Gretchen L. Kelly, Author

I’m An Imposter.

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Imposter Typewriter

“When you wake, levitate

Ideas pouring out.

Then you set out to make 

something great,

But nothing comes out.

Are you quick on your feet?

It’s time to dig deep.”

This is it. The part I hate. The part where the words won’t come.

The part where the thoughts keep poking me, hot daggers of biting accusations.

You’re a fake. You don’t belong here.

Your words. Recycled regurgitated garbage. Repurposed and rearranged to fool everyone. To fool yourself.

I tilt my shoulders, arching away from their pointy barbs.

The words. They’re there. I can feel them twirling around in my mind, taunting me. Sing-songy tunes luring me to reach out for them. And when I do they dart away in cruel laughter. Imposter they squeal in sinister delight.

There is darkness inside of me. There is ugliness. It’s curled up right next to laughter and joy. Arms and legs wrapped around each other in a corrupt entanglement.

There is angst and fear and fire and passion and turmoil and sweat and blood. Coiled in an incestous tryst. There are screams of rage and tears that have plunged the depths.

And it all wants release.

But self doubt reaches out. It’s long, bony fingers crawl through my conscious. Slowly making it’s way, blithely flicking away any thoughts of creativity. Finding every seed of inspiration and pressing it’s dark fingertip down until there’s nothing left but pulp.

“Guardians at the gate let you in, 

into their mansion,

I’m the acidhead homeless man

Who demands 

an explanation.

Can you be wise if you never leave the room?”

The same question haunts me over and over.

Who the hell am I? To think my words matter? To think they are worth putting to paper?

This is not romanticization of the tortured artist.

This is not a decadent serving of indulgent wallowing.

This is not splashing around in artistic misery.

Self doubt is not unique to writers and artists.

We are not alone in this suffering.

We just talk and write about it more than others.

Soliloquies have been penned about the war of art. Hemingway and Anais Nin spoke of bleeding on the paper. We write about our limitations and doubts and fears. We all sing the slow-hand blues of writer’s block. We put our thoughts and words and vulnerabilities out there for the world to gawk at. It’s what we do.

It’s not just writers. Everyone suffers from the same thing. Everyone has moments of feeling like a fake. Of doubting their expertise or ability. Most just do it quietly. Alone in their bed at night. Or in the cozy confines of their therapist’s office. Or they whisper it to their lover when they need reassurance.

Does everyone feel it?

Do surgeons wrestle with self doubt over their craft? Do they spend sleepless nights worried that their skilled hands might falter?

Do lawyers question every word and twist themselves into knots? Do they worry that they could have argued more convincingly?

Do electricians walk away from wiring a house and question whether the house will go up in acrid flames?

Isn’t it just part of the human condition? To doubt ourselves and our talents or skills?

Could it be that self doubt serves a purpose? That it pushes us to try harder? That without that push, without the nagging questions, we may never hone our skills or get better at whatever it is that we do?

Maybe the whole point of the cruel exercise to fight the demons in your head.

Could it be that self doubt is the drill instructor screaming in our ear, trying to break us down. Waiting until that determined voice in our head responds: Fuck you. You say I can’t do this? Just watch me.

Could it be that the lack of self doubt is the thing we should be concerned with? The surgeon who thinks he’s god? The leader who never questions his decisions? The electrician who shrugs apathetically when the breaker trips? Wouldn’t we rather have more  introspection and thoughtfulness than ego and hubris?

The absence of doubt does not give birth to greatness. It creates dictators and megalomaniacs and careless, uncaring practitioners. It is not a sign of confidence or aptitude. Doubt is the thing that makes you better. The thing that makes you change, grow, evolve. There is an unseemly rigidness in those who don’t ever question themselves.

What if we embrace it? What if we give it a nod the next times it’s bony fingers curl up and beckon to us? We see you. Thanks for showing up.

