A Brief Reflection Upon Imposter Syndrome and Perfectionist Tendencies

Upon the occasion of reaching
(...and climbing...)

Last year, Turn to Flesh Productions put out a call for farcical plays with female protagonists - hoping, frankly, to feature quite a few female playwrights, too.

However, what came across the transom was 75% written by male playwrights...and many of those submissions flat-out WRONG by anyone's standards (not comedies, no female leads, SEXIST DIALOGUE AND AN INSULTING COVER LETTER...you get the idea).

When we reached out to our female playwright friends, it remained teeth pully: the Imposter Syndrome and Perfectionist Streak of artists and female artists in particular was *strong.* "I have a thing, but it's probably not quite...I don't have the *perfect* thing...Not up to standard...Maybe next time..." etc. etc. etc.

Both of these tendencies were warring in me when I struggled through writing the piece below. Upon receiving the news that my pitch had been accepted, I froze in a way I haven't in YEARS. Couldn't write a blessed thing. Called people crying. Had to give myself pep talks just to get a draft out. Used the Charlie Brown method of: "So I'll wait 'til tomorrow/'Cuz there'll be lots of pressure/And I work best under pressure/So I'll wait 'til tomorrow."

When I sent it off, then, it was several months before I heard back with edits. Several times before then, I had to *forcibly stop myself* from writing HowlRound with an apology email, such as: "I know this was a horrible first draft. It's ok if you want to pull the article. *I'd* pull the article. This is so embarrassing. All my stats and suppositions are stupid. Just ignore me, please. IGNORE IGNORE EXTERMINATE!"

Fortunately, as you can see, the rest of me managed to put my hands under my significant posterior before doing any such thing. And the editors at HowlRound couldn't have been kinder, more professional, precise and insightful. Their edits came back; I managed to clean up the areas that needed work (thanks to Kristen Kane for taking me to see ROMEO AND JULIET at the American Shakespeare Center this year to joggle memories of Romeo vs. Juliet in Act IV)...

And now, much to my jaw-dropping surprise, this little article is apparently hitting a chord among female artists. (With some amusing non-sequiturs from a few gentlemen who don't seem to grasp the central thesis at all.) Overwhelmingly, I'm seeing: "This lines up with my experience." Enough, so, that I absolutely would love to sort out a way to do a more in-depth survey and analysis of smart women in theatre.

The take-away I want to drill into my own mind today, though, is:

Artistic and scholarly fear is Real. The Fraud Police, although fully cranial and nothing more than nightmares, are NOT real. And, Emily, when you're most scared is probably when it's most important.

I'm grateful to everyone who's shared this post, and would be grateful for any further shares or insights, questions, concerns, (*thoughtful*) objections, or anecdotes.

And now: I've got this play to write, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it...And, no, Charlie Brown: I can't wait 'til tomorrow.

"In this context, 'you’re so smart, but…' is direct code for, ‘I do not believe you are actually experiencing the level of emotion I deem to be appropriate for the story you are telling.’ When a woman is seen to express intelligently, the immediate presumption is that she is no longer experiencing emotionally, and that is perceived as a divorcement from her experience." —Emily Snyder