impostor syndrome

As my page “Projects of the Procrastinator” shows, I have a teensy problem with putting off today, what could just as easily be put off tomorrow. Procrastinating has been a part of me for a loooooong time. I’m not sure why…. and often have tried to put my finger on the cause, too little success.

I went to this article, Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators, with the thought that I would get a few amusing examples of famous authors who are also procrastinators. Allowing me to bemoan my fate and commiserate with some greats. I did not think I would get an AhHa! moment, then I read this:

“… they seem to be paralyzed by the prospect of writing something that isn’t very good.”

And instead of rising to the challenge of proving themselves wrong, they shut themselves down. The article calls it “self-handicapping”, and it is totally what I do to myself. The article goes on to explain why we do this to ourselves:

“The fear of being unmasked as the incompetent you ‘really’ are is so common that it actually has a clinical name: impostor syndrome.”

Why impostor you might ask? I and apparently many other people who are procrastinators imagine myself to be a great writer (or whatever). A poet who touches souls. I master wordsmith who raises human awareness with every chapter.

When I publish this book… I get the reality.

I will be unmasked, my true self revealed, my true talent laid bare. And if you know anything at all about me, it is that I don’t like revealing myself. When I publish this book I will have to face reality, both the real and the imagined reality my very imaginative mind can come up with.

I will have to face all the opinions of people; real and imagined, and all the thoughts of people; real and imagined, and all the words, reviews, and comments of relatives; both real and imagined.

So when I sit down to write, this all combines in my head and I think… Do I really want to write today? I so don’t have the energy to fight through all that… I deserve a break, right? I really wanna watch a movie, or catch up on a TV show, or read that book, or play my video game, or…. I don’t HAVE to write today… it’s my day off right? I did all this housework I can sit down for a few hours!

And I talk myself out of it, and I feel relief, but I also feel guilt. Because I know it’s an excuse, and I know it’s all in my own head, and I’m doing it AGAIN. But the fear of losing that fantasy is worse than the guilt and shame of never really trying to make it a reality. So I handicap myself, and I’ve been doing it for most of my life.

I started on this road to publishing a novel because 911 made me realize we only get one shot at this life and that shot can end at any moment. I decided to take the plunge and do it despite this bloody fear, and its things like this article that smack me back into focus.


I must push on. I have to sit down and type out what is in my head and then put it out there for the world to judge. Even if it hurts, even if it crushes that fantasy. Because NOT doing it is the same as jumping out of a burning building… maybe you can pretend you’re flying on the way down, but you’re not really flying, you’re just falling on your face.

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