Imposter Syndrome, A Snarly Dog

Imposter Syndrome is a Snarly Dog. I decided it was time to write about this, after mentoring one of my author friends on Imposter Syndrome and self-doubt. I realized this is something we don’t talk about enough. If we did, writers would not view it as unique or unexpected when it happens to them.

Mention Imposter Syndrome in a room full of authors and ask them to raise their hands if they have ever encountered it and you will see almost every hand go up. It is as common as typing THE END. Think about that for a minute. Let this sink in – Imposter Syndrome is so common to writers, that almost everyone has experienced it at one time or another. I don’t know any authors who haven’t experienced it and it’s been ten years since my first novel was published and I’ve been in author circles for over twenty years. Imposter Syndrome is universal and seems to be part of the author’s journey.

I like to picture these doubts as snarling dogs, because that’s what they do. They ask the question who do you think you are? And it’s always with that snarl.

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I like to say Imposter Syndrome is a big snarly dog and you have to go all out alpha on it to show it who the alpha is.

Imposter Syndrome is a form of self-doubt and is fear based. Fear of being judged as an author, fear of having your book judged, fear of being found wanting, fear of someone saying – who do you think you are to write that book? You may experience one of these or another from the same snarling dog family.

You may experience this snarly dog with your first book or your twentieth. When writing, you may experience it halfway through, in those moments when you think the good pages you wrote yesterday which you thought were such good pages now totally suck and the whole book totally sucks so much you’d like to shred it, burn it or delete it. That one is a very nasty snarly dog. You can’t let it win. You may experience a snarly dog after hitting the bestseller lists multiple times; with readers saying they love your books. Some writers experience it on book release day and don’t feel like celebrating, because that snarly dog is winning. You may experience it when being asked to read from your work or when asked to speak or to be in an interview or on a panel. So, what can you do about a snarly dog?

First, know they can pop up at any time and be ready to face one. Acknowledge it and face it. No hiding in your house, or cancelling or destroying pages. No posting all over social media, wallowing in it and being a victim of it. Tell an author friend or mentor privately if you need to talk about it, but then face that snarly dog.

Imposter Syndrome is a big snarly dog and you have to go all alpha on it to show it who the alpha is. Your words and your voice and your stories have value. When it snarls, say out loud, “I am (your full name) and my words have value. My book has value and people want to read it.”

There is power in “I am” statements. Great power.

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Now go write your awesome books, never let the snarly dogs win, and boost and encourage your fellow creative friends. I’m fine with you quoting me and hope this article helps.

To learn more about Debra Parmley and her books, or for her writing classes check out:

Website www.debraparmley.com

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Writing Blog https://beautifuldaytraveler.wordpress.com/

Debra’s poems on https://ko-fi.com/debraparmley

 

Sometimes you just have to write a monster… or bake one

Sometimes you just have to write a monster … or bake one.

Did you know I have a story with a monster in it? I have one story where a monster appears. Vague Directions has a shape shifting monster. A hamster. Yes that’s right. A hamster. Sometimes my imagination surprises even me. I was writing and a shape shifting hamster monster appeared and went after the heroine. Sometimes when you are writing, thinking you are writing a certain kind of story something will pop up and insist it be written. This is how I ended up with a monster in the short story.

Writing students will often hear me say, you must write things out of you. If something wants to be written, then you must write it. Otherwise it will nag at you while you are trying to write. So, write those monsters out when they pop up. Get them out an onto the page. Then you can go on and write something else. It is best not to bottle things, monsters especially.

We are celebrating everything monsters this month on my social media.

I love cookies and monster cookies especially. The pic above is of the monster brownies I baked last week. I just had to make them. Halloween holiday foods are so much fun and I have two boards on my Pinterest page to collect the pics.

Add Monster Cookie Recipes or Food Recipes in  Author Debra Parmley’s Facebook Page. : https://www.facebook.com/debra.parmley.7

We will then add them here: https://www.pinterest.com/debraparmley/monster-cookies/ & https://www.pinterest.com/debraparmley/monster-foods/

 

Calculating Pages and Word Counts

How long is your book? My first book had to meet a 100,000 words goal to be submitted back in 2007. (Picture of me with my first book A Desperate Journey by Monica Parks Photography.) Much has changed since then but figuring your word count has not.

For the length of your book here is a guide to page counts and word counts.

How many pages have you written today? Keep writing!

How close to finishing your book are you? Keep writing!
The industry average is 250 words per page (pages of course vary with more dialog or more narrative)

Pages              Words
50                   12,500
100                 25,000
150                 37,500
200                 50,000
250                 67,500
300                 75,000
320                 80,000
350                 87,500

If you wrote 7 pages a day in 50 days you’d have 50,000 words. You can do it!
How fast do you write? How many pages a day can you get in? This chart may help you to estimate how soon you can be done with your book and reach the goal of your page count for the book.
Now get going! How many pages can you write today?

