Saturday, February 20, 2010

Fake It 'Til You Make It

I strut into the coffee shop, my laptop slung over my shoulder in a hand-me-down carrying case.   I try to adopt a confident manner, like I do this sort of thing all the time, come to a wi-fi hot spot to do some writing.

I grab a cup of strong coffee, open my laptop and settle in comfortably.   I'm here to work on my book.    This is what writers do, right?   Do I look like a writer?   Should I be wearing spectacles, or a mock turtleneck?   Should I have sheaths of paper scattered about, covered in furious little notations?    

The coffee shop is full of families - Moms with their children trying to keep the wolf away from the door for an hour or so, taking the kids out to lunch.    I feel this irrational compulsion to explain myself to them:  I'm just faking it, I want to whisper.   I've got kids at home.  I'm a Mom, too.

Stop it, I admonish myself.    You are a writer.   Say it:  I'm a writer.   Louder!   I'M A WRITER!

I remember having a crisis of confidence when I went back to work part-time, when my youngest was 14 months old.    I felt like I was playing dress-up, putting on nylon stockings and a crisp ironed navy suit, taking the train into the city.    I sat with the other commuters and felt like a kid on bring-your-daughter-to-work day.    
I have no business being here, I thought.  I'm too rusty.  My brain has atrophied from four years of diaper changing and playdates.   The version of me that was a Business Person seemed a million miles away.    So I faked it for a while.   I put a brave smile on my face.   I changed my walk to something that looked more business-y to me.    I wore silk scarves.   I matched the bored, disinterested expressions of my fellow commuters, even though my stomach was full of butterflies.

Eventually, it felt more natural to me.   I didn't have to steel myself each morning, tell myself that I could do this.  I just did it.

In early recovery, I heard something that struck me.   Someone was speaking about his misfortunes, the wreckage of his past that he was working through, sober.   "I was thinking to myself, why me?"  he said.   "Then suddenly I thought, why NOT me?  What makes me so special that I get a free pass out of misery?"

I completely identified with what he said.  I had no trouble believing that any misery that came my way was well deserved.    

I can come up with a million reasons why I can't do something. Sometimes I don't even have a good reason. It's just that I can't, I think.

Today I'm trying to use my powers for good instead of evil.   Why can't I be a writer?   Why can't I just go for it?   And when the You-Can't Committee in my head speaks up in unison, I go to a coffee shop and pretend to be a writer.   And you know what?   It's a good start.   I'm writing, aren't I?


  1. I love fake it till you make it...It's my go-to strategy in most things :)

    But, as I am a verified reader, (no faking there!) I can vouch for your ability as a writer. You ARE a writer. And a darn good one, at that. Good luck!

  2. Writing is a large part of the battle. Anyone who can accomplish that much is definitely a capital W writer. Now you just have to believe it. :)

  3. Excellent post as always, E. I love the yellow post it "You Don't Suck"! We all need that little reminder now and again. I just made one for my studio except it's on hot pink. don't suck either!

  4. I'm taking a writing course right now, and there was one lesson mostly on accepting the fact that if you write, you are a writer. End of story. Start calling yourself one ;) Powerful words!

    But on a side note... the one time I've taken my laptop to the coffee shop I felt like a total fraud. I kept looking around to see if anyone was looking at me, if they could feel how uneasy and awkward I felt.

    I will be the first in line to buy your book when it comes out :)

  5. I will be the second in line to buy any book you write. I do hang out in coffee shops with zee lap top. Sunday morning after an 8am meeting it does not feel fake. Friday afternoon before a meeting does. Go figure. I have a story to tell and struggle with putting it out there. Reading you blog is an encouragement that I may not tell it like E. but this story could help someone deal with life on life's terms as your writing does for me. Looking forward to your next post as always.

  6. love this post...because I feel the same way.
    and i wish i had a stack of those post its.

  7. You just described me again. I do the EXACT thing with my laptop at a coffee shop. And I've always felt that way about work or anything else, even before kids. I would feel a bit of a fraud, like a kid pretending to be a grown-up.

    And I'll be right there pushing to be the first one to buy your book. I hope Corinne and I don't hurt each other.

  8. Elly! You ARE a writer and a bunch of us picky gals deliberately signed up to read your blog each time a new post arrives! I do understand, however, feeling like you are faking it. I did it when I was first started massage therapy, and again when I started graphic design. And *gasp!* actually CHARGE people for my services!I learned from my massage days that faking it does work, so with the graphic design, it came much easier. I still feel pretty fake, however, when I am trekking around town in something very non-designer-ish. Very un-artsy stuff like stretch pants, tennis shoes and a fleece sweatshirt. Sometimes I throw on my cool Balinese necklace just to make myself feel better. :)

  9. Yep, you are a writer because you write. Period.
    I started my blog precisely to prove to myself I could write. I can. And today I am content with shitty first drafts as Anne Lamott calls them and I even hit the publish post button and share them with the rest of the world. Many times I edit them to death first but not always. Anne Lamott has a great book on writing called Bird by Bird.