March Blog: Grateful for the Good

My bags are (almost) packed for my imminent fellowship at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire and I’m more than excited. The time has just flown around and even though I thought it would never come it now feels like it’s arrived out of nowhere. Last year I decided that for 2018 I was going to try to take more time off from my day job in order to focus on my writing and thankfully my employer was able to facilitate this. It means I get paid less but have more time to focus on what’s really important to me so it’s worth the reduction in finances in my opinion. This tied in nicely with being awarded the fellowship by MacDowell and meant that I would be able to take the time to attend my residency there without too much trouble. To me, it felt like a step in the right direction towards eventually spending more time working at writing rather than working at my day job.

The last few days have been fairly frantic between working, getting my last few bits and pieces organised for the trip, making sure I’ve everything I need from a writing perspective, and having the odd coffee here and there with friend I won’t see for the month and a bit. I’ve still a few things to tick off on my to-do list but I’m getting there. The frantic feeling of busyness and excitement has been peppered with moments of anxiety that arise from various sources but ultimately come from within myself. The realisation that there are expectations to return from MacDowell with something to show struck me a few weeks ago. I’m going to MacDowell to focus on my historical fiction novel, Attrition, that I’ve been working on for 16 months now. I want to get as much of the first draft completed while there (all of it hopefully) but what happens if I don’t? Granted, there won’t be a queue of people waiting to inspect my work when I return home but the question will be there: how did you get on? That’s not to say I’m being negative about the situation, if anything I have a lot of hope for my time stateside and I really feel it’s going to be hugely productive, but I can’t deny the little doubt that creeps in every now and then.

Not only that but what if I’m found out while I’m there? What if all the wonderfully talented folk there realise I’m faking it, that I can’t write and I’ve no business even trying? These imposter syndrome thoughts are tortuous but mostly self-engendered and I’m the only one that can vanquish them too. My way of overcoming them, or at least trying to, is to look at what I have achieved and be grateful for the good. I think what instigated this recent bout of doubt was a fairly innocuous and good intentioned comment. Someone remarked that I was lucky I got a fellowship with MacDowell. No harm done, a fairly generic comments to make. However, me being me, this good luck scratched its way back to the surface of my psyche and replayed itself to varying degrees as I tried to sleep. Had I been lucky? Well, after more thought that it deserved, I decided that I had not been lucky. I had put in the work and effort of applying for the fellowship. I had secured the necessary reference, based on my previous work. Not least of all, I had spent more than a year working on Attrition, including developing the story and making major changes along the way. I had earned my fellowship and was awarded it based on merit, luck had nothing to do with it. I’m incredibly grateful to have this opportunity but it didn’t just fall in my lap and I think sometimes it’s important to recognise this, especially when the dreaded imposter syndrome rears its ugly head. It’s only me in an echo chamber really so it’s essential to put out something positive about myself, otherwise all that’s left is doubt.

I’m not fully sure I believe my own argument at times but if I don’t make an effort to support myself, then I certainly can’t expect anyone else to. Now all that’s left is to finish packing by bags; it’s definitely a sign I’m getting older when I seem to have more medication with me than clothes. I’ll double and triple check that I’ve everything I need although I’ll invariably forget something. Then I’ll brace myself for what will be a productive and enjoyable time in rural New Hampshire.

Are we there yet?

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