Thursday, May 24, 2012


Every time I take on a project I am beset with doubts as to my ability to write a competent sentence, to catch all of the errors in the piece, to craft the work into something that will not be rejected out of hand. "Is this worth selling?" is a constant refrain that runs through my head and, on occasion, drowning out the more important "Is this worth writing." Fortunately, the latter usually dominates.

One of the NPR programs I follow mentioned that the problem with incompetent people is that they are so poorly schooled in whatever they do that they cannot --not "will not" but "CANNOT"-- see their own inadequacy.  The inarticulate feel that their language skills are equal to any other and the poor golfer usually blames their equipment, the weather, or "having a bad day."  Those who populate the thickest part of editors' slush piles are probably under the illusion that they have penned masterpieces.  Some of these same self-deluded fools (who do not see themselves as either deluded or as fools) foist jillions of poorly written, often rejected, and pathetically edited eBooks on everyone who wishes to get books for low cost or, better yet, free! Some succeed.

"Is this well done?" is the melody that plays against "How would I know?" on a daily basis as I toil to wordsmith text on my writer's anvil.  In the back of my mind are always the frustrating and exhausting doubts and misgivings as to word choice, phrasing, and succinctness.

The impostor syndrome weighs heavily on the mind of every professional, the fear that they will eventually be found out for the fraud they are, that they will be discovered to be not as skilled or intelligent or learned as everyone believes them to be. This feeling is the stuff of three 'clock awakenings in the chill grip of fear and failure, when every mistake is remembered and embarrassment rides high.  Although these waking nightmares can be suppressed the next morning, the thought that you are always one small step from the abyss of disaster never strays far from mind.

Tie all of these themes together and you enter my world of speculative short fiction where the future is ever uncertain, where I never know if the current piece will ever appeal to an editor or even be acceptable by the day's literary standards, much less marketplace.  Every rejection calls the impostor or incompetence question to mind, every acceptance makes me question whether I could have done better, and everything that reaches print makes me worry about it's meaning to the readers.   But none of these doubts and fears stops the writing.

It just makes me work the harder.

1 comment:

  1. "Those who populate the thickest part of editors' slush piles are probably under the illusion that they have penned masterpieces." Not only yes, but H*ll yes.

    I know of the studies that NPR is referring to, and I can only quote this proverb: 'He who knows not and knows not he knows not: he is a fool - shun him. He who knows not and knows he knows not: he is simple - teach him. He who knows and knows not he knows: he is asleep - wake him. He who knows and knows he knows: he is wise - follow him.'

    To which I would add that the person who knows not and knows not that he knows not can waste enormous amounts of your time - and gives ebooks a bad name. (You? Usually I just need to wake you up a little. You know, but sometimes you forget. *smile*)

    Great seeing you at the Nebs and I look forward to you sending us another gem.


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