In two hours, I am scheduled to be photographed with a group of writers for the Bayside Literary Festival. Imposter Syndrome is hitting hard! Yes, I am a writer. Yes, I’ve published two books. Written for newspapers and magazines and talked on the radio.
First of all, I’m not sure what to wear. That’s me up above…that’s what I wear in real life…when I’m doing my true passion, adventure racing And that’s the passion that has driven my writing — the link between physical and mental, between body and soul. I suppose I’ll have to go in gym gear, but does this undermine the serious nature of my work? I tried getting dressed up in “smart casual” clothes for a Bayside Business Network meeting. I looked the part, but I felt a stranger to myself. Luckily, I don’t own any high heels, so I couldn’t make the mistake of wearing those. By nature, I move fast. I’m like the kids in the playground at school who run everywhere they go. I can’t do that in heels. And I have to ride my bike to the photoshoot. So gym gear it is. At least that’s decided.
I’ll tell you the truth. My real dread is not the clothes. My real dread is that someone will say something about grammer — like that time someone in my writing group said, “he uses too many adverbs”, and my mind went kerchunk and I was back in High School English, bored to tears, and writing stories in the margins of my notebook as the teacher discussed that horrible little white grammar book that still sends shivers up my spine when I see it in writing sections in bookstores. I love words, shaping sentences to convey meaning — I just don’t want to box my sentences in with rules. I want them to run free, and wild, and a little out of control. Like me, I suppose. So yes, worrying about grammer is giving me the shivers too.
An aside. I submitted a book to a writing center for feedback once. The editor, the critic, the bearer of scary english-teacher words stalled my work. I had handed over my power, asked if the work was good enough and when she said no, I ran away trembling for a year. I think we’re all afraid our work is not good enough. But somewhere we have to draw a line in the sand. Do the absolute best we can. Then become that kid who says, “Yes it is!” when the critic says, “No it’s not.” Because is the end, saying nothing is worse than saying it a little wrong.
Back to the photoshoot. The smile for the camera thing is worrying me too. I can climb a mountain, scramble up a waterfall, abseil down a rockface. But I can’t smile on cue. My face re-arranges itself into some strange shape, that I think should resemble a smile, but when I see the photo it doesn’t. I want the photographer to hide out in the woods, to catch me on the trail, where I’m lost in the heart of the moment, and the smile is coming from deep inside.
Well, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to wear my gym clothes, ride my bike fast into the wind, let the wind blow away all these scary thoughts. Then I’m going to go have this photo taken of me exactly as I feel in that particular moment. I think people come to me for authenticity. Not for grammar. For guts. Time to find them again.
Funny how the little things can be scarier than the big ones!
Ah, the irony — all the other authors seemed just as nervous as I was. And the most nervous of us all? The photographer! She had a new camera that she wasn’t sure how to work. I’ll post the good photos when I get my hands on them…