Guest Post by Author Jessica Thompson
I’ll tell you what I should probably keep quiet. Oh well, just don’t tell anyone, okay?
If anyone should feel like an imposter as a writer, it’s me. I don’t have a degree in anything related to writing, when I started I didn’t know anyone in publishing, I didn’t even know anyone who has been traditionally published. In college I was even one of those people who silently judged people who said they wanted to make a living as a novelist. Even as a reader I am slow and spent high school successfully avoiding the depressing classics that most people are forced to read. When there was an option, I was grabbing for a Shakespearean play or a Jane Austen novel and bobbed-and-weaved around “important” books like “The Scarlet Letter” or “Catcher in the Rye.” I have only read Hemmingway, Isamov, Heinlein, Agatha Christie, and anything by a Bronte in the last couple years. I’m an imposter through-and-through.
But you know what? We all are! That’s the thing about any art form, writing included! The humanities may have trends and genres, but the actual work is about style-clay thrown onto a basic framework that no one will be able to see in the end anyway. But even that basic framework is subject to change and interpretation. It can be made of anything and be in any shape. Even this guest post is just badly constructed analogies in a strange hodge-podge of paragraphs, but ultimately, hopefully, I will have made my point.
You can all grab your torches and pitchforks now, but I would contend that artwork IS making stuff up and seeing if it works. Even the pros are pulling prose out of their butts and then trying to form it into something satisfying to themselves and hopefully others. No one knows what they are doing! Whether you have studied how to make up stuff or not, art is mostly about learning by doing.
There is no reason you can’t start now. This is not the Olympics where youth reigns supreme. This is the realm of the brain. I don’t know about you, but my brain is better now than when I was in college. In this creative space, there is no reason someone “unqualified” can’t jump into the pool, learn the basic strokes, and become a totally adequate swimmer. It will take work to get the experience to be any good, but you can learn by doing much faster than someone else learned by thinking about it. I may never be a Hemmingway, or a Michael Phelps in our analogy, but you might! The internet is full of memes and stats about writers that didn’t start until later in life.
That is part of what made me feel okay about starting at 32 years old. Writing just gets better with age as I understand people and myself better and better. Style just gets better, story grows, and your characters bloom. And I plan to do this forever.
It’s an art. My strokes will be different than anyone else’s, but that may be exactly what someone is looking for.
Michael Phelps may have perfected his technique for speed, but maybe the average person likes my fun swimming more. Okay, bad example, no one wants to watch me swim.
There are droves of writers that are better than me. More experienced, more qualified. More poetic, literary, deep, whatever. So why am I being published? I think it’s that I write what people want to read.
When imposter syndrome wells up in me, it helps if I remind myself that writing, yes, is an art form that requires work and experience and is totally subjective, but it’s also a business.
Those better writers that are all around me might be too good! They might be so literary that their work doesn’t appeal to the average reader. They can keep their small following of devoted fans that understand their deep symbolism. I’m here to have fun. And I think most readers are, too.
I’m not an imposter. Or I am an imposter because we all are when it comes to the arts. Whichever way you want to look at it. Art is a pool full of imposters, swimming however we feel like, whether the speed swimmers understand it or not.
So don’t feel bad about making stuff up differently than someone else, or starting to pull stuff out of your butt later than other people. That doesn’t make you an imposter. That’s what art is supposed to be. If someone has found some success, it doesn’t make that the right way and others the wrong way. It just means that some people liked the way they made up stuff.
So do it. Write. Be creative. Have fun with it and don’t feel like an imposter. Don’t be weighed down by guilt about achieving something or fear of not achieving something. No need to feel shy about your style. Don’t let that self-conscious doubt stop you. We all feel it. We just choose to remember that this is an art and a business.