Tuesday, February 9, 2016

On Being an Impostor

I still suffer (very much) from Impostor Syndrome--the idea that I'm a fraud and that one day you will all figure out the truth and crucify me like I deserve.

The thing is, I've been working on projects outside of the name Katie Klein, mostly because I'm an "academic" (see those quotation marks? FRAUD. I don't feel like an academic. At all.) who needs annual publishing credits. 

Every year in my review: Publish! Publish! Publish!

It's been worse the last two and a half years (see: new baby/now toddler in the house).

I've had nothing new to add to my resume.


I'm surviving. So there's that.

But not quite what the department heads and deans are looking for.

When I hit a fiction writing lull this fall, I started writing poetry. (I think the last poem I wrote was as an undergrad.) I worked on a dozen pieces for a few weeks, did a lot of editing and revising and reading out loud, and then picked some journals to submit them to. Just to see.

I don't think rejection ever stops hurting, by the way. It stings. Hard.

It's in our nature to take it personally.

You don't love my work? 
(You don't love me?)

You don't want my work? 
(You don't want me?) 

My work isn't good enough?
(I'm not good enough?)

But sometimes even being accepted doesn't feel that great, because doubts are quick to follow.

You want to publish my poem? Why? The so and so literary journal literally JUST rejected this same piece last week. You didn't say you loved it, just that you were going to use it. Does that mean it's mediocre? You responded way too fast. You must be desperate for submissions.

My goal is to have five poems published this calendar year. As of this post, I have two forthcoming.

I thought that if I reached five, I might feel legitimate. A "sometimes-poet," maybe.

But I don't think so. 

I think I'll still feel like an impostor. 

A fluke.

I'll happily add the credits to my vita, but still feel too nervous to post links or share with friends and family.

A fraud.

It's hard, sharing your work with the world. Really, really hard.

And I'm learning it's difficult to celebrate a "win," even, because there's the voice in our heads that says we don't deserve this. We didn't earn it. It's not real.

Why is that? I wonder. And does it ever go away?