Impostor Syndrome never goes away. And that’s a good thing

Alright, I know that’s a hell of a thing to say, but hear me out.

Most of you reading this are creators or aspiring to be so. And we know impostor syndrome. It walks with us daily, holding our hands and whispering in our ears like a lover. Only what lover would tell us these sorts of things?

You don’t belong here. 

No one really likes your work. They just pity you.

All your Instagram followers are just following you to send you scammy DMs. 

Feel free to insert your own hellish thoughts here. 

These thoughts suck. And no matter how long I write, no matter how much I create, they’ve never gone away. I honestly doubt they ever will, even if I achieve everything I want to achieve. 

I’m a published author. I’m a professional critic. I’ve produced podcasts, both fiction and nonfiction. People like what I create. They tell me so. And I still feel like I don’t fit. Like my stories aren’t good enough. Like I got published and hired as some cosmic joke. The universe gave me just what I wanted, but I can scarcely believe I earned it. 

I could join SFWA, get published with Tor, and quit my day job. And it would just make my Impostor Syndrome even worse. Because I wouldn’t feel like I deserve any of it.

So how in the hell could that ever be considered a good thing? Let’s talk about it. 

When you feel impostor syndrome, it means you’re trying new things. We don’t generally feel like impostors when we feel comfortable, after all. And if we want to grow as artists, we should always be trying new things. Learning new things that might make us feel stupid and slow at first. Things that make us feel like we’re writing with a crayon shoved between our toes. It’s easy to feel like we don’t belong. Which is a great way to be sure we’re growing. 

Along the same lines, impostor syndrome likes to show up when we’re out of our comfort zone. When we’re trying to level up. Even as we do it, it’s normal to feel like we don’t deserve these new spaces. That doesn’t mean we don’t deserve them. don’t ever misunderstand. It’s just that you can’t move into your new phase in life without some growing pains. 

Impostor syndrome also means that you give a shit about your work. That you want it to be good, you want it to be the very best it can be. Your work matters to you. And you care more about your opinion of your work than anyone else’s opinion. It should be better, it can be better. Because you are capable of better. That’s why you’re feeling like your work should be better. Because you’re capable of better.

Impostor Syndrome will never go away. And you’d better hope it doesn’t. Because as soon as you feel like you belong, you get complacent. You stop trying to get better. You stop working to hit new levels, achieve new dreams. 

There’s a time for that in your life. But it’s near the end so I’d rather not think of that right now.

So the next time impostor syndrome takes your hand, give it a comforting squeeze. It’s saying awful things to you, but it’s not trying to hurt you. It’s trying to help you grow. 

All that being said, you probably deserve the praise and rewards for your work. There are too many people out there creating for any praise or achievement to be from pity or by accident. Celebrate your wins, celebrate your space.

But then reach for more. Reach high enough until you start feeling that impostor syndrome whispering in your ear again. And again, and again, and again. 

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Why Velvet Was The Night Works

Velvet Was The Night is the latest novel by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia. We’ve talked about several of her books in the past, including Mexican Gothic and God of Jade and Shadows. She has no trouble genre-hopping, going from horror to fantasy to political noir without missing a beat.

Through each genre hop, some things remain constant. Each book shows Mexico for the beautiful, complex, rich country that it is. And each book includes a love affair that melts my heart. 

Velvet Was The Night is that political Noir genre I was talking about. Set in the 1970s, it’s all about political uprisings and protests. And, about a young woman named Maite who accidentally gets caught up in all of this.

I loved every single page of this book. So let’s break it apart to see why it works. 

We see the story in this book from two points of view. One is Maite, a secretary who’s bored to death with her life. She has just one pleasure in her life, a series of romance comics.

The second pov character is Elvis. He’s a pseudo-government agent, tasked with shutting down protests in the city.

These two people show us entirely different views of the situation and the city itself. More than that, though, they know things the other doesn’t. They’re able to see the mystery from different angles, revealing secrets to the reader that one or the other character isn’t privy to. This means that this is one of those delightful mystery novels that you can play along with.

I’m not a fan of mysteries you can’t solve. Maybe that’s just a me thing.

So now, let’s talk about Maite. I didn’t like her at first. She seemed dull. Not interested in anything but her comics. She also didn’t like cats, which is a total turn-off.

Maite was also a thief. She stole little things from her neighbor’s apartments. It’s a weird thing to do, not gonna lie. At first, it seems like this is just a weird thing she does. And it makes sense. Maite is bored with her life. Bored people sometimes do dumb things to entertain themselves.

Eventually, though, we find out that this is a crucial plot device. If this petty theft trait of Maite’s hadn’t made sense right from the start, this would have felt cheap. Instead, it made total sense. 

Honestly, a lot of the enjoyment of this book came from Maite. She’s miserable, but it makes sense that she’s miserable. Her mother treats her like an afterthought. Her boss barely notices she’s there. She’s broke and has no friends. Everyone would be a little miserable. 

