A few weekends ago, I was dropping my middle girl off at a Bowl-A-Rama birthday party in the basement of a mall. My plan was to abandon my daughter at the party, hope that her carefully selected gift elicited the “oohs” and “ahhs” she was expecting (gift giving is very important to her) and then to head to Starbucks to work. I would sip coffee and squat at a table near an outlet until my writing task was done, goddammit.
As I was subtly backing away from the shoe rental counter and the cloud of anti-bacterial spray, the birthday girl’s wonderful parents said something adorable. They let me know I was “welcome to stay.” (Ha!) Thanks, I said, but I have to work.
Why I was brave enough to say that, I don’t know, because it’s not often that I admit that I “work.” It invites too many questions. What do you do? Write? What do you write? Books? The truth is, I hardly admit it to myself, let alone other humans, that writing is my “job.” Diminishing my legitimacy is far more comfortable than attempting to embrace it. In fact, despite the mentorships and manuscripts and publications, I still think I’m faking it. Calling it a hobby lowers the stakes. Especially when it comes to fiction, which is what I was working on that day. I couldn’t summon the courage to say, “I have to write,” because it felt misleading and pretentious and … wrong. So I corrected my excuse.
“I have to run errands,” I said.
Ah, yes, understood. No further questions. (In the language of parents, “errands” means, “You have my kid for the next two hours, I have things to do, thank you, goodbye.”)
I planted a kiss on my daughter’s forehead of got the hell out of there, trying to pump myself up for a productive two-hour writing sessions that was absolutely critical thanks to a looming deadline and my penchant for procrastination.
On my way out of the bowling alley, I spotted a magazine rack. Funny, I thought, I have an article in one of those magazines. Then I spotted a second publication that featured my by-line, and then a third — three different local magazines, three new issues, three separate stories for which I was commissioned and paid.
Saying, “I have to work” felt like a lie, even though it wasn’t, and it occurs to me that that probably isn’t normal. There I was, standing in front of a stack of evidence that literally had my name on it, and I still wasn’t comfortable claiming them as my accomplishments. (Even writing this post was hard — I considered saying I had one magazine article on the rack, because it seemed less boastful, but the truth is there were three.)
I don’t have an answer for imposter syndrome, any more than I have an answer for procrastination. Both present roadblocks. Both operate outside of the realm of reason. Both a rearing their ugly head this week as I scramble to meet another cluster of deadlines. So, no neat wrap-up here — no revolutionary reflection that cures my deep-seeded anxieties and self-doubt. I don’t have the answers, and today, I don’t have the time. I have “errands” to do.