Michaeline: Imposter

A countess in a cape hiding behind a piece of cardboard that only shows her eye.

Worried about others seeing the faker? Be too fast to take that test, and just do what makes you happy. Trust in the creative process, not the outside censors and judgers. (Image via Wikimedia Commons, some words by David Bowie)

I am a writer who isn’t writing.

Does this make me an imposter? Well, yes. A writer writes.

But on the other hand, is writing a little bit like being a genius? As Lois McMaster Bujold has her character Professor Vorthys say, “All the geniuses I ever met were so just part of the time. To qualify, you only have to be great once, you know. Once when it matters.” Having written, I’m a writer.

That’s not a very satisfying answer, though. It smacks of self-justification and resting on my laurels (which are rather small and unpublished). What am I doing in my free time that prevents me from being a writer on a more regular basis?

I’m a YouTube viewer and a ukulele player.

I have to admit, being a YouTube viewer is highly unsatisfying. It’s often very fun in the moment, but I don’t retain much. And it is such a lottery – for every five minutes of information and education, I get at least five minutes of utter pointlessness that looks like it is going somewhere, but winds up nowhere. I like YouTube, and I’m going to keep watching it. But do I want it down there in my obituary: “She watched a lot of YouTube”? No. I do not.

Being a ukulele player, on the other hand, feeds my heart. I’m going to admit to you that on a shallow level, it’s the kind of geeky cool that I’ve always aspired to be. I practice several times a week, and I can see my progression as a player. This week, my call to practice is, “Hey, I’m getting better at that Bb chord!” I like the challenge of getting to a goal – and I can see the goalposts. I can envision a day when I am good at playing the Bb chord.

Plus, when I’m doing it, I feel great. I love how the different parts of the music interplay with each other and form a united whole. I like the sounds. Even a mistake can sound pretty cool – and I’m proud that I can hear the mistakes and fix them. I am totally enamored of the entire process, even though I’ve been playing 18 months – I should be past the honeymoon period, but it still feels like true love.

That’s how I feel about writing, sometimes. That’s how I want to feel about writing all the time – enjoying how the parts fit together, and even liking the mistakes because they show my progress.

There is a difference, of course. With the ukulele, I’m putting together the pieces that someone else has already created. It’s a matter of gathering skill. I don’t think I’ll ever be a ukulele composer, because I simply don’t (at least at this point) hear original music in my head.

With writing, I hear that original prose. I want to capture it quickly, and preserve it for myself and for others to enjoy. To a certain extent, there’s nothing new under the sun, so what I’m doing is taking different elements from everything I’ve read and all my life experience, and putting them together in tasteful ways. But it’s not preassembled with options like my ukulele music is. It’s all options – no plan except the plan I make. Too many days, I lack the focus to put the parts together well, so I give up and leave the parts in a box in the basement with my Girls.

But anyway, this much I know: if I don’t write, I will feel like an imposter, and every blog I post will feel like a hollow sham. If I do write, I’m a writer. It doesn’t really matter much this month if it’s coherent, linear, plotty or succinct — I’m still on a first draft. I’m vowing to spend the next two weeks to writing the juice, for at least 15 minutes every day (and with the option to spend at least an hour on writing at least four days a week). Then I can pick up my ukulele, work on that Bb chord some more. Who knows? I might have a little time left over for some fun with the late shows.

A writer writes, and by gum, I’m going to write this summer.

11 thoughts on “Michaeline: Imposter

  1. I know what you mean, but then I might disagree too. I wrote my ass off last year. I got up 2 hrs early forced words almost every day, worked on my writing before, during and after work, etc. I even did a Margie Immersion in Colorado last year. I loved it and learned lots… came back determined and worked harder. I burned myself out. I had nothing left. I felt miserable, unaccomplished, and like I’d let myself and everyone else down. Then in January my mom went into the hospital and then rehab for 3 mos. My dad has been in emergency twice for over a week each time. My mom is now in a wheelchair, my dad can’t do too much and I am their primary care giver as well as trying to work full time.

    I’ve been doing “art therapy”. I’ve been taking art classes online with Jane Davenport out of Austrailia. I have been having a blast! And I see so much progress and it is so tangible and gives me so much joy. It is the feeling I lost last year with writing. The feeling(s) I think I should have had- the joy of telling a story. Maybe I studied too hard, worked too much made it more than fun.