What if we recognized that when those feelings creep in, that it’s not a bad thing. That it’s our minds way of giving us a little kick in the ass?

Maybe today’s the day we need a little push. The day we need to wake up from our reverie and pay a little more attention to what it is we do.

As long as we don’t give in to it.

As long as that doubt doesn’t cripple us. Stymie our forward motion. Let doubt serve a purpose. Let doubt be the catalyst for making us practice, toil and sweat more.

Let doubt make you better at whatever it is that you do. Welcome it and use it. If you harness it, the doubt will be fleeting. It will serve it’s purpose and then crawl back in it’s hole.

It won’t always be easy. It can be insidious. It can infect your progress and make you want to quit. It can break you down.

That’s when you remind yourself why you’re here, doing what it is you do.

Remind yourself that for every day of stymied creativity, there are days of ideas flowing and words tumbling out effortlessly.

That for each day that your curse your need and desire to do whatever it is you feel compelled to do, that there are days that you revel in it. That it brings you satisfaction or joy or gratification.

I know that I’ll still have moments, days, where I feel the building frustration. Where my words won’t come and I’ll question why I even try. I’ll feel like quitting and erasing every word I’ve ever written.

You’re a fake. You don’t belong here.

I’ll push through it. I’ll try to remember why I’m here. Not for any grandiose notions of greatness. I’m not here thinking that my words will set the world on fire. Those kinds of thoughts belong to the tyrants and the narcissists.

I just know that I love words. I just know that it’s something I feel compelled to do.

I just know I’m incomplete if I don’t write.

This is simply my thoughts, spilling out of my head. Maybe they don’t really matter.

Maybe that’s ok.

Maybe I’m not an imposter.


25 Responses

  1. This is not romanticization of the tortured artist – this line hit me in my gut and as I read on I felt every word you wrote as if it was you had taken a spot in my thoughts. Maybe we do need self doubt to keep us humble and driven, I don’t know but I will say, I love your mind. This is so beautifully written I can taste it.

    1. Thank you so much my kind friend. I love your brain and the words that come out of it, too. I wonder if writers feel it more than some other people? Because we offer ourselves up for judgement and consideration constantly. Maybe we’re all sadomasochists…

  2. I love your posts, and likely would have loved this one more had I not read (actually “listened”) to this book: . It’s a book that perhaps unravels the “mysteries” implied in your post. It’s a book that got me thinking in new ways about behavior, and how I can be more productive. If you decide to try it, I’d love to hear if it’s as useful to you as it was to me. Thanks again for your terrific posts!

    1. Just from reading the blurb for that book, I get the idea that he’s also referring to the voices in our head that were maybe planted there from outside influences? Which is a beast to combat when it plays into self doubt. I’m intrigued and do want to read it. Or listen to it. Thank you!

  3. As Whoopi Goldberg’s character in Sister Act 2 paraphrased to Lauryn Hill’s character – “If you wake up in the morning and all you can think about is writing, then you’re a writer”

    Lately I wake up in the morning and my brain is empty. I barely want to come back. I don’t know why I write – to what end. I’m too stubborn and lazy to bend my words to make them marketable, and (connections aside) I’m going nowhere fast.

    BUT (btw) the prompt for Finish the Sentence Friday this week is ‘Why I write’, (see and you could add this in and get a few more people’s thoughts.

    Whatever reason it is that makes you write, I’m always glad you do.

    1. Don’t make your words marketable! Don’t change anything you don’t want to change or feel like you need to change! If I was focusing on making my writing marketable I think I would hate writing altogether. I mean, if I had a job doing it, fine. As long as I could write whatever I want here. Your words should be yours and not some formula.

