Originally published on Medium
I am a writer — a fact I often forget given I have spent so much of my life not writing. I was always a writer from the moment I learned to write, baffling my peers and teachers in school given I pursued technical interests with equal passion. For as terribly as I performed in secondary school, I still took pride in my writing and would eek out passing grades in English and Social Studies courses by the quality of my writing alone. I aced essay-based college courses and have written elaborate and thorough technical documentation.
So why do I feel like I’m terrible at it?
This feeling of inadequacy consistently holds me back from completion. I’ve determined it to be a symptom of impostor syndrome, which I currently suffer from in multiple areas of my life. It results in me giving up on an endeavour too easily because I feel inadequate, or failing to try at all.
I have a wide array of knowledge on a variety of topics. I pursue deep study on all things I take an interest in or pursue as a hobby, but I so rarely write about my thoughts and experiences, placing a low value on my opinions and considering the time to write them too costly an expenditure.
I’m constantly questioning myself about the work I produce, and I’d like to put an end that. Below are a number of questions that serve to undermine my success. I hope for each I can come up with a positive answer to throw back at the voice in my head.
“Why would anybody listen to what I have to say?” I converse online regularly and sometimes spend hours writing lengthy comment responses to disagreeable posts. I can be inspired in conversation, and feel my view is valuable in argument, but so rarely am I willing to put my ideas forward as a standalone document. People upvote, favourite, and like my lengthy comments so clearly there’s an interest in my message, but I still worry for whatever reason about the potential response to a standalone piece.
If I find a topic important, it only stands to reason that somebody else will. I need to remember that my audience isn’t everyone. I can’t possibly hope to write content that will appeal to everyone. If I write something that appeals to a small, under-served minority, all the better.
“What if I’m my opinions change?” On the occasions I have unearthed old examples of my writing, I’ve frankly been embarrassed by it. It’s not that I find the writing itself to be bad (though it is in a few cases), but in my past I have held problematic views of all kinds and said things I regret. I recognize that we all grow and change as individuals, but the idea of cementing something in public view now that may one day be perceived as problematic later is horrifying. It’s uncomfortable looking back and seeing reminders of how awful I used to be.
I fear the public perception that the person I was perceived to be in past is still relevant to the person I am today. This perception drives stigma for past activities and a general fear of public or online presence. This stigma drives political witch hunts and doxing efforts from shitty corners of the internet.
I forget in all this that the person I am now is much better than the person I used to be. I am capable of better now and I have reason to be more hopeful that what I produce now will have greater longevity. I also need to remember that even timeless works are problematic in myriad ways. Writing is, after all, a product of its time.
Sometimes my opinions change over the course of writing. I might have a great idea and spend hours writing, only to glance over what I’ve written and hate every word. I’ve deleted pages of work I became disappointed with and lost those hours of time forever. I need to learn to save the draft and come back to it another day rather than dispose of it completely. My perception, especially after a couple of hours staring at text, is not always an accurate reflection of how I will feel in the long term.
“I’m not experienced or knowledgeable enough.” I frequently worry that whatever the topic, I haven’t been exposed long enough or researched it deeply enough. The adage “the more you know, the more you know you don’t know” seems to describe the trap I’ve fallen in to. I stand on the precipice of a little bit of knowledge and experience and am able to see the unfathomable depths of things I don’t understand and maybe never will.
It’s important, moving forward, that I account for the scale of time and how little time we actually have to experience things on this planet. I could dedicate my life to pursuit of knowledge or experience in one narrow field and never understand it. Perhaps I should try expressing views from my limited experience in the hopes that it improves the collective knowledge or provides me with needed feedback to improve my own understanding.
“I’m nowhere near as good a writer as _______.” There are some seriously great writers and journalists in the social justice, tech, feminism, and transgender scenes. I am awed and humbled by their skill with words. Some are fast and prolific whereas I am far from it.
I know, I know, practice makes perfect, but it seems to come so easily to others sometimes. I really need to stop comparing myself. My style is very different from most everyone I read but that doesn’t make it bad. The way I write is unique and a product of my unique experiences.
Changes will need to be made to my internal dialogue to move past these sorts of questions and produce the content I know on some level I’m capable of producing. I need to produce content to get better at producing content. This post is a start.