as he thinks he is - the one criticism I could always inwardly dismiss and which never touched me. My low opinion of myself is inalienably mine, and thus supremely qualified - and to that extent irrefutable."

Of course I don't necessarily believe that 100%...he's an awkward bugger, Paterson (I know a few of those!)...but it's interesting and I like it.

Also it's February. Roll on the Spring.


Dave King said...

Yes Jim I have that feeling in spades. Didn't know it was a syndrom I had, though. I have it not just about writing.

When I was teaching I used to have this fantasy that they were about to discover something amiss with my qualifications and say I'd never really been a teacher at all. (This had nothing to do with the events recounted in my Faking it post. It predated them.)

I also have an irrational fear I can talk rationally about, but... but I am about to post on that one, too!

Fascinating post though, even if a little too near the bone for me.

Anonymous said...

This post has reminded me of two things. First - someone somewhere said that every true piece of art is made unintentionally.This has stayed with me for a quite some time. And the second is something that Hanif Kureishi said in one of his interviews: "You don't ever reach a conclusion - but it's the conversation that matters. Only when you stop talking honestly about what goes on inside human beings, [does] evil happen in the silence."

Ken Armstrong said...

This is most interesting to me because I actually *am* an impostor.

Anonymous said...

yes, this will strike a chord with so many folk I'm sure.... I think doubt ( and self doubt ) is the itch to tickle creativity.
I'd say though , a writer is someone who puts words together to create an image in the mind that other people want to read. And I still have a vivid picture of you as a young man in that Edinburgh pub watching the girl dancing and all the thoughts ( and poem ) it provoked.

McGuire said...

This is beautiful.

It takes a certain sort of arrogance and even self-loathing to think to-hell-with-my-inability - God loves a tryer.

I am this self-doubter, I am the imposter, the poetaster, the fool, the imitation of a poet/writer. Part of my defence mechanism is 'knowing I'm not a good writer and that in time I will improve simply by hammering at it with a light heart and a heavy soul' knowing I'm dyslexic and therefore inadequate for the job. In fact, I think think, I'll simply be the poet of the illiterati.

We do torture ourselves. We want people to recognise our words. To recognise them truly, as something close to the truth, as honest words held out. Afterall what is reading = but empathy and understanding.

I love this post Jim, you really 'come close to the bone' for all of us in this blog writing sphere. Perhaps we all feel like 'amateurs' like great pretenders dancing about 'Great Writers' by reading them.

We want to 'contribute' some words to human life, to 'world memory' *as I call it*. There is something precious about that, even if we don't succeed.

It's also tough to concede that maybe we just can't write. Maybe we shouldn't. Maybe we would be better Doctors. Whittlers. Mechanics. It's hard to say I'm done with this game. I'm not playing it anymore. We want to be touch in the head by the finger of God, or write something so embodying the world, the people, the animals, the earth, that we can't give it up.

Afterall, the world have more 'unsuccessful writers' than successful. Perhaps it should be enough to simply have out closest loved one's and friends enjoy our efforts and anything else is outside of our control.

What Jasko says is so try I could almost cry. 'Great works of art are unintentional'. As Bukowski once said: Don't try. Perhaps he means the same thing. Try hard if you love it. But don't try hard to be great.

So many thoughts. I love this post. It's so relevant. I feel so inadequate. Conceitedly deluding myself that one day, my words my have a lift of their own.

I once heard someone say ' Don't write' it is the most useless thing you could do. So many try. Most fail. Those that succeed rarely are alive to know they have won.

Marion McCready said...

How interesting about the imposter syndrome, I don't think it's the same as self-doubt as a writer that most of us get. The findings of the study completely describe my husband, I've always puzzled over his imposter mindset (he's not a writer at all).

Patrice said...

My first impulse was to respond to the first part of this post and to identify with all the other impostors. But after thinking on this a bit, I realize I don't really feel any longer like the impostor I was growing up.

I was not me. As a cripplingly shy child, I pleased everyone but myself. While pretending to be like the others, safety and solace was in finding my real peers in books.

