Monday, 20 May 2019

"Dear Artist/Writer: You’re a Fake, and Everybody Knows This"

~~~Imposter syndrome, and how it often feels we’re the only ones with it.~~~

Firstly, no I don't actually believe you're a fake. Rather, I recently had another intense encounter with a long-time adversary of mine, and it's one I've heard others cite as giving them misery equally much.

Imposter syndrome.

Many of us have at least heard of it, and if you're an artist or author, you may well know it as one of the things you struggle with frequently.
A quick and dirty definition for imposter syndrome syphoned off wikipedia is as follows:

“Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts his or her accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a "fraud".”

This Merriam-Webster article further defines it as:
“…commonly understood as a false and sometimes crippling belief that one's successes are the product of luck or fraud rather than skill.”
(By the way, this last one's a pretty interesting article on the subject in general.)

I personally first learned of this term from—and have since heard it most often among—artists and writers. And this isn't just relegated to the 'beginners' or the unpublished: even people one would call 'established' or 'real' (authors/artists) sometimes feel this.
For me, learning this term finally gave a name to one of my greatest demons. One that rears its ugly head in just this kind of a statement:

"You are a fake. You're pretending. You're not a real (artist/writer) and all the professionals know it. The only reason you're still here is because everyone's too polite to point it out."

The irony of the situation is, if I heard anyone else express this sentiment, either as internal monologue or as 'helpful advice' given by some close associate, I could confidently tell them that it's not true. Depending on their skill level, I could either say that they have the skill to stand on their own and they need no one's approval, or that every professional began from humbler ground—no one is born a published, prize-winning genius.

And yet if I try and turn this logic around and apply it to myself, suddenly I can't accept it. Like it magically stops being true once I'm the subject.

This tweet from the amazing @ValenciaRStokes really resonated with me on this.
"It's crazy how you can have all the answers when giving others advice, but you never take your own. It's like a switch comes on and you're reduced to little more than a sentient potato. And not even a delicious baked potato for goodness' sake..."

Now this could have referred to anything, honestly, but it really hit home.

I feel the heaviest weight of imposter syndrome most commonly while comparing my work to that of people that I idolize. I've heard the advice before that 'don't compare yourself to others, ever.' But the catch here is that I'm a self-taught artist and writer. In order to keep improving and learning, I rely very heavily on comparing my work to other art and texts in order to find where I need to improve. Yet it's here that the 'pony gets loose' so to speak: it's here where I trip up and go from 'this is how I can improve' to 'I'm not here yet, ergo I never will be and am, therefore, a lost cause.'

For example, take the divinely skilled @Orsob_ (who's work I greatly admire):

I took one look at their undeniably breathtaking work, and did the one thing which, in this case, I definitely shouldn't have done. I compared it to my own.

And instantly it was back again—the thought.

“Oh god. I’m pathetic.”

I can safely say that @Orsob_ is a representation of everything I aspire to be as an artist. To me, they represent at once my greatest hope and my deepest fear—the hope that one day my work might compare; as well as the terror that I never will and that I was a fool to even hope.

But! (Here comes the big but.)
Does failure have to be the inevitable conclusion? How can you be sure you're really even 'failing' and not just on the path toward growth?

We are so entrenched in our own lives that it's really easy to forget the bigger picture. Sometimes the point that we are really at on the path to success invisible to us—really only observable by other people who are oblivious to our personal doubts. Take for example anyone you consider successful, any famous person who is (or was) a name in their field. Now do a little research on them, on their past. What do you find? Most likely a childhood fairly comparable to anyone else's, perhaps an extensive education—or perhaps not. But most importantly, you will no doubt find a stretch of time before their fame, their breakthrough, their best-seller, or their gallery-quality artistic career where…they were not quite there yet. Where they too were learning the ropes, honing their craft, possibly soul-searching and wondering quietly to themselves whether this field and this route was really for them. Wondering if they were just wasting their time: trying to succeed when they were destined to fail.

