Can we all fake it together? Lori T. Lee on Imposter Syndrome and Reconnecting with the Blank Page
by Writing Workshops Staff
A month ago
On the first day of September 2023, I started a new journey in my writing. For thirty days straight, I would write at least one poem or prose piece per day using prompts from Sarah Carson’s 30-day 30 Prompts Workshop.
Thirty days may seem like a long time, but I needed to do something drastic to help my creativity flow again. After two years of dealing with two back-to-back cancer diagnoses, I was ready for a positive change. I went searching online and found WritingWorkshops.com. I saw Sarah’s class and thought it was the perfect thing to make me commit to a routine.
Sarah Carson is an accomplished poet from Flint, Michigan. Up until then, I had never heard of her or read her work. Yet, something about her photo made me feel I could trust her. It must’ve been her Midwestern eyes, a soft kindness I rarely see in New York’s hard-edged, fast-paced faces. She looked like a lady I could bake cookies with. I needed someone warm like that to support my writing. I hadn’t had any writing mentors since earning my Master’s decades ago at Queens College in New York.
Sadly, I didn’t think to keep in touch with anyone. I just went on to focus on my nonprofit career. I still wrote poems and essays every day. I kept my childhood hopes of being a writer alive at night. I would dream I was a famous writer on my book tour, “accidentally” running into Oprah on my stop in Chicago. I’d offer her a coffee and convince her to promote my book on TV. Nevermind that I never submitted my work or did any networking. Once in a while, I’d attend open mics but I was often intimidated by everyone else’s work.
I didn’t think they’d want to hang out with me. So, I had no writing partners. No way to bounce off ideas. No one to share with. Writing is already at times a lonely actively. The joy of eating chocolate chip cookies at 2 a.m. while writing furiously can only go so far.
Beyond the quiet, there’s the sugar crash waiting at the end that can only be revived by a sense of belonging.
Sarah looked like she knew how to form a community. I trusted my own ooey gooey heart and signed up. Little did I know how much my life would change.
Logging on to class was easy enough, but what wasn’t easy was writing my bio. I didn’t know what to say about myself. I looked at the other profiles and it seemed everyone had some important credentials. Some had blogs and writer websites. One even had a better hobby than me! (I can’t garden to save my life. I can barely keep myself alive.) Who was I against these awesome people? Two had published books. I didn’t have any publications at all. Not even a byline in the phone book. My degree was from the 20th century.
Was I even relevant anymore? My brain spoke up.
You signed up for this, so just go for it! Be the writer you know you were meant to be.
Why my brain sounded like a Hallmark card, I wasn’t sure but it worked. I pushed through, punching the keys of my keyboard, the “Q” sticking like my doubts. My name is Lori. I’m a writer from Queens. I have a Master’s in Creative Writing. I posted it, then sat staring for a long time hoping no one would see it and expect things from me.
Later that day, comments came in on the introduction post. I didn’t want to respond right away. I was still feeling insecure that I didn’t belong here. Here I am already a middle-aged biddy having written solely for myself for four whole decades, never braving publication. Did I have the right to call myself a real writer simply because I put words down on a page? Does it count if no one else is around to read it? Maybe I need to consult a fallen tree in a forest. They would know about these things.
At some point, someone said they weren’t sure they did the prompt right. Another commented they had imposter syndrome, essentially “faking it to make it.” Another agreed they were the same. Something swelled up in me. I knew this familiar tactic. I do it when I read at an open mic and put on a confident face like I know what I’m saying. But inside I’m screaming please like this. Please like me. Now I see I’m not alone. My heart filled with warmth. Were these my people? Were they demonstrating how to be brave? I wanted to join them, forget the cookies. I wanted to celebrate, to raise my arms like the double Ls in hello, waving.
I lifted my hands and rode the wave of bravery to my keyboard and typed.
Hello! I’m an imposter, too. Can we all fake it together?
I waited for the response for what seemed like forever. Then, there it was. This little word standing there with its arms open, the point of a heart nestled in its hands, accepting me.
Bio: Lori T. Lee is a poet and essayist from Queens, NY. She holds a Master’s in Creative Writing from Queens College. Over the years she has performed her poetry at local venues, most recently at the Brooklyn Book Festival. She is currently working on a hybrid collection of poetry and prose.