Andrew Ducker (andrewducker) wrote,
Andrew Ducker

A thought about Imposter Sydrome

John Scalzi has some thoughts about Imposter Syndrom here. And he's mostly trying to be supportive of people who do The Thing, but don't feel that they deserve recognition for The Thing, because they aren't _really_ Thingers, they're just making it up as they go along/stumbled into it.

And it's a good piece, but it largely speaks to people from the point of view of how he came to terms with being a Real Writer. What it doesn't talk about is why some people feel that they are imposters, and others don't. What suddenly occurred to me was that the reason might be "understanding".

The four stages of competence are "Unconscious Incompetence", "Conscious Incompetence", "Conscious Competence", and "Unconscious Competence". You start off not knowing that you know nothing, then you discover that actually don't know anything, then you learn some things, but have to constantly work at it, and finally (if you keep at it) you end up knowing stuff so well that it's ingrained and you don't need to think about it all the time.

And I wonder if the people with Imposter Syndrome constantly feel that they're stuck at step two - feeling incompetent, and that the people they look up to are all at step four. Heck, due to our pernicious cultural prioritising of ability over effort, they may not actually realise that there are skills that they could learn which would allow them to do things better. I've seen plenty of people feel confident about something they thought they were good at, until the first time they hit something really hard, and then crash to a halt and catch fire with anxiety that maybe they weren't actually good, but maybe they'd been frauds all along.

And I don't think it's coincidence that one of the most confident writers I've met wrote a guide to writing stories. Not "confident" in the "I am the best writer in the business" manner - but confident that he knows how to write, and has a grasp on the mechanics of the process.

And people that don't even believe that writing _has_ a mechanics, who think that it's the gut that writes, not the brain, when _they_ hit that brick wall, they have nowhere to turn. They're now aware that there are things they can't do. But they lack the framework to even go looking for ways to improve themselves and begin moving to stage three.

(This is all off the top of my head, of course. But having spotted what looked like a pattern I wanted to get it out there. I certainly know that the times I've felt most lost have been when I couldn't see any route from where I was to actually understanding what was going on.)

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