When I was twelve, my family moved to a new town. I saw this as my chance to make myself over - to break out of my shyness and be "myself" - a smarter, more outspoken, funny, witty girl. And the amazing thing was that I did just this. I became a friendly, popular girl. But no one knew that on the inside I was still terrified, shy, and seeking approval. I traded one persona for another.

I'm fairly comfortable with my various personas these days, as I recognize I am none of them and all of them. I embrace the contradictions.

Anonymous said...

I just saw an interview with Robert Downey Jnr where he said that this feeling was behind a lot of his self-destructive behaviour and realising that it was almost universal had helped him a lot. In the end is it a choice between this and the insane arrogance of Tom Cruise? I oscillate between the two, it keeps life interesting. The middle ground, feeling average and normal, is hardly the correct mindset for a writer.

Art Durkee said...

I'm going to be the voice of dissent here. I can certainly torture myself, in fact I've been doing a lot of that lately, but it's only very rarely about my creative work. And within that realm, since music is closest to my bone, I have more angst about it. Writing is a distant third. The paradox is that the thing I feel the least angst about is the one that gets me the most recognition lately. Go figure. Maybe there's sort of spiritual wisdom in that, I don't know.

The whole Tortured Artist thing rather feels like a stereotype or archetype at times. Like the Starving Artist archetype. I don't ally myself with that anymore.

EVERYONE thinks they're an impostor, not just writers. Everyone has those feelings, in some arena of their lives. Everyone feels like they're faking it—I do, too, just not in the arts.

it's an amazing thing, self-confidence. And you're right, it's internally generated or it isn't there at all.

One of the few actual spiritual teachers that I think is worth listening to rather than laughing at these days is Caroline Myss. It's been interesting to follow her thinking, over the years. Recently she's arrived at the conclusion, following decades of experience and observation, that the basic spiritual power that lies at the root of all of them is self-esteem. Think about it. Self-esteem is more important than love, because without self-esteem love is often twisted or incomplete. How can you really love someone else if you don't love yourself as much?

I've done a lot of Jungian and transpersonal psychology, for various reasons. It became clear to me some time ago that the only way I could really move forward was to integrate all those parts of me that I didn't really like. Perhaps you're doing a bit of that here, by talking it through and acknowledging it. For myself, and I don't claim to have all the answers or have any wisdom for anyone, I've found that the more accepting I am of my own faults and weaknesses and flaws, the more my strengths do kick into gear. I think you have to accept the darker bits in order to free the rest.

So, long-winded comment as this has become, I guess what I'm saying is: If you're an impostor so is everyone else. And if we're all impostors, then we're all in the same boat, and it doesn't matter anymore. I find that a thought that frees up a lot energy for me.

Art Durkee said...

P.S. I really like Patrice's comments. They speak to me own experience, which was very similar to what she describes.

Jim Murdoch said...

Rachel, I didn't know about Don Paterson's aphorisms but, after looking the up, I find I like this one:

Read a whole book of aphorisms by N. It felt like swallowing an entire bottle of homeopathic remedy, whose total absence of effect did nothing but reinforce my suspicion that the aphorism is only useful in small measured doses—but even then it’s only a kind of intellectual placebo, prompting ideas the reader should have prompted in themselves anyway.

I actually thought about assembling such a book when I was young, a sort of Jim's Proverbs, but it felt a bit arrogant. But then I thought I knew everything back then. Now I'm plummeting towards fifty I realise I don't know anything but it's fun wallowing in my ignorance. Hey, did I just do an aphorism?

Apologies to your bones, Dave, but from the comments so far it does seem that we're not alone. I'll be totally honest I can't remember your post, Faking it. This says nothing about the quality of your post but everything about my crumbling memory. I look forward to your post on fear. I guess why we can do it is that we split rather neatly into two halves, intellectual and emotional; fears are emotional responses and so why not be able to talk rationally (i.e. intellectually) about them whilst still hanging onto them for dear life?

