Impostor Syndrome (Writing Update)

The time has come to talk about the Project-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named™.

Over the last six months, I've devoted a good chunk of my writing time to MFA applications. After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I'm excited to announce that I've been accepted into the Stonecoast MFA program at the University of Southern Maine!

For a long time, I wasn't sure pursuing an MFA was the right choice for me—mostly because I didn't think I could afford to leave my job (something I won't have to worry about, thanks to Stonecoast's low-residency model), but also because of my old friend Impostor Syndrome. Frankly, I wasn't sure I was a good enough writer to pursue an MFA (which is part of the reason I was reluctant to talk about the application process on this blog...I was insulating myself against potential failure).

But in the last year, I've started thinking a lot more about my own mortality. About how short life is. About the legacy I want to leave behind. Heavy stuff, for sure, but it made me realize that if I wanted to pursue a career as a writer, I needed to get off my ass. I couldn't just sit around waiting for someone to hand me a paycheck.

Of course, once I started the application process, Impostor Syndrome was right there to remind me what a minuscule chance I stood of actually being accepted. I sweated over every detail: Is it okay to curse in my writing sample? How the fuck do I write a novel synopsis? Should I call attention to the piss-poor grade I received in my college critical writing class?

There were times when applying to schools on top of all the other shit I was dealing with felt like a special kind of hell. There were times when I seriously thought about giving up. But I'm fortunate enough to have an incredible network of friends and family who encouraged me throughout the entire process. And here I am on the other side, gearing up for what I'm sure is going to be an amazing adventure.

And yet...

Impostor Syndrome keeps trying to knock me back down. When people tell me I've earned this, all I can think is, "Have I?" How do I know my acceptance wasn't just a fluke? An administrative mistake? What if all the other students are way more intelligent/talented/attractive than I am? What if they realize I'm a fraud the second I step through the door?

Here's the thing. I'm not a natural storyteller. There are people who can take a simple trip to the grocery store and spin it into the most compelling epic since the Iliad. I'm not one of them. It takes me a long time to get a story to the point where it's more than just a quivering puddle of word vomit. So it's hard for me to accept that I might have what it takes to write professionally.

But if someone's willing to take a chance on me, to help me bring my craft up to the professional level, then you can bet your ass I'm going to give it everything I've got.


Writing update for October:

I spent much of the month working on the two manuscripts I'll be submitting for my first residency in January. I also spent some extra time working on A SMUDGED AND CROOKED LINE and doing research for GARDEN OF THE STARS.

Writing goals for November:

After I finish my two manuscripts, I'm planning on doing a quick pass on the chapters I've already completed for A RAVENING FIRE (so that I can feel more comfortable setting it aside). I plan to spend the rest of the month compiling notes for GARDEN OF THE STARS and putting together preliminary outlines for some of the stories I want to tell in that universe.


Books read/listened to in October:

  • THE SORCERER OF THE WILDEEPS by Kai Ashante Wilson. This book was like nothing I've ever read. I absolutely loved it. (Although the ending WRECKED me.)
     
  • WAKING THE MOON by Elizabeth Hand. Superbly written and incredibly compelling. Plus, the themes of gender and feminism dovetailed nicely with UNSPEAKABLE THINGS.
     
  • FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON by Daniel Keyes (audiobook). I can't believe I'd never read/listened to this before. An interesting look at the intersection between intelligence and humanity. Riveting from start to finish.
     
  • A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ by Walter M. Miller, Jr. (audiobook). While I thought this book was well written, I didn't find much to latch onto, character-wise. Ultimately, it just fell flat for me.
     
  • UNSPEAKABLE THINGS by Laurie Penny. A fascinating exploration of modern gender dynamics. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in deconstructing some of the toxic myths at the heart of our neoliberal patriarchy.

Reading/listening list for November:

  • ACACIA by David Anthony Durham.
  • THE WRATH AND THE DAWN by Renée Ahdieh (audiobook).
  • THE HIDDEN FACE OF EVE by Nawal El Saadawi.

I'd say that's enough soul-baring for one post. Until next time, folks. Be good to one another.

Peter