Are you aware of, or do you ever experience Imposter Syndrome? It is a psychological phenomenon that reflects an internal belief that you are a complete fraud. That all your big wins in life are down to serendipitous luck and not hard work and talent. You fight a constant battle with your self-esteem and live in the fear that one day you are going to be ‘found out.’ If you are lucky enough to have never felt that you are about to be exposed as a fraud at any moment, then a) good for you for believing in yourself and b) let me elaborate as to where I am going with this line of questioning.
I have embarked on a two-year Creative Writing programme.
“But you profess to be a writer” I hear you cry “why do you need to do a writing course?”
Because I suffer terribly from Imposter Syndrome that’s why. Doris Lessing famously said ‘you only learn to be a better writer by actually writing,’ and I want to become a better writer. So every Monday afternoon I huddle around a large, oval table in a backstreet warehouse in the centre of Brighton, along with 15 other amazing individuals who all want to become better writers. Each week we critique each other’s written homework – kindly – and each week I feel like an imposter.
The Second week of the course, we were asked to pick one of our favourite authors and speak to the group about who they were and why we had chosen them. Aldous Huxley, Laurie Lee and Margaret Atwood all deservedly got a mention. Our tutor jokingly asked if anybody was going to pick Jilly Cooper? I cringed, my choice wasn’t the bonktastic Cooper, but it most definitely wasn’t as highbrow as my peers.
For the record, I am not a complete literary philistine. I have read Aldous Huxley, Laurie Lee and Margaret Atwood and thoroughly enjoyed all of them (and I have also, on more than one occasion, indulged myself with a Jilly Cooper). My chosen author resonates with me and inspires me. She is an intelligent and witty writer, the kind I would like to become, and her autobiography is one of my favourite reads so far this year. I have recommended her book to many people who like me were not particular fans of her TV persona, but have since fallen in love with her through her written word.
As my time approached to speak, the imposter was screaming in my head “run away! You don’t belong here! Go on get out.” But it was too late to change my author of choice and so instead of feigning an illness or an urgent phone call I stayed put and defied the voice of the bullish imposter.
Silently, I nervously rehearsed how I was going to justify what I considered to be my ‘low brow’ choice of scribe. My time arrived and I proudly displayed the front cover of Spectacles by Sue Perkins and I advocated proudly as to why I had chosen Perkins and her book. There were a few sniggers. I had chosen a mainstream, not a classic author, a popular BBC presenter and not a Booker prize winner, but I chose with my heart and not my head. Albeit nerve-wracking, it felt good to act with authenticity and honesty and to show the group who I really am. I’m not an imposter, I’m me.