Writers! Know Your Worth, Then Add Tax

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome is an ongoing struggle for so many of us in this here writing life.  You can be on a winning streak, with so many happy clients and then one comment will send you spinning out of control.

I’m the worst.  No one deserves to have me inflicted upon them.  I knew eventually they’d figure out that I have no idea what I’m doing.  The Doubting Man echos nad amplifies these sentiments because it’s his duty to ensure that you don’t reach your potential.  He’s a manifestation of Imposter Syndrome, with one solitary focus: to make you quit.

Never Give Up, Never Surrender

It’s one thing to have a panic attack when you get an unmerciful edit sent your way and quite another to slip into a sneaky self-hate spiral that destroys everything else around you.  I think most writers panic a little when they get any sort of comments.  I can’t blame them, you put yourself into those words, so a criticism of them feels a bit like a criticism of the writer on a personal level.

Let me make this clear:  That’s not actually what’s happening.

In fact, many of these kinds of comments are made to help you improve your copy on the next go, or to educate you about something the client really wants you to stress.  Comments and constructive criticism are tools you can use to build your work up.

They make you better.

Even if they feel awful.

Never give up, hold on to yourself as the overwhelm sets in.  Let the fear pour over you like so much water off a duck.  Remind yourself that you are enough.  Tell yourself that surrender isn’t an option.  Eat the elephant one bite at a time.  Remember your worth and then add sales tax.

Five Things That Are Worse Than Extensive Edits

Sometimes it also helps me to reframe the situation.  So a client sent a document over with a lot of suggestions.  So what?  It’s not the end of the world, you knew this was going to happen.  It’s part of the process.  Let’s pick out five things that are much worse than a lot of red pen.

#1. Oranges that are hard to peel.

Look.  It’s the most important meal of the day and you should be eating more fruit.  But when them bastards won’t shed their skin, it’s just… it’s like the universe, or at least the part that belongs to Citrus, is against you.  No breakfast oranges, no early morning vitamin C boost.

#2.  Overly catchy songs that you despise.

I’m never gonna Rickroll you, but I know when I get a song stuck in my head that’s mortifying to admit to, there’s no good way out.  Recently, I managed to get Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass stuck in my husband’s head.  This is because of Just Dance 2018.  It has a bee dance set to this song and I do it a lot.  Because I’m all about that bass, that bass — no treble.

#3.  Running out of toner.

I have one stinking set of mailers left to send out and BAM.  It happens every time.  I run out of black or blue or yellow or magenta toner.  Amazon’s got lots of cheap(ish) toners, but they’re slow.  UGH.  Cannot bear the wait for new toners, cannot bear the cost of buying them in person.  It’s a rough call.

#4.  Decluttering my office.

Dude, you should see this fucking mess.

#5.  Running out of desk candy.

It’s that important.  Running out of sugar at my desk is career suicide.  That’s why I keep a backup bag of candy in the set of plastic drawers behind me.


Edits Happen, They’re a New Beginning

We’re none perfect, no matter how much we may want to believe we are.  Our work is highly subjective, which is why it’s sometimes difficult for clients and writers to communicate effectively enough.  If only we could do a Vulcan mind meld, we’d not need to mess with edits because we’d have the full picture of what the client wants the very first time.

And it’s not the client’s fault.  And it’s not your fault.  It’s the fault of this language we have.  This inefficient, confusing, maze-like shitty language.  English is cobbled together from spare parts, making mastering it one of the greatest challenges you may ever face in your life.

English is awful.  I should go back to writing that series.  Because it is.

Take your pen into battle with The Doubting Man.  Stab that bastard in the eye.




Four Ways to Accept Your Imposter Status

Thanksgiving 2015 is over, thank all things that are holy, and I’m sure a lot of us are feeling a few pegs lower than we did going into it.  After all, it’s a time for feasting along with a side helping of interrogation from well-meaning relatives.

So, Kristi, what are you doing for work these days?  Did you find a real job?

A real job?  No.  I still have the fake one.  The fake one that pays the bills.

The Holidays can be a real bummer for freelancers and writers of any type, even the ones that are making a respectable living doing it.  People don’t believe we’re working because they don’t understand what it is that we do.  Not really — not on any level that matters, anyway.

But when they doubt us, we start to doubt ourselves a little bit, don’t we?

A Brief Introduction to the Imposter Syndrome

I’m sure you’re all very familiar with the Imposter Syndrome, though maybe you call it something else.  Maybe you call it the Doubting Man, maybe you  call it self-esteem problems — whatever you call it, psychology has recognized this as a real thing since 1978.  Really.

By definition, Imposter Syndrome is when a perfectly capable person believes they’re a fraud and someone will soon discover it.  The Imposter Syndrome is you sitting across from your great aunt trying to validate your work and feeling like you really don’t do anything special.  And it’s actually very common, especially among high achievers.  It can strike anyone in any field, though much of the research and focus has been on how Imposter Syndrome affects women.

A TED Talk featuring Kirsty Walker was filmed in 2013 focusing on this very concept, and honestly, the amount of knowledge about the subject hasn’t advanced much.  The only new thing we’ve found is that the worst sufferers of Imposter Syndrome can end up in an Imposter Cycle, where you essentially derail your entire life.  Men tend to bury themselves in work that’s not challenging to revalidate their feelings of being competent and women tend to shy away from anything that will get them noticed.