I tend to agree, Jasko, because every really worthwhile thing I've written has just happened; all the components have come together at the right place and the right time and all I've needed to do was assemble them.

Ken, if you want to be an imposter of course you can be an imposter. Just make sure to clean up after you. (Is that another aphorism maybe?)

I'll have to have a wee think about that, Isabelle. "[D]oubt ( and self doubt ) is the itch to tickle creativity" sounds aphoristic too. Are we saying that if we're sure about something then we're not going to be able to do a good job writing about it? Or is it that writing is an act of exploration and if we're totally familiar with a subject what is there to explore and discover?

Don't try to be great, McGuire, yes, that says it well. If that is our reason to write we will surely fail. Greatness is not the end product of writing; it is a response to great writing. I don’t think there is a writer out there who doesn't do his best every time he or she sits down to write. What that best is will differ from one writer to the next. I want what I write to be effective. I want people to say: "That was great, Jim," but as soon as you slap and uppercase G on that great then you've got a problem.

As for whether you can write, go back and read over the comments made on your site. Other people will determine whether you can write or not. Your nose is too close to the page to be objective.

You've hit it in the nail, Sorlil, the two are different but I suspect that all those who suffer from imposter syndrome began like all of us and that simple self doubt grew into a full-blown syndrome.

Patrice - nice to see a new name up here – interesting thoughts about personas. I can relate to a lot of what you've said her although my reinvention too a bit longer. The question I find myself asking is: Is Jim-the-writer a persona or have I finally accepted the mantle of the 'real me'? I'll have to think about that.

Paul, that ruddy word 'normal', eh? I'm sure I've written about that before, what's normal-for-me or normal-for-a-writer … I've become a bit tired worrying about it. I write when I can and do other stuff when I can't. It has been a long time since I've been anything resembling arrogant though, though I used to be very cocksure for sure.

And, Art, dissent away my friend, I have to say that Myss' remarks remind a heck of a lot of what Jesus had to say about loving ones own flesh and cherishing it and certainly self esteem is a part of that but not the whole.

Yes, of course, everyone will feel like an imposter, that they're out of their depth from time to time; that's a given. Speaking about it like this is good therapy and the main reason I wrote this article because I know there are a few writers out there who have been quite vocal about their failings and have even expressed puzzlement over why people come to their sites and read their efforts. I think self doubt is a lot like a lisp. A great many people grow out of these but when put under a lot of pressure the lisp returns; the lisper never went away and it takes very little for my self-doubter to return.

Unknown said...

Yes of course I'm an imposter, too. Not only as a writer. When I chaired a women's college board of governors, it was completely laughable that I was the 'employer' of a principal who was earning in the region of £70K, and we didn't always see eye to eye.

But I wasn't alone. Our President was Helena Kennedy QC, otherwise known as Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws. At every graduation ceremony her speech included a reference to feeling like an imposter because of her Glasgow working class background, despite having many more awards and honorary degrees than you could count on the digits of both hands and feet.

Art Durkee said...

Hmn, I think you're right about self-doubt returning—often at moments of weakness when it can do the most harm. Learning to get through that is a regular practice, by no means a process that ends once and for all at some lofty goal.

Let me add my voice to those who puzzle over why people come to read my writings. I am often amazed at the turnout. There are lots of times when it feels like shouting down a well and never getting an echo back. I started the Road Journal in 2004, and I think I got feedback about what I'd written there maybe 4 times a YEAR for a long time.

Actually, I was thinking about this yesterday. I was thinking, how come no one ever comments on a piece I think is my best, while I get lots of comments on what I think is a throwaway piece? LOL Just goes to show we're not usually our best critics, or always know what we're doing. People get what they get, which is not always what we think we've given. That's been a big lesson in my life, this past year or so, and the lesson I've gotten from it is a greater (not total or perfect!) level of detachment from outcomes. More and more, I just write what I want to, and have fewer expectations for what happens later. I find too that that has boosted my self-esteem a bit, as I learn to trust my own inner compass rather than crave external validation so much. Make sense? I dunno if I explained that very well, sorry.

