Linda L. Richards knows what she’s talking about. I first found her through her neo-noir Kitty Pangborn books, Death Was the Other Woman and Death Was in the Picture, with their badass women, and I’ve just downloaded her highly anticipated (and already highly praised) Endings. But on a more personal note, back when I was still trying to get my own feet, she encouraged me – supporting my efforts to stretch my amateur sleuth mysteries with something a little edgier. When I asked her to blog for me today, she offered some more hard-won advice on Learning to Not Listen
by Linda L. Richards
Calling it imposter syndrome would be a lot. That is, it would make it bigger than it really is. Like naming the boogeyman. Who needs to do that? All I know is that, all these years in, I have a pretty good working relationship with the voices in my head that tell me I have no business being a writer.
They are not unrelenting, those voices. But they are persistent. I can have whole stretches of deep involvement with my story when they are not present at all. Or maybe they are present, but I don’t hear them. I just keep powering through. But if I hesitate. If I become distracted. If I work with anything less than full concentration, they come right back.
Early in my career they could sometimes derail me. They would win. I could put aside a project or a session because I was convinced that ultimate failure was the only possibility. The voices had told me so. It took me a long time to come to understand that the voices in my head trying to convince me of my inadequacy weren’t mine alone. They belonged, also, to almost every writer I’ve ever met. And painter. And sculptor. And actor. And musician. Maybe architects, too. And others who work (try to work?) in fields where the fulfillment of the order depends entirely on your own resources. And the voices belong, at times, to just about anyone who tackles something that feels like it might be larger than they are. Beyond them. The voices struggle to keep us small.
So here’s what I eventually figured out: if everyone — not just me — at some time, is plagued by voices that tell us we are not up to the task at hand, then the voices that I hear are of my own construction. If I constructed them, I control them, at least to a certain degree. I reasoned that, if I make them start, I can then make them stop. It turns out that, for me anyway, that is not true. I can’t make them stop. They are with me still. They are with me even now. I’ve just gotten better at not listening. When they tell me that the task I have set myself is larger than I am, I keep my head down. I move forward. When they tell me I have no business trying to share what I envision — that others more gifted and talented and probably better looking can do it better than I can, I just keep going.
So imposter syndrome? Maybe. I only know that, for me, it has been so long now — decades — that I don’t hold much hope I will ever get the voices that preach my inadequacy to shut up forever. Maybe they are even a necessary part of what makes Linda run. But if they speak and I don’t listen, they are powerless. And if they are without power, they might as well not exist at all.
Linda L. Richards is a journalist and award-winning author. Her latest book, Endings, a dark and edgy thriller, was published April 6, 2021 by Oceanview Publishing. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly said Endings was a “harrowing tale of love, loss, and the value of life.”