    I haven’t totally been out of story… The Over the Rainbow class focused on The Wizard of Oz and I got to read it (I hadn’t before) and make my own choices as to back story and how I wanted to present it as art… it really stimulated a lot of creativity. I think I’ll be doing Wonderland next… I really love my watercolors & I haven’t read Alice’s story before either.

    I’ve gone from stick figures to wow figures, and faces and characters that tell or have stories that want to be told. I spent a lot of time in hospitals sketching earlier this year. I keep wondering if writing is in my past now, but the more I relax and create, the more the muses dance. So, I am enjoying my “therapy” sessions and waiting until they want to come out and play.

    I’m thinking that sometime in the future… I need to do some art therapy courses for other writers who too need to rest, but still create.

    I do post some of my stuff on my IG page…. but you’ll also be forced to look at puppies…. I post a lot of them… I currently have 3 schnauzer girls. IG at chaco_kid

    • Oh, Penny, I’m so sorry to hear about your parents. All the CHOICES involved in something like that just suck all the creative mojo out of a person — when I’m in that sort of situation, I’m too busy imagining real-life outcomes and have no time to imagine the stuff in my story.

      But it’s amazing that you have still kept your creative life going! And this sounds like it could be immensely helpful.

      I think you hit the nail on the head with what you imply (or I infer?) about expectations. I got really revved up during my classes, and thought I had the magic formula for success as a published writer. Well . . . I learned so much and I improved as a writer. But I didn’t have the magic formula, and somehow, I came away with the idea that a Novel was the only way to go. I still have that idea in the back of my head that Only Novelists Are Real Writers — but that’s so nonsensical on some many levels. Dorothy Parker, apparently, flirted with that delusion, too.

      Who knows what I will be in the future? But for now, a short-story writer is what works for me. I’m working on a longer piece, but I feel no obligation to stretch it into 100,000 words or whatever I need for a novel.

      What’s an IG page? Google is being a brat, and giving me stuff I don’t want to know. Go ahead and post a link, if you see this.
      EDIT: It’s Instagram, isn’t it? LOL, I feel like a genius!

      I didn’t want to link in case you didn’t want me to link — but link if you like! Your schnauzers are adorable, and your drawings are beautiful! Way to go!! (Can I link?)

    • Wow, Penny. So sorry, for your parents and for you. I feel for you all. We had a very tough time for about a year and a half just after McDaniel, when my mum, who’s widowed and was living on her own about 150 miles away, started to show symptoms of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. While I was dealing with that, my husband had a massive pulmonary embolism and almost died. My husband’s fine now, and my mum is in a home and very well cared for, but I can begin to imagine what you must be facing.

      So glad you found Jane Davenport’s classes. I looked at her website, and it’s so beautiful, full of light and color and positive emotion. Made me want to take a class, and I can’t even draw stick people. For anyone else who’s interested, check out https://janedavenport.com

      I love your drawings, and your schnauzers. Micki’s probably asleep by now, so here’s the link:

      Hope you find your way back to writing too, at some point, but only if it brings you joy. Long, short, haiku, published, unpublished, if it makes you happy, that’s what really matters.

      • Wow Jilly, you guys are amazing. I keep plugging along, feeling as I go and the art really has been therapy. I think it has helped me to keep my sanity and my joy. I’ve also been doing a fair amount of QiGong and plan to eventually teach it too. I think the writing will come. I’ve been a writer since I was like 5 yo. I don’t think it can be gone. I just think the girls needed a vacation without me – the little trollops.

        PS I was a stick figure only kind a girl too, but after a few months I can draw and paint a fairly interesting girl. The first thing she does is work to get you over your “perfectionitis” and teaches you to “trust the mess”.

        FYI Jane Davenport has a free class (which is actually a series of individual classes and projects). It’s her Mixed Media class. She is infectious and makes you think you can do anything… and be darned if you suddendly can’t.


        • Thanks, Penny! I might investigate “Draw Happy.” Who wouldn’t like to do that? When I’ve got Alexis’s draft into a decent state (hopefully not too long now) that might make a fun creative mini-break. I could find £40 for a hit of happy.

          QiGong sounds like an excellent addition to your skillset. Weirdly, there are some QiGong-ish themes in the Alexis book and series. I didn’t deliberately write them that way, but the friend I ask about martial arts scenes is also an expert in Tai Chi and Chi Kung and he said some of what I’m writing fits with his teaching. Maybe when I’ve finally got this ms in shape your girls might like to beta read it–unless, of course, they’re still on the beach, chugging Margaritas 😉

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