As you read the story, you can see exactly why she fell into the scary situations she found herself in. 

There are a lot of stories about bored young women ending up in fantastical, scary, dangerous situations. Most of them don’t seem plausible. But this one does. 

So, what can you as a writer learn from Velvet was The Night? 

Point of view switching is a great way to build suspense. 

Flawed characters work best when their flaws make sense.

It doesn’t work to put a random character in a random situation. How or why did they of all people end up there?

Is there a movie, tv-show or book you’d like me to break apart to see why it works? Let me know in the comments.

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Laziness doesn’t exist

Unpopular opinion, laziness doesn’t exist. Yeah, that thing you feel bad about all the time? The flat, dull emotion you feel that you try to beat out of yourself and teach your children to demonize? It’s not a real thing. 

Don’t believe me? Alright, let’s break it down. I’m willing to bet that when you feel like you’re being lazy, it’s one of four other scenarios that you aren’t going to solve by telling yourself to just stop, you know, being lazy.

I know this because I’ve done this myself. Especially in November. I’m trying to do so much in November every year it’s not funny. I’m finishing up all my projects for the year, and writing a novel, and prepping for the holidays. And I have had some days when I felt downright lazy. I don’t want to work or write or clean. Mostly what I want to do this time of year is craft, read and bake.

This is not laziness. And if you’re feeling the same way, it’s not laziness for you either. Here’s what it is instead. 

You’re doing too much

Who isn’t prone to letting their too much gene get the better of them this time of year? I mean, it feels very much like the only way the holidays are going to happen is if I make them happen by sheer force of will. 

But it’s not just this time of year. I have been trying desperately to slow down over the past year. But I’m a freelance writer and indie novelist. That is work. And since those two things don’t pay all the bills, I also have a day job. Sometimes it feels like I live in a constant state of being behind deadlines. Even though I’m the one who made all my damned deadlines!

But doing too much at once leads to just one thing, shutting down. Which to some looks like being lazy. Well of course I’m going to spend the evening watching Rick and Morty while playing Webkinz if I spent all day running from the second I got up. Of course, I’ll have all the motivation of a slug in the sun on my days off if I do nothing but hustle six days straight.

I’m not lazy, I’ve earned a break.

You’re overwhelmed

Okay, but what about if you haven’t done all that stuff? What about if you coasted by at work, left the dishes in the sink and all of your passion projects are collecting dust? What about if you accomplished nothing for the past day, week, month and you’re still sleeping late and eating take-out for dinner? That’s got to be laziness, right?

Or you have an executive disfunction and the sheer volume of things you need to do is too much to process. You’re looking at a list, either mental or on paper, and there’s just so much to do you don’t know where to start. Or you’re so overwhelmed at the scope of a project that you just can’t imagine getting it done. 

I’m not lazy, I’m overwhelmed. And there are things to do about that. I’ll do a whole post on overwhelm if you like. But there are a ton out there already. If that’s your issue, it’s not going to do you a bit of good to beat yourself up because you think you’re being lazy. 

You’re comfortable

Maybe it’s not the day-to-day list that is getting you down. Maybe it’s instead starting on a new project that you just can’t get behind. Maybe you need a new day job. Maybe you’ve always wanted to write a novel, or buy a storefront, or start painting. But you’re just too lazy to get started.

Yeah, or maybe you’re just comfortable. Maybe you don’t love your day job, but you’re worried a new one could be even worse. Maybe the thought of starting a creative venture is scary because it might fail. Maybe you just enjoy your downtime and don’t want to start anything new. 

Well, if you’re comfortable, do you want to step out of that zone? That comfort zone?

Maybe you do, maybe you don’t. But you’re not lazy. Not everyone’s got to push themselves to reach for the stars all the damned time. Maybe you’re happy just, you know, being happy. 

But if you’re not, then get used to not being comfortable. It’s worth it.

You don’t care, and that’s fine

Have you ever noticed that a lot of what you feel lazy over are things you didn’t give a damn about to start with? The things that you procrastinate on are often things that you just don’t care about. Things like decorating for the holidays, cooking dinner, volunteering at your kids’ school, cleaning out the garage. I’m sure you’ve got your list. I procrastinate when it comes to housekeeping.

Why? Because so long as my house doesn’t smell and I’ve got a spoon to stir my coffee I don’t care about what my house looks like. 

So I do the minimum, and I do it as fast as possible. I also blast music and sing along at the top of my lungs while I do it. This is great because it’s both fun for me and insufferable for the rest of my household. 

I’m not lazy because I don’t want to wash my windows or mop the floor. I just don’t care if these things get done. And that’s okay. It’s my life.

It’s your life. If you don’t care about something, don’t do it. Leave your energy for things you want to do. 

