With Liam’s Doom being released for sale in just over two weeks, everyone has been asking me if I’m excited for the launch of my first novel. They want to hear that I’m ecstatic and overjoyed, excited at the possibilities that come from starting a creative endeavor like writing a novel. And, I am excited, but my feelings are more complicated than a simple “Yes” or “No” would offer. Throughout the writing, revising, and preparation stages of the book, I felt confident, joyful, bursting with creative energy. Now, that old friend from grad school, Imposter Syndrome, is rearing its head, muddying and complicating my emotions.
This isn’t one of my normal, thoughtful, blog essays. This is more of a personal confession that I’m sharing in the hopes that it may offer other creatives solidarity. I know that in grad school, it was terrifying and easy to feel like you were the one person in class who had no clue what was being talked about. What did you do? Most of the time, smile and nod. Just smile and nod, pretending you understood things until you actually did.
That changed during a seminar on Mikhail Bakhtin’s works when my, at the time, new friend Austin McDonald and I both sort of admitted to each other that it sucked that everyone in the class seemed to be pretending to know what was going on. That was a scary thing to admit to another person in grad school – that you did not know what was going on. However, that moment of raw, honest vulnerability was powerful. It was the first time in grad school that I no longer felt alone.
And that’s a key thing about Imposter Syndrome: it isolates you from your community. I’ve always been an introvert who keeps to herself a lot, not wanting to “bother people” by interacting with them. I’m the same way on social media, rarely engaging with others out of a fear that I’m bothering them. Imposter Syndrome exasperates this, digging into those cracks so that I believe that not only am I “bothering” these people but also that I do not know enough to even enter into a conversation with them.
And that was how my Imposter Syndrome manifested: a need to have perfect knowledge and produce a perfect product. I was always terrified to start a project if I didn’t know everything one could possibly know about it. I feared missing some piece of information that would make my work “wrong” or “bad”. I feared that if my work wasn’t perfect, it would be seen as “not good enough”, causing me to get laughed at and excluded from the social circle I wanted to be a part of. I know that it can manifest differently for others.
I’m not going to offer any profound advice on dealing with Imposter Syndrome, because I struggle and have difficulty applying the advice given by experts. That said, I do know a lot of creatives and academics who struggle with Imposter Syndrome. Talking about it doesn’t cure it, but it breaks down the wall isolating you from others. And that sense of community, born from shared experience helps lessen the burden.
That said, Liam’s Doom goes on sale 9 March 2021 at all major and minor retail outlets from Amazon to Barnes & Noble to Bookshop.org. I request that you support Bookshop.org, as their site supports local and independent bookstores.