Author: Peculiar Things

I write novels, short stories/flash fictions and poetry. I'm interested in the intersection between light and darkness and oddness in all of its forms.

Imposter Syndrome

We’ve all heard of it. Most of us have it. What causes imposter syndrome and how can we overcome it?

Imposter syndrome is the name given to a lack of confidence in one’s abilities, and the feeling that you are unworthy to contribute to your field. It is often associated with being working class although it can affect people across the socio-economic spectrum. You feel that you are a fraud and sooner or later you’ll be found out.

First things first: imposter syndrome doesn’t seem to be related to your ability. Neither is it reflective of your experience or social status. It is a confidence issue, brought on by many different combinations of factors in a person’s life.

So what do you do to fight back against this self defeating syndrome?

I came back to writing after a long absence about ten years ago. At first, just like every writer, I was worried about allowing others to read my work. I certainly would never have self defined as a writer.

A decade later and here I am, standing on an imaginary rooftop and shouting: Here I am! Read my work!

I wouldn’t say I’ve overcome my imposter syndrome – it still rears up from time to time. But I’ve squashed it down enough to function as a writer. And this is how.

1. Share your work.

This is the most useful thing you can do to overcome imposter syndrome. For me, it started with sharing my writing with my ever supportive mother-in-law. Once I’d taken that first step and shared my work with someone, it was less of a psychological hurdle to share it with others. I became part of an excellent writing group who offered me critique and helpful advice.

2. Competitions!

Following on from point 1, the next logical step for me was to start entering my work into competitions. This is a great way to gain validation and self confidence – if you’re long or shortlisted, it means somebody has picked your work out as worthy. And if you win a prize, even better!

3. Accept your own voice.

Reading the work of others is a vital part of being a writer. And reading the work of others whom you consider better writers is also very useful – for picking up tips and refreshing your ideas. However, it can be discouraging if you feel yourself to be in competition with these writers. It is important to recognise that you have a unique writer’s voice and it’s unhelpful to compare your own writing to a published (and therefore heavily edited) novel. Embrace your own identity as a writer.

Feel the fear, and…

…write it anyway. Don’t waste your time trying to eradicate imposter syndrome. It won’t work. After all, if the first man on the moon can experience it, what hope is there for the rest of us? The best you can hope for is that you tame it, teach it to sit in the corner patiently while you go about your business, reading your poems at open mic events, querying agents with your novel. And every now and again it’ll jump up and bare its teeth. But with enough practice you’ll be able to quickly put it back in its place with a stern command or a meaningful glance.

Happy writing!

Pretentious

Not a word I like or use. It’s usually levelled at working class people, by other working class people, when they express themselves through art. I expect it’s been used about me, though never to my face, because I write poetry and take an interest in art. Why do we impose these limits on ourselves? The working class in the UK has so many barriers to success without us self-applying them.

It ought to be easy. You enjoy something, you do it. And yet I find when I’m teaching poetry writing there’s a reluctance to write anything that isn’t funny or cute or nice. Just write it, and if the world decides to call you pretentious wear the label with pride.

So come on, fellow working class writers and artists. Let’s be pretentious. Let’s get ideas that are way above our station and let’s never, ever know our place.

Poem For Chris

Our love is this.

It is a smile at a bedside.

Linking of arms and

clinking of glass.

A sunrise. A sunset.

It is ease. Joy. Truth.

Its unquestioned presence

wraps around every word.

Our love is this.

Soft hands held together

and cold feet

warming each other.

Knowing. Feeling.

Hurting. Together. Apart.

It is laughter and it

is sorrow.

Our love is this.

It is you, it is me.

A lifetime and a moment.

Medusa leaves home

Tired of the constant bickering,

the ‘he said’ ‘she said’ never ending

circus. Tired of being the butt

of local gags and sick to death

of being harassed by the local gods,

she leaves. Takes an Uber

as far as she can get on her

Saturday wages and then

hitchhikes the rest. Doesn’t

look back.

They’d met by the sea.

He promised

to shake the world for her

but all she got was

a bellyful of anger and a

head full of snakes. Spiteful.

She’s alone now. Walking

the pier and looking

strangers in the eye.

The waves, his waves

crashing in front of her

like some kind of metaphor.

She wishes she could

turn herself to stone.

She could stand here forever

feeling nothing and

even the sea couldn’t

move her.

Am Editing

Until you have to do it, editing seems like the easy afterthought of the novel writing process. Just like childbirth, the memory of the painful editing process fades once it’s over, compelling you to put yourself through it again at a later date (and having given birth twice I feel I am qualified to use that comparison).

The novel is so close to completion that it’s now more frustrating than ever. I like the beginning, most of the middle and the ending. There’s a section just around the black moment when it all goes very badly wrong, not just for my protagonist but for me and my reader – the writing is dreadful, honestly. So that needs re-doing. I have a missing chapter and I repeat myself quite a bit (thanks, thyroid brain fog).

I just have to force myself to keep going. One of these days I’ll be happy to report that it’s done and I’m happy with it. Then I can start giving it to other people to read, which will involve a whole new set of issues to deal with.