Although the sexes respond differently, they’re both acting against the uncomfortable feeling that they simply don’t belong where they are.  And, subconsciously, some people work against themselves until they make that feeling a reality.

I’ve known a lot of good writers who are now working in very non-writerly jobs, including entry-level call center customer service stuff, despite years or decades of writing experience and education.  They couldn’t conquer their inner Imposter, they gave in to it.

But it’s time that we do something about it.  Time that we say, “Not today, and not me!”  Even if Aunt Betty is staring you down over the cranberry sauce, remember who’s in control of this thing.  Remember that you’re a lot more than she can comprehend.

Derailing the Imposter Cycle

Hey, I offer all sorts of writing-related advice, so shut up.  I’m qualified.  I think.  Am I?  Now I’m not sure….

Anyway, you can bury yourself in the same old work and do it until you’re a burned out husk of yourself, you can shuffle off into a sea of faces and disappear completely, or you can deal with this thing and become better.  Whatcha gonna do?

Imposter Syndrome makes you feel sick at your stomach, I know it does.  I’m a card carrying sufferer.  I’m also an excessively accomplished writer and have been for two decades.  So, if anybody knows what you’re going through, it’s me.  I feel ya, bro, but it’s time to get up and fight.

Here are some tips for making it through Christmas AND the rest of your life:

Catalog your accomplishments.  Often, the Imposter Syndrome strikes when we’re extremely accomplished and have plenty of hard evidence to show that’s the truth.  I keep a catalog of my biggest accomplishments, even the very old ones that don’t go on my resume anymore.  It helps me remember how far I’ve come and how talented I actually am.

Try something different, but related.  The Imposter Cycle is a bitch — and I’ve seen too many talented people swallowed by its vortex of inner loathing.  Instead of doing the same thing all the time, try something new, but related.  Publish a book, write a screenplay, start a blog, teach people how to write — anything that’ll shift your funk.

Remind yourself that it’s an illusion.  You’re actually not an Imposter, you’re an incredibly talented person.  Sometimes all you need is a reminder of that.  Remind yourself, make a poster with an inspiring quote on it, something.  It’s just your mind playing tricks on you, and now it has a name — so banish that demon with all your might.

Swallow your fear.  Sometimes in life you just have to take a deep breath and scream “GERONIMO!” at the top of your lungs as you plow into the unknown.  Sometimes, you have to do the same thing just to get out of bed in the morning.  People with Imposter Sydrome may fall into the second category, but you still have to give it all you have.  Do you know what the worst thing that will happen if you fail?  Nothing.  That’s right.  You’ve got a history of excellence to back you up, one little bump in the road will be forgotten almost as soon as it happens.  So swallow hard and plow on, my plowers.

Next time Aunt Betty triggers your inner self-doubt, just remember that she’s really old and might not even make it to next Thanksgiving.  Besides, what does she know about working in the Internet Age?

I’m a Fraud and So Are You

ja09_books_creative_writingIt’s time for the truth to come out.  I’m a fucking fraud.  I’m a hack, a nobody, a nothing.  I’m just faking it and no one has noticed yet.  I’m a failure waiting to happen.

But so are you, so stop judging me, you asshole.

You’ll reach a point — maybe it’s today, maybe it’s tomorrow, maybe it’s in a hundred billion years, right before the sun goes supernova and blows this planet to teeny little bits — where you’ll begin to doubt.  You’ll say to yourself, “What am I doing?  I don’t know shit about this, but people keep paying me.  What the Hell is wrong with them?”  Your will is gonna threaten to break, your calm to turn into a fucking tsunami of panic.

And you’re gonna wonder if that’s it, if you’re done.

I’m here to tell you that no matter what confidence problems you’ve got today, you’re not alone.  Hell, the whole damn world goes spinning around uncertain if the next wobble will be the last.  We all get there, that’s what I’m saying.  In fact, it’s such a common problem that some science guy gave it a name.  It’s called Imposter Syndrome, and it affects all of us high fliers.  If you’ve got it, I guess that means you’re pretty awesome — but I’m not a psychologist, so I could be wrong about that.

As it turns out, we’re all insecure bags of meat, stuck to this planet by forces beyond our control.  I’ve known a lot of Creatives that hit the Imposter Wall and they were done — they had no idea how to climb over it.  That’s why I’m writing this post.  I think it’s fair to let you know that you’re not the only one.  In fact, the best writers I’ve ever met all share this particular problem.  Their great challenge in life is in overcoming these feelings so they can get their work done.

For me, I find great relief when I remember that what I do is insignificant.  Sure, it might help some schmuck sell another hundred dozen widgets, but in the grand scheme of things — it’s nothing.  I’m not curing cancer or finding a way to feed whole starving countries or inventing technologies that will revolutionize everything — I’m just a writer.  And while that’s important for a lot of people, it’s not a big deal.

Imposter Syndrome is a plague on our kind, it plugs up our writing tubes, keeps us from being at our best because we’re fighting demons at the same time we’re fighting the blank page.  At some point in your career, you’ll meet its ugly face — you’ll start comparing yourself to others — and you’ll stand on the precipice.  How you come out is up to you.  It’s a choice: climb that wall or let it become your prison.