Never Diminish Your Success. Simple, right?
Well emerging (and successful/published) writers often feel this way. The voice inside your head nags you with questions. “What if this is the only good thing I’ll ever write”, “What if they find out I’m really not that talented”, “What if I was just lucky this time”. I recognize these, do you? I have imposter syndrome, I don’t think I’ll ever be rid of it, but I will not let it rule me.
In 2017 I’d beaten out several other writers for a Fellowship, one that I thought I’d had no chance at even being competitive for. I sent in two works, one fiction and one creative non-fiction. I had only a single work published to date and it was in a college (that I attended) literary magazine. I’d taken that piece and worked on it for another year on and off, then sent it in applying for the fellowship, hoping only that the judges would be kind enough to send me some constructive feedback. When I received the email that I’d not only won, but each one of my pieces was chosen by different judges as the winner I was in disbelief.
I ended up accepting the fellowship and traveling to Martha’s Vineyard for a week. There I sat with Academics, published authors and poets, people who have podcasts on creative writing and are employed as writers in some fashion. From the first moment that we went around the room and introduced ourselves I thought I shouldn’t be there. I thought they’d made a mistake somewhere along the line and just couldn't take it back. I thought that my talent did not meet the standards in the room. I was the imposter, the odd man out. The (very kind) director of the retreat could see this, he even told me up front that I was suffering from this syndrome. I gladly agreed and tried not to take up too much of his time, which in itself is one of the many signs of imposter syndrome.
It’s only recently that I have decided that I was not in fact an imposter. I finally figured out that the work I had submitted was not only worthy of the award but it had been some of my best work to date. I could still admit to myself though, easily, that I had a lot to learn. I only wish I’d have told myself that while I was attending the workshops and readings, while had the opportunity to work with poets and authors. I wish I’d have paused and recognized this while I was there instead of being distracted by all the wonderful writers and their works and thinking that my work didn’t hold up.
Finally figuring out that no matter where you are in the process, that’s where you growth is. There is no way to be an imposter in the process of growth, in the process of educating yourself in your passion, be it writing or something else. There is no being an imposter on your own field of play and on your own terms.
I’m hoping that my lesson is something you as a writer will think about and take to heart. What was that lesson? The lesson learned here was: Never Diminish Your Success.
In 2017 I was fortunate to attend the “Night of Writing Dangerously” in San Francisco. Not knowing what to expect and having no personal goals for the night was the right way to go. I approached the event very much like I approach NaNoWriMo today. While I’m trying to write everyday, and have a number (a small one) as a goal, I’m just letting it happen. Life happens, and when the call to write comes, I answer.
Don’t confuse this tactic with being unmotivated, or to lack planning. I set aside a time to write, but sometimes something else takes precedent. Some days my son needs his parent to be there, perhaps out in the shop in the backyard creating something with wood and pipes. Another day maybe the in-laws need someone to drive them to an appointment, or the car needs new wipers before the storm that’s going to hit in a couple of days. Whatever it is, I know that I’ll still write, just not necessarily when, or where I expected. For example, I’m sitting in my sons room, under the night light, typing a blog entry on my tiny phone, waiting for his restless legs to settle and for him to fall asleep. Once he’s asleep I’ll quietly creep to the window and shut it, pull the blankets up around him and kiss him goodnight.
November and NaNoWriMo no longer present as a pressure, just a gentle reminder that writing can get done in the strangest of place, at the strangest times and cover the mundane or the miraculous. Let NaNo in November just be your reminder to write.
The 2017 Parent Fellowship is awarded to a poet and a prose writer. This year I was fortunate to receive the prose award. The wonderful people at Martha's Vineyard Institute for Creative Writing understand the challenges that face would be writers who are parents. The Fellowship allows the recipient to spend a week among other writers and poets, participate in classes and discussions as well as readings and of course to write.
I am fortunate enough to have support behind me, people who believe in what I am doing and that want to help me. I thank them for their efforts to get me, a parent and writer, out to this incredible opportunity at Martha's Vineyard.
I'd like to thank the MVICW for their efforts to aid parent writers like myself as well as the recognition with this award.
Pacific Grove, a small town with a small town library. The Pacific Grove Library is a Carnegie Library, originally opening in 1908. Additional areas of the library were opened in 1926, 1938, 1950 and 1978. Like many libraries around the country it's underfunded and likely trying to find new ways to stay relevant with a population that turns toward technology more frequently. This library has great support though; the local schools, the general population and the non-profit "Friends of the PG Library". It is this last group that has done a wonderful and unique fundraiser that I am fortunate to have contributed to.
The "Friends" ( as I will refer to them) are gathering stories for a book to benefit the library. "Stories of America: Life in Pacific Grove, California." The Introduction will be written by current Mayor Bill Kampe, and the forward by Senator Bill Monning. It's a wonderful thing to have this kind of support, and to collect stories from the both locals and visitors to this little coastal town. The stories are short and varied and as I understand it from a variety of perspectives.
I look forward to reading the book and feel privileged to have been able to help out by contributing.
"Stories of America: Life in Pacific Grove California" will be available in October of 2017. If you are in the Monterey Bay Area, visit Pacific Grove, or "PG" as the locals call it, during Chataqua Days. The book will be available there as well as at the Library and Bookworks Cafe.
ISBN 978-1-943887-36-1 Available starting October 2017 in print and e-book.
First, I want to thank those of you that so graciously contributed to the fundraiser last year for The Night of Writing Dangerously. Due to your contributions, I was able to attend this wonderful evening at the Julia Morgan Ball Room in San Francisco. Not only was it a great way to get to know other writers and listen to their stories, it was an incredible way to reignite my passion for writing.
While I have not finished the novel that I was working on that evening, I have been busy producing other short works. Over the weeks to follow I will share some with you, my contributors.
You'll be the first to know when and where works are published. You'll be first to see the works, some in their final version and others on the cusp of being finished.
The first piece I am sharing is "Ghosts". This piece came out of a writing assignment at my local college when our instructor had us do a non-fiction piece. I chose memoir, as I had thought it would be the most difficult for me. As it turned out, this particular piece was not hard to come up with, but it was difficult to write. While the piece here has undergone several rewrites and perhaps needs one more (maybe two) it is different from the original.
"Ghosts" - Originally published in Scheherazade, Issue 6, May 2016 under the name PJ Schmidt.(the link will take you to the first draft version used in the school literary magazine.)
You will find the final version of the story below.
Again, let me thank you. Without your contributions I wouldn't have been able to do what I am doing today.