Thursday, December 6, 2018

Neil Gaiman on Impostor Syndrome

Sometimes as an independent writer in a vast ocean of independent writers, often isolated from anyone else interested in writing the kind of stories I want to write, it's easy to feel like I'm just faking it really well. This isn't a unique feeling by any means, nor is it really unusual. Most human beings have self-doubts and for people with a lot of them like yours truly, it often feels like you're just waiting for everyone to realize you're an awful fallible human being. I've read several great works that discuss what is called impostor syndrome, but perhaps the most compelling argument of all was shared by Neil Gaiman on his blog:

I was lucky enough invited to a gathering of great and good people: artists and scientists, writers and discoverers of things.  And I felt that at any moment they would realise that I didn’t qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things. 
On my second or third night there, I was standing at the back of the hall, while a musical entertainment happened, and I started talking to a very nice, polite, elderly gentleman about several things, including our shared first name. And then he pointed to the hall of people, and said words to the effect of, “I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am I doing here? They’ve made amazing things. I just went where I was sent.”
And I said, “Yes. But you were the first man on the moon. I think that counts for something.” 
And I felt a bit better. Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an imposter, maybe everyone did. Maybe there weren’t any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for.

That right there gives me a lot of strength whenever I read it. Because even two great Neils, one the first to do something no one before him could do, and the other one of the finest writers of his time.

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