 

 

Writing During Difficult Times

Writing during difficult times can be a blessing but it can also create stress. I experienced this during 2014 when my father was on hospice for eight months and then in June when he passed. This was a time when I put into practice much of what I teach my writing students.

To write is to release words we carry inside of us. Thoughts and emotions but also the words themselves. Words that we do not speak or write will lodge in the body. So it can be cathartic to write about the difficult times. This is why it can feel so good to write in a journal.

It can also be cathartic to block everything about your current reality and escape to your fictional world for a while. The tricky part is that stress can make it hard to focus on that fictional world.

So how do we move through difficult times when we want to be writing? How do we navigate a writing life when the river currents have shifted and nothing is as it was?

First, you must always take care of yourself. You come first and the writing second.
If you need to take time off then do so. If you need help, then ask for it. You might not want to write. You might not want to get up in the morning. You might feel you are the only one in the world with this problem. You might feel that no one understands. But the fact is, this is a common problem. It’s just that not many writers talk about it. We tend to go into our writing caves and remain silent. This I believe is a mistake.

Take time off from the pressure to write and don’t be hard on yourself about it. Do what you must do. You are allowed a long lunch break during these times. You are allowed a vacation. Taking a break does not mean you have failed any more than taking a vacation from a day job means you are not doing a good job. Be kinder toward yourself, not hard on yourself. Remember that you are more important than the writing. The writing will be there when you return. Your life matters and your health and happiness matter. Without you, your writings would never exist.

This is not the time to disappear into your writers cave like some mysterious author who never communicates what is going on with anyone. If you have an editor, an agent, a publicist, or anyone else that you work with to produce or promote your writing, let them know what is going on. You might be surprised how supportive they can be.

Come to the page and write something, anything. Getting the words out will help you to move through whatever you are dealing with. The something you write may not be the story you’ve been working on. It may be the thing which is bothering you today. Sometimes we need to get those words out first, before we can move on to working on that story. But write something. Five minutes a day. Set the egg timer. It may seem like an insurmountable task making yourself sit there for five minutes to write, but once you manage it, you might be surprised at the feelings of relief you will have. Give yourself small manageable goals so you can succeed instead of tackling a long project which could leave you with a feeling of failure.

It is okay to write something you never intend anyone to read. You are doing this first for yourself. Whether anyone will read it is a secondary issue. Your task is to get those words out. It is okay to write something and then delete it later. It is okay to put it into a drawer and not look at it for a year.

It is okay to only write for that five minutes a day when you are used to writing pages and pages. It is okay if you cannot produce as many pages as you are used to. You may be tired, you may be distracted, you may have interruptions you would not normally allow. Avoid putting pressure on yourself about your writing.

Are you full of emotion? If so, good. Let that flow out onto the page. If you are working on fiction or poetry let it flow into your work. Emotions are one of the ways we connect with our readers.

Allow your writing to bring you joy. Everyone goes through difficult times at some point in their lives. But you have been blessed with the urge to write and it’s there for a reason. Your writing is something that will always be yours. You take it with you wherever you go and you can write through anything if you teach yourself how. Let your writing give back to you as you give to it.

Writing through difficult times has taught me so much. I am thankful for those lessons, just as I am thankful to be nearing the end of these current difficulties. I am thankful to know that just as I have moved through this trying period of my life, I could move through the next if need be and emerge stronger and wiser on the other side. I will emerge stronger, wiser and ready to write.

A Writing Exercise – Dedicated to My Father

Two weeks ago, on my birthday, I treated myself to a Writing and Yoga Workshop taught by Valentine Leonard at Delta Groove Yoga in Memphis. It’s been a long time since I took a writing workshop. Usually I am busy writing my novels, short stories and poetry and teaching and coaching my writing students. So this was a nice treat for me, to be on the other side of teaching and to be a student once again.

One of the exercises given was to make two lists, one of places we knew well and the other of things we no longer did. Then we were to match the unlikely ones together, to pick one and to write about it. From those lists I chose my fathers house and escorting  travelers overseas.

This is what I wrote:

I no longer escort travelers overseas on long trips to my father’s house.

He is on hospice now and mostly sleeps. So I would not have time now for travelers who need escorts because they don’t know how to get their passport or what to pack and who have never stepped beyond the borders of their own country.

I used to have so much time and patience for so many people and never minded helping. They simply needed someone to go beyond pointing the way and saying this is how you do it.