Marcy said...

Some thoughts offered (whilst I am recovering the crushing blow dealt by the fact that this blog is not all about me).

I do not belong here. I am not exceptional in any way. I have nothing worthwhile to contribute.

What makes me think that I have any business publishing a bunch of self-indulgent thoughts and poetry? What makes me think that I have any business commenting on the words of others, all of whom certainly hold more talent in their left index finger than I hold in my entire ...

I torture myself over much of what I write and yes, I will admit for all to see that I bring this torture along for the ride even when writing a seemingly simple blog comment.

I think this comment is self-indulgent.

And yet, I think there just comes a time when one has to choose to fight the battle of long-ago conditioning and listen to that little voice inside with the answer to all of this self-questioning: "Because I can."

Excellent work, as usual, Jim. You are indeed more clever than you believe yourself to be.

Jim Murdoch said...

Jakill, this wee article really seems to have struck a chord because everyone at some time in their life has found themselves out of their depth. The question keeps coming back to me: When does it go away? In the case of a writer, when they publish their first poem, their first collection or when they finally get the Nobel Prize for Literature? We're warned never to get above our station in life but I think what we need to realise is that a man's a man for a' that and so much of the time success is more a matter of luck than hard work and ability.

You're right, Art, if you have no expectations then anything that does come you way is a bonus. I have to say I feel guilty for not commenting on your posts more and in greater depth but the fact of the matter is that you get what I have to give. Over the last couple of months that hasn't been so much; it takes me all my time to read them let alone construct a worthy response and when I do respond I, like a lot of people, just pick one point to pass comment on. It's not that I haven't got something to say about the rest but there is never enough time. An internal compass is all well and good though but there's nothing quite like a pat on the back from some bloke on the other side of the world who has nothing to gain by leaving a few words of encouragement.

And, Marcy, I am exactly the same. I take every comment I make as seriously as if it were a blog in itself. People have shaved a few minutes off their lives to encourage and support me, or at least to walk a few steps with me along this road, and I think that's just great which is why I try and give a proper answer to each and every person who passes by and leaves their mark.

Surprising that you are the first to mention the word 'conditioning' but it's a good word. In many cases that is what we're fighting against. Excellent point.

As for how clever I am. I know I'm clever. Being brainy has never been a problem for me. Remembering what I've learned is. It's scary just how much I have forgotten. I just can't seem to hang onto it.

Rachel Fox said...

I quite like the idea of Jim's proverbs or aphorisms or whatever you want to call them. I bet you'd do it well...and I'm sure they sell more than books of poetry. Also...much as I love poetry...and don't tell anyone...but really anyone can at least have a go at writing poems and come up with something that at least a few people will think is good (calm down, purists, take a deep breath and lie down...). Wise words though, aphorisms, insightful comments on how we live and why...I'm not so sure that just anyone can do that. It looks easy...but that's a common trap! Wisdom is hard to fake.

Also I don't really care if the book is by Jim-the-persona or the 'real you'. I'm not sure if there ever is one thing called the 'real us'...we change all the time and it's only when in really severe situations that we have any idea what our true natures are ('do we save the drowning child or ourselves?' etc.) and even's murky. That's one reason people enjoy the reality TV shows so much - we like watching people under pressure and seeing their behaviour change...we think we see the real them. And do we? Who knows..? Depends how many layers they have...

Jim Murdoch said...

Rachel, you're very kind but at the moment my mind is like an old engine that I'm trying to do something with. Every now and then I stick a screwdriver in and we get a spark or two but that's it; they don't last very long. At my age and after the sheer amount of effort I've put in over the years I'd be embarrassed if I didn't have a few wise words of wisdom to share. But don't mistake someone who knows a lot with a wise man, don't even think a man who understands a lot is wise and for God's sakes don't think that a wise man automatically is capable of an ounce of insight. Now, you might think that's an aphorism and you may be right or you may be wrong; I've simply distilled stuff I've seen over the years and that's what I've come up with. It sounds clever but I've always been a bit wary or cleverness. The difference between cleverness and wisdom is the difference between rubbing alcohol and fine Scotch. I'm uncomfortable being cast as the wise old sage; I suppose I could pull it off for an audience or two but I'd just feel like the pretender I always have and likely always will. Oops - spark gone.