The problem is that this portion is often never publicised. We don't see the artworks that embarrass even the artist himself, but rather the pieces that are most representative of his best achievements. We aren't presented with the ghastly first drafts of stories that eventually wind up as best-selling novels, nor are we regaled by recounts of the innumerable revisions, edits, and rewrites that had to happen first. We often outright forget the years of work, education, and practice that took place before these people got to the point of being able to produce something magnificent.
We only see the finished product: the beautiful, polished, final work that is meant to be enjoyed by all. And…that's the industry.

It's not really a flaw in my opinion, just the nature of the beast. Yet it's an unfortunate side effect that can really exacerbate that feeling of inadequacy. For me, it's been a personal betterment goal for many years to truly believe and remember these points when it come to other people's art:

  1. They weren't always this good. There are years of practice, struggle, and work that happened to achieve what I'm looking at now.
  2. If we're talking generally, art is art. We're all different, and different styles don't dictate whether someone is 'better' or 'worse.'
  3. Technical skills can be learned and improved. Just because you're not the most skilled now, doesn't mean you never will be. And it certainly doesn't make your current art invalid.
  4. They may well be feeling the same stresses and fears as you.

Image courtesy of
Jack Moreh
So this is my argument for anyone who, like me, sometimes suffers from horribly strong pangs of imposter syndrome or just plain fear of failure: how do you know you're at the end? If you could take a snapshot from the past of anyone who you admire, you would find that they were less skilled then than they are now. You wouldn't walk into a car factory, point an a half-finished vehicle on the line and say, "well, clearly this would be a terrible car on the road in its current state, therefore this company can't produce anything roadworthy and is worthless." So why are we doing this to ourselves?

I say now (hoping that I, too, might finally take some of this advice to heart), you are not a fake. You are not a fraud. Just because you haven't seen the struggles of the people you look up to, doesn't mean they were automatic successes.
And furthermore, we are all different. Our styles, our selves, are unique to each of us. So 'success' may not look the same for you than it does to me.

I may never be able to make art like @Orsob_'s. But then…do I even want to? I am not @Orsob_. I’m me. My past and my preferences influence what is my style. And the funny thing is, sometimes when I try to mimic some admirable person's writing or drawing style I find…that I'm not happy. I'm not happy because what I'm making isn't me. I won't ever stop admiring @Orsob_ and I'll probably never be like them, but that's okay.

Now I pass on to you some great advice I've heard before:
Don't create like somebody else, they're already taken. There's only one you, you are unique, and it's you who I came to see.

So please don't give up, and don't be hard on yourself. You're doing fine, and you're not alone.

Image courtesy of
Jack Moreh

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

WorldCon 75 Helsinki – meeting, greeting, and networking

So... WorldCon 75 is about to begin and I'm not nervous at all!

This will be my first WorldCon, and what better way to kick off than to begin right at home. As soon as I heard that this year the event was going to be hosted right here in Finland, I knew I was going to attend. Regardless of the level of truth there is to it, I can't get over the idea that no one ever comes to Finland! We're quite the small player on the world stage, so whenever something big and international happens in the worlds of anime or writing (particularly scifi/fantasy related), I get bonkers excited.

Having attended Animecon in Kuopio just a few weeks ago, I knew that this would be a fantastic chance to meet and speak with other people from the same field. A brilliant way to meet new authors, writing enthusiasts, and maybe even agents all but a hop and skip from home. A networking possibility made from solid gold. So I set about actually pulling my socks up for once and setting all the social medias in order and such.

I can't begin to describe what a project it's turned into!

If there's any advice I can give to those planning to do the same, whether it's as an author or an artist, definitely don't leave setting yourself up online to the last minute!
In my defense I will say that I was pretty good this time around: I actually gave myself a nice 2-2.5 weeks to work on this. "Ah, setting up a domain name, a blog, and ordering business cards can't be that hard." And it's not–it's navigating the minutiae that chips away insidiously at both your time and patience, until you realize that the event you need to attend is tomorrow and your web address still sends you to a 404 page instead of your blog.