Sometimes a person just needs another hand to hold and for them to say come on, it’s going to be okay. I wonder who is holding my fathers hand now and if he will be escorted in a group to the other side. He does not seem afraid, merely confused. Perhaps this is why he is lingering so long.

It’s harder to be the watcher when you are used to escorting people. I have no road map for where he must go. I do not know these border crossings. I can only stand on the shoreline waving goodbye and sending my love.

For me, this is a journey of sitting when I am used to being in movement. I should not complain. He is the one confined to a bed, never going outside to breathe the fresh air. No wonder he sleeps so much. I would sleep too if my gaze could not reach up to touch the sky. I would close my eyes and travel in my mind. Perhaps this is what he is doing. It is impossible for me to know.

Perhaps he is waiting on a slow VISA to the place he has never gone before. I hope and pray his passage is smooth, his escort kind and firm of hand. I hope his new country welcomes him like a long lost son and celebrates his coming home.

Dedicated to John (Jack) Bishop

Oct. 15, 1933 to June 20, 2014

 

Threading the Web – Your Creativity is Always Intact

Your Creativity is always in intact. If you are not writing or creating in some way, that does not mean your creativity is broken or has gone away.

Creativity can exist in the midst of chaos of all sorts, illness, war, famine, fear of death…

Just ask any writer who has lived through any of these circumstances and who has written about it, often written during the events. There are famous diaries and other written works which fall into this category and I’ll bet you can even name a few.

I once wrote while in the midst of food poisoning. Food poisoning from an egg roll I’d purchased at a mall food court. I wrote about the experience while I was in it, which is why I know such things can be done. It is the thought of can’t which gets in the way. Clear that off and believe you can.

The piece I wrote, was it a piece I would let you, or anyone else read? No. I tore it up the following week and did away with it.

So, why do this? Why write something if I was just going to tear it up later anyway?

Sometimes we need to write our way through things as a way of processing them, to release what is inside of us so it doesn’t live there any more.

Sometimes we need to write simply to keep our writing muscles flexible and strong.

5 minutes a day is all it takes to keep your writing muscles from hardening up and becoming immobile. In all my writing classes I give timed writing exercises and the 5 minute timed writings are a core part of the program.

Everyone has five minutes to give to the things that are important to them. No excuses. Go on now and set that egg timer, or set your alarm on your phone. Write something, anything. What will you write about today?

 

Threading the Web – Where To Begin – Deciding on Your Point of View

Where do I begin? – My students often ask this question.

One way to begin is to start with the point of view from where you are now. Begin with where you are standing. What do you see?

Last week the cherry blossom trees in my yard came into bloom. Something new to catch my attention, drawing my eye to the beauty there. Creative inspiration could have led me to write a poem about this tree. I stood for a long time taking it in, allowing the visual to speak to me.

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Often journal entries will begin this way. Simply what are you seeing now? Where are you standing? At what angle do you view the scene? Now let’s change things. What happens if you move just a bit closer, changing the angle? This changes the emphasis. What draws the eye? What pulls focus?

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Now let’s change the view again. Move closer in. Look for the details. Look beneath. Look up. What changes? What calls to you now?

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How close can you get? What do you see now? What details emerge? How does this differ from the first scene?

Often we approach our writing from the same viewing point. What would happen if you changed that, moved about to see from a different angle, from a different point of view, through a different story person’s eyes?

Spring is here. Take up your pen and paper and go out and play. See if you can discover something new today.

Tomorrow the view will be different. Subtle changes will appear, blossoms will fall upon the ground, new green leaves will appear. Tomorrow when I come to the page, the view will be different, I will be different. Like a snapshot freezing a moment in time, the pages I write will never be duplicated again. All the more reason then to come to the page, to capture if I can, this perfect moment.

Love and light,

Debra

A Quote – On The Use Of Creativity

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” – Oscar Wilde

I collect quotes and often return to the ones which speak to me. This one has been tapping me on the shoulder, wanting to be shared with my students.

Too often we get in our own way, with many things, but especially with writing. When we don’t write, it becomes harder to write. When we do write, even for five minutes a day, it becomes easier to write. I have experienced this on both ends, the writing and the not writing, and know it to be true for me.

What is holding you back today? Pick up that pen, fire up that computer or typewriter and begin. Even if you only have five minutes. It could be the best five minutes of your day.

Threading the Web – the New Blog – a Beginning

Every creation begins somewhere, with something.

Often my students will tell me they do not know where to begin.

Beginnings can be the smallest of things. A grain of sand, a silken, silver thread.

A decision to start, followed by some small action. You see, it is not enough to desire to begin something. Many people desire things but never take the smallest action toward them.

Creation requires some sort of movement, however small. You pick up the pen. You write one word. And thus it begins….