Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Fake It 'Til You Make It

by R.C. Lewis

Lately I've had several people tell me they were surprised when I mentioned how terrified I am to get up in front of a group of people. "I never would have guessed you're shy."

Well, then, mission accomplished.

Yes, I am shy (and introverted ... see J. Lea Lopez's post on how they aren't the same thing). Always have been, from childhood right up to the moment I composed this post.

I'm also a teacher. That means getting up in front of people every day. So I kind of had to find a way to deal with it. My strategy: Fake it 'til you make it. I pretended I wasn't shy until the non-shy behaviors became a habit. As a result, I'm pretty comfortable in front of forty teenagers. A group of adults, on the other hand ...

Am I still shy? I feel like I am, but it's more like a switch I can turn on and off. I guess I'm "functionally non-shy."

Seems to me this strategy can be useful in a variety of aspects of a writer's life.

The most obvious—getting up in front of people at bookstore appearances, school visits, conference panels, etc. Fake it. Pretend to be an outgoing person, just as I've done in my classrooms over the years. Chances are, you'll fool everyone, and eventually yourself.

Marketing, social media presence, etc. makes you feel inadequate? Fake it. Pretend you're the most interesting version of yourself ever. (You write characters all the time, right?)

What about the writing process itself? Ever feel like a hack writing drivel that isn't worth the electrons in your computer? Fake it. Pretend to be a brilliant author writing fabulous prose. Don't let a conviction that what you're writing is crap keep you from moving forward.

But wait a minute! Faking it doesn't mean lying to yourself. When things need fixing or improvement, do what it takes. Study up, practice, get advice.

In all of the above, I guess the bottom line is to fake your way to confidence, and work your way to excellence. The first will keep you from sabotaging yourself before you get to the second.

Have you ever felt you had to "fake" something in your writer life? What strategies help you "make it"?

R.C. Lewis teaches math by day and writes YA fiction by every other time. Her YA sci-fi novel Stitching Snow will be published by Disney-Hyperion in Summer 2014. Meanwhile, you can find her at Crossing the Helix and on Twitter (@RC_Lewis).


Bonnie Rae said...

I love this!! And now it will be my motto for the rest of the week! Hopefully it helps me get back into the swing of things writing wise!

JeffO said...

When I read my first drafts I feel like a fake, that's for sure.

When you don't have any short stories published in anything approaching a 'real' market, and when you're still searching for an agent, it's easy to feel like a fake. But I just keep pushing on, trying to improve, and do my best to keep my confidence up.

Jean Oram said...

I think I'm going to have to fake being the kind of person who doesn't always change the subject as soon as someone asks me about my writing. Gah!

Matt Sinclair said...

You got that right, RC! I still find it hard to believe I used to play songs I'd written in front of an audience. But that was easy compared to talking to people afterward who wanted to know what the songs "meant."

sydneyaaliyah said...

I am a reformed shy person, too. But, still an introvert. Your right, there is a difference. Great post.

Jemi Fraser said...

Love this! It echoes my situation too - people are generally surprised to find out I'm shy & so nervous in large social settings. Faking it becomes a habit. Great analogy with the writing process too :)

R.C. Lewis said...

Thanks for the comments, all. I guess we'll keep trying to be the very best fakes we can.

(That doesn't sound quite right, does it?) :)