Sep. 15th, 2009

crazyjane: (moondark)
I've been taking stock over the last little while.

Ever since I first decided to study at a tertiary level, I've been battling myself. I know I'm intelligent, know I have a certain amount of writing talent, know I'm quick on the uptake, a fast reader, fast worker, etc. I also 'know' that I am faking it, an impostor. There's always been a nagging suspicion that, sooner or later, the 'truth' will come out, and it'll all come tumbling down.

I know this is irrational. I can look at my results, read comments from teachers and friends, appeal to objectivity. For my feelings to be true, there would have to be a massive failure of reality for pretty much everyone and everything around me. Nonetheless ... the feeling persists.

Impostor syndrome is not unknown to me. I've read a fair bit about it, and I can recognise it in myself. It doesn't go away, though - and so I spend so much time and energy trying to ignore that voice that tells me I'll never be any better than mediocre, a big fish in a small pond at best. It's harder when events appear to confirm it. Rationally, I know that just making the final of the Overload Slam was a great achievement, and missing out on a place in the Bristol-Melbourne Slam by only 0.5 points was amazing, especially when I've only performed in half a dozen slams in my life. Emotionally, irrationally, I 'know' the result is 'proof' of exactly the reverse.

Then there's the paralysis of depression. I don't care what anyone says, depression does not make you write better. It does not bring out the deep, raw talent. What it does is send ideas careering around your head, just out of reach in a kind of horrible fog. The blank page - enemy of any would-be writer - becomes an insurmountable wall. You are assailed, torn between the desire - the need - to write, and the inability to make the words appear.

I see people churn out tens of thousands of words during NaNoWriMo, write pages and pages of poetry, a short story every week, draft and re-draft. I know I can write, but after so many years, the paralysis often feels like some part of the process is missing in me.

I'm aware of the irony of what I'm doing here. I'm writing about not being able to write. It's hard to explain, but there's something essentially different about blogging like this. Maybe it's because there is nothing riding on it? Maybe because it's something I don't connect with 'talent' or 'ability' or 'craft'?

Under pressure, I write. Forced in class to come up with something right then and there, I can do it. In one case, my teacher even recommended I polish the piece and submit it to The Age. (And here is that impostor-voice again, warning me that it's not good enough, my teacher is being generous or mistaken, etc.) When I sit here at home, though, the blank screen and the fog and the doubt all come crashing back. Anything I produce then is slow and painful in coming, and I'm never satisfied.

I don't understand what happens. Is it something about not wanting to let the teacher down? Is it that I need to have that supervision (and what does it say about me if I do)?

I line up my achievements (degree with Honours, conference papers, slam wins, acceptance by a publication) and put them alongside comments from others. I look at what I have written, and say to myself 'You did it once, you can do it again'.

It doesn't help.

So here I am, trying to reach for a future, a career that I hope will satisfy both the creative and intellectual sides of me. And here I am, battling myself and wondering if there's ever any way out of this spiral of self-sabotage and doubt.

State of the me.

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