Yeah. Imposter Syndrome. You know what I’m talking about.
C’mon. If you’ve had any success at all, or were/are on the verge of it at any time, you KNOW what it is.
I have a horrible case of it at this moment and it haunts me and I have to fight it because right now everything couldn’t be going better. People are returning my calls, and in a timely manner. People I want to work with are calling me to talk. Or working with me. Or optioning my stuff. Or making them. It’s all kind of magic.
So what’s the problem? I’ll tell you what. I look at all of it and think, “This is ME! How soon before they figure that out? How long can I fool them before they catch up with me?”
The constant waiting for the other shoe to drop. For the production companies and producers and directors to one day look at you and go, “What were we thinking? Can we get a real writer in here please?”
Like everyone who is afflicted with the strong desire/need to write films or TV (I truly feel sorry for you), I daydreamed long and hard about all the things that have actually happened in the last four years.
It can seem surreal, like I’m watching it detached from who I am. Sitting on a film set watching well known actors say your lines and be the characters you dreamed up. I’ve caught myself looking around the set and wondering how soon they’re going to kick me out because this really can’t be happening.
Imposter Syndrome is a real thing. It affects writers, actors, directors... and you have to not let it overwhelm and paralyze. I’ve talked to many writers and actors who will tell you it’s always under the surface someplace ready to spring out and cripple them. Even the most outwardly confident.
When I start feeling this way, I find that if I read one of my scripts I haven’t read in a while, besides finding typos and things I can improve (always), I also find really cool stuff I forgot I thought of. Stuff that’s good. Sometimes really good. And it helps me realize that maybe I do deserve to be here doing the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do professionally.
When I was nervously waiting what I thought was too long a time to hear about a rewrite from a director a few weeks ago, I finally talked to her. And after she told me she loved it, I admitted I had convinced myself she hated it because she didn’t call right away. I also admitted to her I was probably too neurotic and needy for my own good. She said, “Relax. All writers are neurotic and needy. Goes with the territory.”
So... we got that going for us.
If you write well enough get a manager or agent, option something or sell something, or get a rewrite or adaptation job, stand tall. You did something good (or sometimes great) to deserve it. You’re there because you did the work and did it well. That’s not an accident.
Don’t always looks for the other shoe to drop. Be prepared for it though, because at times it certainly does drop, but a LOT of times it doesn’t. Honest. They’re not going to find you out because there’s nothing to find.
It took me a while to realize that when I was invited to production meetings it was because they wanted me there and wanted me to contribute. I can tell you the exact meeting where I finally realized I had earned my seat at that conference table. Best meeting ever. It was a revelation. Learn this: If they ask you to be there, they WANT you there. Accept it.
The first time I visited a set for a film I wrote they had a director’s chair at the monitors and a headset to listen all ready for me. A LONG LONG way from my days as a Film and TV Extra, where I started in this industry so many years ago. Extras are, well, below the guys who water the plants on the film set food chain. At the very bottom. Below the bottom. I once heard a major film producer refer to Extras as “Props that eat.”
So sitting there that day in that director’s chair, looking back on where I was once and where I was then, and having everyone be so amazingly nice and respectful, kind of threw me off my game. Imposter Syndrome. You know it exists. Now you know it by its insidious name. Now you can recognize it and fight it.
We’ll fight it together.