Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Navel-gazing, or, a foray into the depths of imposter syndrome

It's been a whole year since I started seriously planning the Next Big Thing, which eventually became the Raglan Basket Project. Since then, my blog posting has been rather sporadic. It's not that I'm not making things, it's...

Well. It's a bunch of things, which is why I'm indulging in a spot of public introspection about the whole situation.

Problem the First - real life. I'm really busy. And the really busy is about 75% good busy, but it's all high-brain stuff. Sewing doesn't take a great deal of brain. Writing coherently does. So when I get home at the end of the day, writing up the research and taking photos of the stuff I've been doing gets sidelined because frankly, I don't have the energy to do anything but sit on my arse with some hemming.

Problem the Second - deadlines, self-imposed and otherwise. If I need to get a thing done by a certain date, finishing the thing takes priority over writing about the thing. When the thing is planning and cooking for large crowds of people at events, the grocery shopping is more important than writing up my redactions.

Problem the Third - long-term projects are boring. Boring to make, boring to write about. "I cut out all the fabric for a frock. Here is a photo of the pieces. Here is a photo of my hemming. Here is another. Oh look, another photo of hemming, yay." It's not like I'm keeping a private diary of what I'm doing. The blog is public, and I feel obliged to make it at least mildly amusing to the people reading it. (Good job on that with this post, self.)

Problem the Fourth - screwing up in public is horrible. This is a really big one. My sense of self-worth is largely predicated on doing a good job and not screwing up. I don't want to admit to my failures and mistakes, let alone document them on the internet. I know in the abstract that screwing up is an important part of learning. I know that talking through it with other people will result in me becoming a better artisan and a more compassionate teacher. I know that. Really I do. And yet, if I'm not 100% certain that I have done a thing absolutely right, it's almost impossible to bring myself to post about it. WHAT IF I'M WRONG AND EVERYTHING I'VE EVER DONE IS WRONG AND EVERYONE HATES ME BECAUSE I MADE A BAD ASSUMPTION?!?!?!?!?! This is what my brainweasels are screaming at me whenever I try to write a blog post about some research that I'm doing.

Problem the Fifth - people apparently use my blog posts for stuff. Which, yay, but also holy crap pressure not to get it wrong. And pressure to make everything I write not only right but user-friendly.

Problem the Sixth - there's no Ravelry for sewing. Which means there's no purpose-built tool for recording all the details of all the stuff I make. There's no easy way to inventory my stash of fabric and notions and tools. There are no fora of people doing the same things I'm doing, no one-stop-shop of other people who have already done what I'm trying to do. If I want to track down how someone else did a thing, I have to track them down via blogs and word-of-mouth, which leads to:

Problem the Seventh - talking to people is scary. Especially people whose work I admire, or people with whom I've never interacted. Or, you know, talking to pretty much anyone other than my family and people like Weaving Friend who are also my family. And this blogging thing? It's basically standing on a table and saying "HI STRANGE PEOPLE LET ME BARE MY SOUL TO YOU AND ALSO PLEASE TELL ME ALL YOUR KNOWLEDGE".

Problem the Eighth - balancing all the difference projects. I do all the needlework. And I write fiction. And onomastics research. And archery. And various other research. And I'm a gamer. There isn't time in the day to fit in all the things, and yet when I spend time doing something that isn't an SCA project, I feel guilty for wasting my time.

Problem the Ninth - I'm crap therefore why bother? Imposter syndrome at its finest. I don't already magically know everything and therefore none of my work is valid or worthwhile.

Problem the Tenth - reading isn't work, apparently. My brainweasels have decided for whatever reason that in order for something to qualify as work or a Real Project, there has to be a tangible output. Reading, even for research, doesn't count. Neither does critical assessment of sources. ONLY MAKING THINGS IS REAL. (I hate my brainweasels rather a lot, in case that wasn't clear.)

If you've made it to the bottom of this list, well done you!

I suppose the real question is, how do I deal with all of that up there now that it's out in the open? I don't know. Some of it I can solve by "simply" (LOL) committing to less and being more realistic about my time commitments. The rest of it not so much. If anyone has any tips for sharing one's work while dealing with crippling anxiety and imposter syndrome, feel free to drop me a line.


Sara L. Uckelman said...

For whatever reason -- and I have no idea what that reason is, though I've thought about it often enough! -- imposter syndrome is something I've never been much affected by (what does occasionally strike is meta-imposter syndrome, which runs a bit like "All my friends -- bright, wonderful, amazing, fantastic people -- suffer from imposter syndrome. Clearly I am the only person who doesn't. Therefore I must be doing something wrong, and that really I'm just being an imposter about not having imposter syndrome." ugh.) As a result, I'm in a pretty poor position to offer any advice or suggestions, however:

Ad problem the third: I like reading about boring updates about boring progress. I derive a great deal of satisfaction out of small steps being completed in an orderly fashion (whether or not I am the one completing them doesn't matter to me; this is partly when Gwen and I get along SO WELL when we're doing legos together). I also find public records of other people's plodding inspiring; just having evidence that other people make forward progress one step at a time even if those steps are not glorious makes me want to keep making forward progress on my own projects one step at a time (witness: People posting their NaNo word counts in Seaforth Glen.)

Ad problem the fourth: Though your brain weasels may not always listen to those of us who say it, it's still worth saying: I won't hate you if you screw up.

I wish I had more useful things to say. Hopefully some of your other friends will. You and your work, whether you blog about it regularly or not, are inspiring.

Kristina Hildebrand said...

I have the meta-impostor syndrome too, Sara, I'm so glad to hear I'm not alone!
My brain also refuses to recognise reading as work (which is really weird when you're a PhD in literature...). Mostly, I tell my brain to shut up, which doesn't always help but feels better.
What's helped for me is calibrating my lazy-o-metre with friends and family, realising that no matter how much I do I'll never consider it enough, and telling my spouse I need to be reminded that I am allowed not to work all the time. Being reminded it's all brain weasels (or, in my case, calibration entirely off) does help in the medium to long run.

Teh Feral Hamster said...

Sweetheart, why do you think I've never showed you the shirt I made based on yours??

Do what you need to do. Sometimes that involves doing exactly what the weasels are screaming at you not to do, in order to shut them up. I can't tell you if or when they ever stop, but they do get dulled out a bit when the people who matter tell you that you and your work are worth something. And anyone who trashes *you* doesn't matter!

Lena said...

I know the feeling (well some of them anyway. Definitely 1, 2, 3, 6, 8 and sort of 7): I have two projects for friends in progress. I haven't touched any of them since last winter. One is a wedding present, and they got married in 2014... And the reason I can't just sit down and work on them: I feel behind on my PhD. Realistically I know I will always feel behind on the PhD, but brain weasels. Let's also not talk about my neglected craft blog, or the guilt over not writing on the pro-blog more often.

I've worked enough on multi-disciplinary subjects, often with academic hypothesis meeting craft practice, and I _know_ I will say/write idiotic things occasionally, having not enough knowledge in just that subject, or having more hypothesis than practical craft knowledge. I've just accepted that, and prepared myself for having to humbly ask forgiveness for ignorance and thanking them for correcting me. Not sure if that approach will help you - we may come from different angles here, and/or have different psychological baggage.

I definitely wish there was a Ravelry for sewing. Sometimes I think joining FB and all the relevant groups there would be a solution, and then I remember that there are only 24 hours in the day and I need to sleep sometime.

Also: you're brilliant, and don't let anyone (not even your own brain weasels) tell you otherwise! If they do, send them over to me and I'll correct them. With force if necessary.