Kaylia Metcalfe said...

Thank you for this post... there was so much in it that I found myself agreeing wtih, and thinking about.

Am I a writer? What is a writer? I write... I try to write something worth reading.... (That is my hope.)

Anyway, long time lurker here, just wanted to come out of the shadows and actually write something,

Thank you again for this post.

Jim Murdoch said...

Glad to hear from you, Kay, and glad to find your head nodding in agreement. Don't worry, if my stats are to be believed I have far more lurkers than I have people making comments. It's always the case. The important thing is that I've said something you could relate to and hopefully positive things will come from this. We can but hope.

Unknown said...

When I made my first comment, I was so taken up with my own response that I quite forgot to say this. I always marvel at the amount you find to say about your topics, and without it ever seeming too much (even if I don't always find time to read it properly at the first sitting). Wherever it comes from it's invariably fascinating stuff. And isn't that what proves you're a real writer, even if it's the imposter writing?

Rachel Fox said...

I wasn't for a minute suggesting you were an old sage! Just thought it might be an interesting project. I imagine Paterson does it almost for fun in between the hardcore poetry collections (though obviously I don't know that...but it sounds like he's having fun in the aphorism books...a twisted kind of fun but fun all the same).

Start keeping a notebook for them...see what never know.

Jim Murdoch said...

Thank you for that, Jakill. I'm actually having a tough time writing at the moment. It's not writer's block - I have plenty of ideas - nor is it lack of ability or a loss of confidence, it's just that my doctor switched my medication a couple of months back and I could barely string two thoughts together. Now I'm back on the old stuff but not enough quite yet I'm afraid. Everyone has these glitches to cope with. I still have stuff in the pipeline.

Jim Murdoch said...

But I wanted to be an old sage when I grew up. I did! I did! You're no fun, Rachel.

Rachel Fox said...

OK, OK, you're an old sage!

Anonymous said...

With the crushing weight of all the detailed and qualified self-abnegation above, I'll just add a simple 'Me too'.

Jim Murdoch said...

Dick, your club membership, bumper sticker, badge, tie and quarterly subscription to 'Imposters Anonymous' are on their way. Keep the faith.

Kelli M said...

I had never heard of the term "imposter syndrome" although I'm quite familiar with the assocatiated feelings. I often feel that way myself in my work (I'm a special education teacher) and as a writer. I just recently started a new blog, in fact, and I often feel silly thinking that anyone would find talent in my writing.

Great blog!

Anonymous said...

Okay, Jim. First a confession. Usually I don't have the patience to finish reading your posts, and I end up skimming. But this time I read every single word as well as the bulk of the comments before mine here.

You've put some words together in a way that touches people, and isn't that what writers are supposed to do?

I guess that makes you a writer.

Roberta S said...

Jim, I am what I am but I thought no one knew it but me. Obviously you know as well. But I prefer to keep it a secret, you know, just between you and me. I won't tell on you if you won't tell on me.

Jim Murdoch said...

Thanks for the feedback, Kelli. As you can see you're part of a much larger club than you probably imagined. And of course people who have no facility with numbers will marvel at what you do. As I write this I'm watching an art programme and I'm simply in awe at what this guy is able to do with a few strokes of his brush. And a little jealous.

Terry, say two Our Sams and three Hail Virginias. I am sure you are not alone. I scan every post I subscribe to before I read it, IF I go back to read it. You're right - and I know it - I know I have a way with words. Writing is the most natural thing for me. And yet that imposter still lurks around in the shadows waiting to pounce on my self doubt.

And, Roberta, of course your secret is safe with me. Besides with a memory like mine by this afternoon I'll have forgotten you even left a comment.

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