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  • Writer's pictureLuella Schmidt

Imposter Syndrome, Launching a New Podcast & Honoring My Why

As I continue to age like Elon Musk's broke-ass social media platform, I find it more important than ever to feel a full-throated, warm-hearted connection with WHY I work on what I work on.

When I sold my small company and set out to "be a writer," I encountered some pretty ridiculous (and embarrassing... and hilarious...) internal resistance.

When I wondered aloud if I should pursue this dream, I heard myself say to my brother, "You don't think it's... pretentious?" He shook his head while looking at me oddly. I'm mortified to have said it, AND by how much I needed him to say it was OK. (Thank you, Dave.)

I asked one of my friends, "Isn't it selfish to pursue another dream when I already have enough?" I knew that one was ridiculous before the question fully left my mouth. Imagine thinking I was taking away from other people's dreams by pursuing my own. That one particularly ticks me off, as I have a rather wicked loathing for the idea that life is a zero-sum game.

I forgive myself for this silliness. It's scary to start a brand new thing, especially in my (exceedingly youthful) 50s, and it's normal to question yourself from time to time.

And here I am, celebrating my two-year anniversary as a writer!

And yet.

Recently, when presented with a writing-related opportunity, my immediate thought was, "Shouldn't they give that to a real writer?"

Hold on a minute, Lady Cray. I know what this is.

Friends, imposter syndrome has always run strong in me. When it strikes these days, I'm a lot more adept at recognizing it and calling it out, but that doesn't always make the *feeling* disappear.

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According to Science of People, "Impostor syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which you feel like you don’t deserve your accomplishments. You might feel like you don’t belong, don’t deserve your success, or are 'out of place.' You might even be constantly worried others will expose you as a fraud."

On my darkest days, I'm steeped in those beliefs. It's the worst. It's especially difficult being a newbie in any profession like I am right now. But I recognize this phenomenon now. I can name it. And I refuse to linger there.

Science of People tells us that Tom Hanks, Michelle Obama, and even Maya Angelou felt imposter syndrome from time to time. If you feel this sometimes too, aren't we in amazing company!?

Have you experienced imposter syndrome?

  • All the time

  • Somewhat frequently

  • Once in a while

  • Never

When my husband Roger retired in February, I took the next few months off along with him. It felt like a needed moment of reflection. Of celebration. Of gratitude too profound for words. It was weeks of being fully present in the five senses of the body.

(That's a sneaky writer's way of saying: We slept in, laid around, ate, drank, hung out with friends, and traveled.)

Yet the sweetly persistent call to write never leaves me. My lazy reflecting time is over.

As is so often the case with life, things that don't make much sense about our choices or behavior in the moment will often become clearer later on. In retrospect, this time was a nourishing timeout and a helpful reset to re-source the "why" of my writing practice.

The novel writing course I'm in involves critiquing each other's work each month. I enjoy it, but I have had to learn to write without worrying about what others will think. I need to write for my own enjoyment and discovery first. Holding that playful, exploratory attitude, even while knowing others will read my sketchy first draft, well, that took some practice.

Similarly, many new writers are told to submit shorter pieces when they are first starting out, to build their resume with publishing credentials. I've been pursuing this as well, working on a few short stories and experiencing the realities of rejection, as well as my first acceptance. Here, too, I've had to pay attention to my own mindset. Otherwise, chasing publishing credentials pushes me straight into "what others think of me" instead of "what brings me joy."

By the way, the number of submissions of short pieces since I received that acceptance: zero. Ugh.

I've always been resistant to convention and gatekeepers. Get out of my way, and let me do what I want.

Do I sound a wee bit headstrong?

I am.

I'm pretty sure I'm going to self-publish my novels rather than seek traditional publication. I'm learning more about how this is done well, and I'm pretty sure this is the route for me. I'm tech savvy, I know how to manage the finances, I know how to hire contractors, and I know how marketing works. Each new book is its own product launch. I can do it. More of my "why" is becoming clear, alongside the "how."

Of course, I also have to craft the actual products, and Luella, the Patron Saint of Procrastination, has some issues to overcome. My novel is getting there. It has officially reached the point where I can't wait to find out how it ends, and I'm the only one who can tell me. Hooray!

Since we just passed my two-year writer-versary, here are some stats.

Words Written by Quarter

The red circle was when one of my brothers got very sick. I was not only wretched and scared, but I also had some weird caregiver PTSD that hit me unexpectedly. My brother's health emergency brought back being the primary caregiver for my mom, who was disabled with dementia for ten years. All the accompanying fear that I was not enough to meet that challenge came roaring back. It really knocked me on my ass.

Here's the thing. These numbers are terrible. The happy green circle shows us 63,507 words for the last four quarters. Even if you assume I take six weeks off a year, that's an average of 1,380 words per week. My goal is 4,000.

I told you I'm the Patron Saint of Procrastination. Light a candle in my honor to... hang on, let me check these social media notifications.

In my defense, I did make something else this year that's pretty cool: a new podcast for the Wisconsin Writers Association called Midwest Writers Room. Or rather, I offered to create a new podcast, and my friend Ken said, "That seems like a lot of work for one person. Want some help?" Yes, my dear co-creator and co-host, I certainly would like some help. This project, in particular, has reminded me of my Why.

I love making cool shit, teaching others about cool shit, and celebrating people who make cool shit. It's such a delight.

The hosts of Midwest Writers Room podcast, meeting in person for the first time! Woohoo!

Back to imposter syndrome, you know what my co-host Ken said about it?

"Everyone fakes it til they make it."

This is a truth that I've lived and breathed my entire life. After all, you didn't think I knew how to run a small business when I started it, did you? Nope. I figured it out as I went.

If you're feeling down, smiling has been shown to make you happier. Fake it, and you might make it. I tore a tendon in my ankle this year, and my physical therapist said that if I can't do a certain exercise on that ankle, I should do the exercise with the healthy ankle because there's evidence that that will make the bad ankle stronger, too. WHAT!? Fake it, and your brain will mysteriously help you make it.

So here's me, faking it til I make it, doing my best to enjoy the ride. I hope you remember to enjoy the ride, too. Peace.

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