The group of mad songwriters I’m hanging with this month have a thread with 100+ posts about imposter syndrome.
Every artist who’s ever created something they feel strongly about has also felt like a fraud. Who am I to pretend to be an author? Who am I to pretend my songs are worth your trouble to spend 3 minutes listening?
John Lennon anguished about his lyrics. Stephen King is, to this day, ashamed of his subject matter, still smarting from a teacher’s disdain for the junk he wrote.
I have reached a point where I’m confident about my song lyrics, and getting there about my books. Every smart writer I trust has said they learn to ignore feedback except from very specific people in very specific ways. Not the 1-star haters on Amazon. Not their Best Beloved (though mine is my first audience, but her one and only job is to smile and pat me on the head; we both know her job doesn’t involve anything like honest criticism, that comes later.)
I don’t believe in the anguished lamenting artist who must bleed and die to create. We choose to do this. On some level we’re driven to it; I don’t think I’d be happy if I stopped writing novels. But no one makes me do it, and a lot of folks never feel the joy of publishing a book or performing a song they wrote. I get to make art, and I’m happy about it. It takes work, though, to focus on the positives when Imposter Syndrome and Resistance strike.
Next time you see someone doing something creative, whether it’s performing in public or just sketching a doodle in the park, thank them for daring. They can always use the boost.
In this week’s 21st Century Creative podcast Mark McGuinness and guest Laurie Millotte discuss creating a global business. Laurie’s challenge to listeners was to create a round-the-world trip based on your creative desires. Here’s what I wrote:
Before Best Beloved and I spent a year traveling the US and Canada doing house sitting, we’d already built a location-independent business. As a result, we’ve already done a fair bit of traveling. But this week’s challenge has me thinking.
1. San Francisco. The entire city, but especially the waterfront and the trolleys, fire up my creativity. I’d want to start my trip with a total immersion in a city that has always inspired me.
After I thought this post all the way through by explaining it to Best Beloved I discovered that the scene I was thinking of doesn’t exist in the movie. But it must have happened, so I’m going to write as if it did. Let’s all suspend disbelief for a few , eh?
Who’s seen Kate and Leopold? Ah, excellent. If you haven’t, and you’re a hopeless romantic, go watch it. (If, on the other hand, you often find yourself using words like “derivative” and “predictable” after suffering through a romantic movie, please, don’t; or if you do, don’t talk to the rest of us about it, eh? Good.)
Short synopsis of some core concepts: Kate’s friend Stuart has discovered holes in time. He accidentally brings Leopold back from the 19th century. Kate and Leopold fall in love (you didn’t see that coming, did you?) and after Stuart sends Leopold back in time, they realize Kate must follow him.
Driving 4,950 miles makes for plenty of writing time if you want it to. Best Beloved and I spent a few hours writing smells, sounds, and other sensory whatnots for anodyne, the first Jesse Donovan book.
When I started writing I made a classic beginner’s mistake: my first three male leads were all the same and they were all me. This is where it’s good to have an editor willing to say “Maybe people would like to read about someone else for a change?”
Back in April I worked with illustrator Davina Kinney on the first drawing for my children’s book Ginger, the Ship Captain’s Cat and wrote about it at Someday Box.
The project sat idle for a while but over the past two months Davina has worked her head to the bone creating 29 more drawings, one perfect image for each short story in the book.
Then, we started on the cover.
For some reason, the black and white line drawings were fun, exciting.
Getting the cover right has been an emotional challenge for me. Not because Davina isn’t doing her best, but because I had a very hard time conveying the emotions I wanted the cover to evoke.
Imagine that: struggling emotionally with art. What a surprise.
We got there, eventually. Once I found the words to explain the feelings to Davina, she nailed it on the first try. She’d done 4 or 5 versions, all very similar, all completely wrong (my fault; my fault, I tell you.)
She’s doing a final tidy on the perfect-feeling image, and then I’ll get those stories edited, formatted, and printed so y’all can buy a dozen copies each of Ginger, the Ship Captain’s Cat and give them to all the little ones in your life.