      As for not feeling the desire to write? I think that’s normal. The times I don’t even think about writing are when I’m stressed in life. Like really stressed, scary things going on, my kids being really sick. That kind of thing takes up every bit of mental energy I have. And you, my friend, have been through the ringer lately. Give yourself time and I absolutely think it will come back to you. As to the purpose… who the hell knows? Why do any of us do it? Maybe you’ll finish your book or start a completely different one? Or maybe you’ll just continue blogging for the sheer joy of it? Either way, give it some time, my love. <3

      1. I once told Hasty I would write my way back to Murica. I have failed her. I have failed myself. I haven’t done it.

        I’ve written, and found a number of reasons to write, but there are more reasons yet waiting for me…

  4. I think along with the gift of writing, writers are given this ‘gift’ of doubt and even self-loathing at times. From my point of view, I feel there’s so much being written and said about what we should write about, how we should write, how we should market ourselves, that it only adds to our self-doubt and sometimes I do wonder, what is so special about me that anyone would read my writing.
    Thank you for articulating your feelings and those of so many of us so beautifully.

  5. You most certainly are not an imposter. Your words hold weight and are beautiful. Be proud of who you are and what you do. We all hit rough patches where our Muse ignores us. Keep doing what you do best—-WRITE.

    1. Thank you so much Marcia, that means so much to hear you say that. At this point I couldn’t stop writing if I tried. Dry spells will happen, much more often that I’d like, but I’m trying to roll with it and push through. Encouragement from my talented writer friends is the biggest motivator and the biggest inspiration. Thank you <3

  6. I absolutely love this post! What really spoke to me are the words that you didn’t say. The words that remained stuck and jumbled in your mind. Those are words and mysteries that each of us can relate to.

  7. Where was I? Living life, working hard, taking care of my family and keeping my personal/private life to myself, with no concern over using a public bathroom. Let a person piss anywhere they please, but I am tired of those who don’t have the same values, beliefs and moral codes pissing all over anyone and anything that does not line up perfectly with their own. It seems like those that are so “enlightened” and “tolerant” are the first to name call and fit their own charges of self-righteousness. Where was I? I was not out proclaiming and defining myself by my sexuality. I was supporting and expressing my concerns in a way that does not involve demands, protesting, laws, accusations, name calling and forcing my feelings on to the rest of the world. I come from the “Don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t care” generation where we did not believe that our opinions were so important that they simply must be voiced at ev
    ery opportunity and nobody cared or had any desire to know what your sexual preference was. A time when problems were not created and addressed privately. That is where I was, since you asked and yes, I miss those days. People got along a lot better then. If only we could fix the world with our strong opinions full of hope, inspiration and in the comfort of our yoga pants while we take a selfie. Respect. Freedom. Privacy. Those are the precious gems that are not considered “irrelevant”.

  8. Sometimes I feel like I am the only person on the planet to ever feel self doubt. Obviously, others realize their writing and talents are brilliant. It’s only when I read posts such as yours I take a deep breath and remember – EVERYONE has their doubts.

    Smack myself for being silly and write on.

  9. Hi, I have been with my boyfriend (he’s a Japanese) for 3 months. He was a married man and has a daughter. He has been talking about divorcing his wife and choosing a life with me. He even told me how he wants me to be his future wife. Things were going beautifully great. Then one day, I was talking to my boss (whom I had an affair with before I met my bf) and we ended up flirting again and I got mischievous and sent him a naked photo. I forgot about this the following days and didn’t even think to remove any evidence of that text message. But last month, my boyfriend went through my phone and read everything. And told me that it will be our last day together.I was guilty, remorseful, devastated and heartbroken at the same time. I didn’t want that to be our last day, and I sent him a message that I won’t say goodbye but I suspect he has already deleted and blocked me off all channels. I have no idea what’s going to happen next, and no idea what to do. I had just one female friend to talk to and which i did and she told me she was going through a breakup the past week but its Saka who brought her bf back with a love spell. I absolutely did not have any other choice, i talked with Saka and he helped me with his thing and now my lover is back in my arms. If you are going through such situation or any challenges in life, just talk with Saka now and i am sure he will help you out. Get to him on

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