Then there's the huge litany of other things that aren't ready yet, since I am pedantic about preparations.

Nope, not nervous. Or freaking out. Calm as sheet ice floating across the arctic.

Aside from panicking over technical details, I hasten to add that I'm equally sure that this is going to be an amazing experience. WorldCon have reported over 8 000 members this year, around 6 000 of whom are attending. More than half of the attendees are coming from abroad. I honestly can't wait to see what it's like! Without a doubt I shall be remaining true to my convention-going nature and snapping enough photos to max-out the memory on my phone. Will do my best to keep all the excitement updated on the socials ;)

Also, not gonna lie, am very happy to have the perk of being able to pop home for lunch!

If you are also heading for WorldCon, do enjoy yourselves, and should you be staying in a hotel, please do avail yourselves of the blackout curtains as it stays quite light outside until the wee hours.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

And What Will You Do When You're Older?

I don't know about you, but this is a question I still hear. You'd think you wouldn't get asked this anymore after passing 18, or at least after graduating. After all, you are now legally "an adult". You've been through the education system and have grown into a good member of the society, and–at some mysterious point in time–have been handed a mysterious handbook on life and how to live it. Therefore you now know life and are prepared to face and should a clear idea on how to forge your way forward.


I didn't. I don't know if it took me unusually long or if I was relatively quick in figuring out what it was that I loved and wanted to do. However I certainly didn't have a clue when I finished school. I didn't even have it down when I finished college and had worked part-time jobs for five years.

There's no one who knows you better than you.
Stay true to whatever it is you're passionate about.
At first I thought there was someone else out there who would know and tell me–someone super educated and with a lot of experience who would take one look at me and know exactly where I'd come from and what I was going for. I spoke to a lot of people. Sure I got a lot of advice, some of it very useful and helpful, a lot of it less so. I got a lot of opinions. I quickly learned to take them as just that: opinions. Yeah sometimes they helped me see or think of something new, sometimes not. I got quite a few suggestions. A lot of them were interesting, a lot of them sounded good.
But that Cinderella slipper that fit perfectly just on me never appeared–that one plan of action or idea of what to do with my future in order to be happy. There were just heaps and heaps of 'almosts', 'half-and-halfs', ' and 'not reallys'. 

And the conclusion I came to might be a really obvious one for some. There's possibly someone reading this wondering how I didn't see it right away. Yet it honestly took me several years of asking others to figure out:
No one is going to tell me how to make my dream a reality. While the beauty in our world is that we're all unique, it also means that there's no one out there who's exactly like me; who knows me like I do. I'm the only expert on me there is. So I was the only one who was going to either figure out how to fashion that Cinderella slipper of the perfect job and life for me, or not.

And at first that sucked!
What? You're telling me that I don't get a magical mentor to explain things?! Cinderella gets a smiley grandma in pajamas and I don't even get an instruction manual?
But yeah, that's really how it has to be. No one is going to live my life for me–they're busy with their own. And while I can find lots of amazing people who share my passion for writing and art, who can share heaps of experience with me to help me along, in the end we're all a little bit different.

So in the end, here's my conclusion. I might be a little late to the game, but I've arrived. I know what my passion is–writing and drawing–and I know it's the kind of work I want to do. And I want to make the most of it.

This blog is my start for that: a place to dump my thoughts. I'll be posting book reviews, my thoughts on writing and tips I've learned, probably some of my drawings or other projects, or thoughts on art in general. There're probably going to be a few rants. A lot of them are possibly going to meander. There will be much bad humour.

My hope is really that maybe some small part of my ramblings might help someone out there. If I make someone laugh, or feel accepted or understood, or just helped kill a bit of time–awesome. Or maybe I'll just blab into the great void of the internet unheard. Who can say?

To anyone out there who's confused about what you want to do with your life–it's totally okay not to know. You won't be the only one. If you've got a dream, don't give up on it. Keep going!