And don’t ever talk about being lazy again. It just does not exist. 

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It’s time for another holiday pep talk

It’s November, and it’s time to have the talk. The same talk we have every year. Sorry not sorry, we’re gonna talk about it again.

As much as we all want to pretend otherwise, this holiday season is going to look an awful lot like last holiday season. Supply lines are backed up. Everyday items and festive goodies are hard to find. More than a few have lost their jobs or had their hours drastically cut. Many of us will be celebrating the days with empty seats at our tables. Some buried loved ones. Some had to cut toxic family members out of our lives. 

It’s likely you, like me, aren’t entering into this festive season in the best of spirits. 

I still want to celebrate. I want to have fun. I want to bake and watch festive movies. I want to enjoy good food and time with the people I love. And I want to enjoy good stories. 

So I’m here again to give you four pieces of advice to get you through this season. Listen, we need the holidays. We need bright moments of joy. We need cats playing in wrapping paper, Yule logs burning, good meals, and great moments.

We’ve gotten through tough years before, as a society. Wars and Depressions. I don’t know you, but I bet you’ve gone through some tough holidays yourself. After death or divorce. After losing a job or a fight.

I’ve had holidays so broke every gift came from the Dollar Tree. I’ve buried a grandmother in mid-December. I’ve changed religions and lost the comfort of a Church family to celebrate with. I’ve had a holiday season after a bad divorce.

This year, we’re in a new home and we are struggling, cash-wise. Health has been a concern this year. And some other things I can’t talk about yet.

But I’ll be damned if I’ll take my current pleasure away from myself. And here’s how I’m going to do it. 

Prioritize like hell

You know my favorite thing in this whole wide world is a list. So when I started planning for this season, I made my list by priority. It’s hard to do it, but you’ve got to. Sit down and think about what you’d want to do if it’s the only thing you do. 

The top of my list is watching Elf with my husband on Christmas Eve. Right after that is having a fancy charcuterie board dinner on Yule. And third is reading holiday books under a blanket with a fire video on the tv and Harper on my lap. 

Yes, there are other things. Simpsons episodes and about a million movies. Lots of recipes to make and decorate. But you know what? If I don’t get to do any of those things, then I guess that’s what happens. I know what I’ll sacrifice, and what I won’t. Because what we make a priority gets done.

Get as much off your plate now as you can

You may have noticed on social media that I’ve been talking a lot about this. I’m batch writing all of my blog posts through the end of the month and scheduling them. Both for here and Haunted MTL. (Except my reviews of Dexter, New Blood. By the way, I’m live-tweeting during every episode over on Twitter. Follow Haunted MTL so you don’t miss it.)

I’m finishing a rough draft this month during Nanowrimo of course. I’m writing scripts for an upcoming podcast. 

And then in December, I am doing as little as freaking possible.

So if I’ve got to go all over town to find Christmas crackers, I damn well can. So if I want to spend my whole weekend reading and baking cookies, I damn well can. And if I just want to sit with some hot chocolate and watch the snow (or rain) fall, I damn well can. 

If it goes well, I might just set up my goals next year so I can take all of December off then too. 

Now, I’m still going to have to go to my day job. As already mentioned, I’ll still have episodes of New Blood to watch and review. I’ll still be updating social media. 

But that’s not near as much as I’ve been doing. And it’s nice, to worry not about what I need to do, but what I want to do. 

So what can you get off your plate this month, so you can play and celebrate next month? 

Be flexible

Christmas just won’t be Christmas without the special sugar cookies your family has been making for five generations. That’s gonna be a real hard sell if the one ingredient you need is on a boat stuck in a loading bay by customs.

If you’re not already noticing a supply chain issue, I’m surprised. Every time I go to the store it feels like half of what I normally get is just not there. And what is there is sure as hell more expensive than it was last year. 

Look, we’re going to have to get flexible this year. We’re going to have to settle for less than we want, for not the perfect picture. And it’s not great. 

But it’s better than letting yourself get into a tear because you have to get creative. Be aware, be prepared, and be flexible. 

Be patient

I mean this last one in two ways. First of all, be patent with your fellow man. Everyone is going through something right now. I already went over that in the intro. Yeah, it’s easy to get pissy when someone’s being a bitch in public. You might even want to be that person losing it because there is not anything in the grocery store your child will eat, and that quarter-filled cart is still going to set you back eighty bucks. But please, for the love of God remember that we are all humans. We’re all trying to get through something that sucks at best. And not all of us are getting out of it alive.

Be patient with people, and be patient with yourself. Take time to rest, get help when you need it. And if you lose your cool at your mother-in-law over Thanksgiving dinner, maybe just apologize and forgive yourself.

I truly hope you have the happiest of holidays, no matter what that looks like to you this year. We all deserve that warmth and light at the end of a long year. Enjoy what you have to enjoy, love who you have to love. 

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