A new episode of our Diving into Writing podcast just came out, and you can listen to it here or wherever you listen to your favourite podcasts.
During this episode, Lucinda and Mariëlle check in with the goals they’ve set for themselves six weeks ago and discuss not just how it’s going but also what they’ve learned about themselves thus far.
It’s never too late to join the party, so if you want to start planning and tracking your writing life as well, you can get Mariëlle’s Quarterly Planner + Daily Word Count/Hour Tracker here.
This blogpost was originally published as a guest post about the second volume of my 365 Days of Gratitude Journal for Westveil Publishing.
How I learned to live with imposter syndrome
Someone recently asked me what had been the most difficult thing to overcome on my journey to becoming a published author.
I didn’t have an immediate answer, since there’s a lot I find hard. Both about being a writer and about being a published author. Especially when it comes to books that have my own name on it.
When I arrived in Edinburgh for the 20Booksto50K conference and writing retreat during the summer of 2019, I had published two anthologies and one romance novella. While these books hadn’t been easy to produce, they hadn’t been that hard to publish. The romance novella was co-written with a friend and, since we’d published it under a pen name, it didn’t have my own name on it.
The anthologies did have my name on them, but they were mostly other people’s stories. I’d written the introductions and one included a very short story by myself, but that was it. I was plenty of nervous about that, but since only a fraction of the finished books was actually written by me as me, I was able to let it go.
While the only plan for Edinburgh had been to finish the second romance novella, I found myself talking to a number of non-fiction authors over the week. I’d been playing with two non-fiction ideas forever, but I had no concrete—let alone immediate—plans to actually publish these books. Not only had I never written anything like them before, I also knew I’d be publishing them under my own name, if it ever got that far.
I understand now that it was that particular combination that made it so hard to ignore the awful little voice inside my head that is my imposter syndrome. I’ve always worried about whether the world was actually waiting for my creations—because who am I to write about X or Y—but nothing I’d ever published had been mine alone, even if it had my name on the cover.
Those non-fictions books would be all mine, and that scared the hell out of me. It meant that people knew who to point to when they—inevitably, of course, as my imposter syndrome kept reminding me—hated what I’d written. There would be no pen name to protect me, and neither could I soothe my imposter syndrome by reminding it only a small part of the book was actually mine.
Talking about my ideas with those other non-fiction authors in Edinburgh and seeing how both excited them convinced me to publish the two books after all. In fact, I published the first one in the week after the conference, and the second one a week later, while I was still riding high after all the support I’d received during the conference.
I published those first two non-fiction books without much faith in myself. It was other authors’ overwhelming faith in me that helped me silence my imposter syndrome enough to actually get the books out there. However, as I witnessed how well both books were received, my own faith grew. It made me realise I’d been right about these ideas all along—they had been worthy of pursuing, no matter what my imposter syndrome had been trying to tell me.
I’m still not ever convinced that my next book is going to have an audience, but publishing these first two non-fiction book has taught me that, if a creative idea truly resonates with me—and just won’t leave me alone—it’s worth pursuing. It taught me to focus on what I’m creating, on what I’m bringing into the world, not on whether or not anyone would be interested in it once it was there. It also taught me to focus on why I wanted to pursue something and what I had to give to the world, instead of on what the world might want or expect from me.
The closer I’m able to stay with myself while creating something new, the less my imposter syndrome shows up. It’s always there, lurking in the shadows, but as long as I stay focused on me and what I’m creating, it’s not as loud and persistent about how or why the world doesn’t need yet another one of my books.
Publishing those two books might not have silenced my imposter syndrome forever—I don’t think anything truly can, to be honest—but it did help me find a way to live with it without it getting too much in my way.
Happy Monday, writers!
We might no longer be doing the Doing Diversity in Writing podcast, but that doesn’t make the episodes we produced any less relevant. If you haven’t listened to the three seasons we put out yet, here’s your chance.
The full show notes and list of resources mentioned in the episode I’m sharing today can be found below.
In this episode of Doing Diversity in Writing, we—Bethany and Mariëlle—talk about the fear of cultural appropriation.
More specifically, we talk about:
- How we define cultural appropriation
- The difference between cultural appropriation and cultural exchange
- Assassin’s Creed III vs. Disney’s Pocahontas, and why Assassin’s Creed III does it better than Pocahontas did
- The “So sorry about colonialism” narrative
- Marvel’s Black Panther, and why the museum scene made Mariëlle say “Fuck yes!” aloud in the theater
Some quotes from this week’s episode:
“These days, cultural appropriation is understood to focus on those moments, those points of interaction and usage, where certain customs, practices, ideas, and so on, are being employed by usually a more dominant culture without any of the positives. There is no positive exchange going on that somehow benefits those whose culture is being used by that other, often more dominant, culture.”
“I can understand why some acknowledgement might feel like worth having, especially when there’s been almost none, but that doesn’t take away the fact that the bigger, disturbing picture remains solidly rooted within our dominant culture and history. And Pocahontas the Disney film did only acknowledge a fraction of it, while erasing the absolute tragedy and evil enacted on Pocahontas herself in real history.”
And here are the (re)sources we mentioned on the show:
- Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward’s Writing the Other: https://writingtheother.com/the-book/
- “Appropriate cultural appropriation” by Nisi Shawl: https://writingtheother.com/appropriate-cultural-appropriation/
- “Reservations about films: Disney’s Pocahontas”: https://lakotachildren.org/2015/09/reservations-about-films-disneys-pocahontas/
- “Disney updates content warning for racism in classic films”: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-54566087
You can find this week’s bonus material, our Cultural Appropriation Checklist, in our Diversity in Writing Toolkit, which you can download here.