Imposter Syndrome

Close to three years ago, I found myself dragged to Star Wars Celebration: Chicago with some of my friends.

It was a really fun experience because the extent of my Star Wars knowledge was at that point:

  • Seen the movies (the prequels in the theater)
  • Played the Playstation 2 Battlefront Games

So I wasn’t getting as much, Star Wars-wise, from the experience. I did get a book signed by Timothy Zahn; learned that George Lucas has worse handwriting than I do; and stumbled on to a lightsaber battle at Millennium Park that we had initially thought we missed.

Mostly, I was there for the people-watching element of it. The very little that I ended up writing in 2019 was centered around my trip there. I love the city of Chicago (probably my second-favorite major city in the US) so I took advantage of me not having tickets for the first day to walk around the city.

I’ll spare you the play-by-play of the second day and just focus on what my comeback post is about. There weren’t many panels that immediately called out to me but there was one I felt called to — the one featuring Delilah S. Dawson, author of Phasma . I went because as a writer, it’s important to learn from other writers even if they’re writing in completely different genres. My takeaways from that chat were two:

The first, the idea that you didn’t have to be a Star Wars fanboy to write Star Wars. She came at it from a background writing steampunk romance. I thought that was pretty cool and made me want to one day be a good enough writer to be considered to write parts of the canon. (a reach goal I’m adding to my dreams of winning an Hugo and writing for the Black Library)

The second: Impostor Syndrome

I think everyone at some point save for either narcissists or pathological liars have experienced this before. It took me awhile to navigate through it as an educator — especially when I was, in my mind, a social studies teacher masquerading as an English teacher. That feeling still rears its ugly head from time to time. Rationally, I know I’m an English teacher. I’m employed as an English teacher. I have a classroom near the other English teachers. My active certifications indicate i’m an English teacher. I work for the English department!

And yet…

It’s a feeling I come across often as a writer. I’m from the same borderlands that gave birth to Oscar Casares, James Carlos Blake, and so many others. I live in a city with incredible literary talent. I went to grad school with current poet laureates. I’ve worked with published writers and artists. And I’m always like DUDE YOU’RE SO COOL and they’re like DUDE SO ARE YOU which makes me go ‘ew no what’s wrong with you’

Which is the IS speaking. There’s nothing that ranks me any higher or lower than any of those people. When I’ve reached people through my poetry or my fiction, they’re not thinking “this short story is nice but it’s no Eyes of Zapata” or “Two stepping guide for cowards” is cool but it’s no Aguacero .”

They’re thinking, “this is a good poem/story/essay!”

Which is something I try to remind myself of whenever I write.

Which takes me back to Dawson’s way of dealing with imposter syndrome. I got to be one of those people that stands up and asks a question to a panelist and this might be normal for regular con goers but keep in mind THIS WAS MY FIRST CONVENTION so I was a little nervous. I asked her how she dealt with impostor syndrome. She thought about it for a second, and then shrugged. I didn’t record what she said…but paraphrasing:

“Keep yourself so busy you don’t have the time to doubt yourself.”

And it blew my mind because it was something so simple and so….true.

Not talking about overworking, not talking about some toxic “WORK YOURSELF TO THE BONE TO CREATE” thing…just, keep yourself busy doing the thing you love instead of wasting time with side things. I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of money on “books for research” and wasted countless hours “worldbuilding” instead of actually writing. And I say that not because I regret anything I bought, but because I realize that when I focused on just doing The ThingTM I didn’t think about my being an impostor. When I won NaNoWriMo last year, I didn’t stop to think about all the things I could add or would have to edit…I just focused on writing The Thing.

Let the impostor syndrome creep up when you’re not doing anything.

When you write, just write.

Published by obsidianpalms

Hugo Esteban Rodríguez Castañeda is a writer and educator hailing from Mexico and the Rio Grande Valley. He is the author of “…And Other Stories” (2018, La Casita Grande Editores) as well as other short stories, poems, and essays that have appeared in places like The Airgonaut, The Acentos Review, Picaroon Poetry, Neon Mariposa, Mathematician Transmission and the Texas Poetry Calendar. He is a graduate from the University of Texas at El Paso's MFA program and hus fiction has been recommended as part of Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net slates and was longlisted for the Wigleaf Top 50. He is currently a reader for RUBY Lit and occasionally freelances as a content editor for a publishing company. A fountain pen enthusiast, he lives in Northwest Houston and is most at home at coffeehouses, shopping malls, and mosh pits.

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