A Cure for Imposter Syndrome
According to Gill Corkindale in the Harvard Business Review, “Imposter syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. ‘Imposters’ suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence. They seem unable to internalize their accomplishments, however successful they are in their field. High achieving, highly successful people often suffer, so imposter syndrome doesn’t equate with low self-esteem or a lack of self-confidence. In fact, some researchers have linked it with perfectionism, especially in women and among academics.”
I reiterate this definition of Imposter Syndrome because, as a writer and lecturer, I’ve encountered several colleagues who suffer from this condition and I know many have had opportunities limited by its symptoms. Someone says they’re looking for a talented writer for a project, and sufferers of Imposter Syndrome eschew the opportunity because they’re not sure their skills are attributable to talent. Even if the skills are attributable to talent, sufferers of Imposter Syndrome feel sure that THEY ARE NOT the talented writer that is being sought.
It’s a maddening condition because usually (as perceived from my anecdotal experience) Imposter Syndrome afflicts people with inverse severity to their abilities. Consequently, those who are very talented think they’re absolute crap and those who are absolute crap think they are very talented.
And I mention all of this because I’ve just finished reading The Lost Journal of Bram Stoker and I’m going to use the text as a palliative when I next meet a student who suffers from Imposter Syndrome.
According to Amazon:
“Recently a long-lost notebook belonging to Dracula author, Bram Stoker, was discovered in the attic of one of his great grandsons. Published to coincide with the centenary of Stoker’s death the text of this notebook, written between 1871 and 1881 mostly in his native Dublin, will captivate scholars of Gothic literature and Dracula fans alike. Painstakingly transcribed and researched, the entries offer intriguing new insights into the complex nature of the man who wrote Dracula more than one hundred years ago. Assisted by a team of Dracula scholars and Stoker historians, Dacre Stoker and Dr Elizabeth Miller neatly connect the dots between contents of the Notebook and Bram Stoker’s later work, most significantly Dracula.”
Which means as readers, we’re looking at Stoker’s notebooks from a ten year period, and gaining a unique insight into the writer’s thoughts, interests and imaginations. Some of these notes are simple poems that remind us that Stoker was always more than a one-hit author. His description is keen and focused and his use of words is exemplary. Some of them are anecdotes or recollections that illustrate Stoker was a regular human being and not just the creator of the world’s most famous vampire. And some of the points here are notes for story ideas and potential content, such as: A web-legged girl with legs like fippers of a seal.
I think it’s only when we use the excuse ‘I’m a writer’ that we can get away with keeping such things in notebooks and not worry too much about being committed as a danger to decent society.
But I cite this book as a cure for Imposter Syndrome because it is a wonderful reminder of Stoker’s humanity. Aside from giving an insight into his life, and Elizabeth Miller and Dacre Stoker have done an enormous amount of research in trying to attribute the notes to existing texts and identify how the ideas could potentially relate to the content of Stoker’s writing, we can also see that Stoker is like the rest of us. He jots down fragments of ideas that look ridiculously underwhelming in shorthand, but we know any or all of these could be developed in his hands into something masterful:
Mem for story:
‘The Quatorzième’ – death coming on to 13 guests – making the 14th.
27th of November, 1881
In some ways this is like seeing a literary version of Alan Partridge’s TV pitches, where he suggests such random and asinine ideas for TV shows as ‘Cooking in Prison’, ‘Monkey Tennis’ and ‘Inner City Sumo.’ These are ideas that sound fatuous, but they have the potential to be something that captures the spirit of the public’s zeitgeist.
I heartily recommend this title as a book that gives us an insight into the life of a highly celebrated writer, and serves as a reminder that the greatest of ideas can start from the humblest origins in a writer’s notebook.