Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hairy Cake Batter

I'm a fraud.

Those three words, or a version of them, go through my head almost every time I sit down to write. Because the honest truth is that 99% of the time, I don't know what I'm doing. When I manage to write something good, it seems like the most fortunate of accidents, as if I put a cake in the oven and out came a new handbag full of cash and fancy hand lotion. I look around suspiciously, scratch my head, and think well, that was... strange. But, YAHOO! A HANDBAG FULL OF CASH AND FANCY HAND LOTION!

I guess that's why I continue to take great comfort in my self-proclaimed title as a would-be writer. I invoke that word, would-be, because it excuses all manner of writerly sins--run-on sentences, missing words, misspelled words, excessive comma use, and extreme avoidance of semi-colons. You know, those mistakes that "real writers" never make.

To be perfectly honest, I've forgotten so many of the grammar rules I used to know, and some I blatantly ignore because they make me feel backed into a corner. Several years ago, when I really fell in love with writing, I threw caution and grammar to the wind and just wrote. And I liked how it felt. I adopted the term "would-be writer" and gave myself permission to enjoy the process without any stress over the rules. I imagined that as a would-be writer, I could enjoy the thrill of standing over a rocky cliff, dangling my participles, feeling the wind rush through my hair without penalty. If only I could remember what participles are.

Years later, I get nervous when someone says something nice about my writing because I feel like they should know the truth, that I'm a fraud. I'd hate to gain a reputation as a writer, because sooner or later everyone is bound to find out that I'm only impersonating a writer. There are strict laws against this. What if the real writers found out and ganged up on me, beat me up, and took away my new handbag with the cash and fancy lotions? What if Nancy Grace caught wind of my sham? She scares the hell out of me. Better to lay low, that's what I say.

See? Writing makes me crazy.

But it also makes me sane. Which is why I spent all day wrestling to write this, because I have to get this schloppy cake batter out of my hair and into the oven.

I know I'm not alone. Do you feel like a fraud sometimes? How do you fight it?


Heather @ Alis Grave Nil said...

I'm so glad you found my blog tonight. And I love your post. You know what I think? Everyone's a fraud in some way. I'm an English teacher but it hardly means I have it all down. I say do what makes you happy and if that's writing, then write. :)

MiaKatia said...

Rules schmules! Actually I appreciate people who at least proof read and try to make gramatical sense. My Seattle Tiffany usually writes me an email and points out my glaring mistakes. I appreciate it immensely!

Artax said...

YES! *I* am a fraud. I am a fraud at pretty much everything, and I spend my life pretending to fit in, hoping no one figures out that I don't, and that I am just a fraud. Relatively frequently, someone I know will call me on it, and point out that I am a complete and utter fraud and what do I think I am doing, existing at all? But that someone I know is almost always the same person -- me -- and I have found she shuts up if I feed her sugar. So now I am a fraud with lots of holes in my teeth from the sugar.

Michelley! said...

fraud or not, i have really enjoyed reading your blog after stumbling upon a few days ago! you are hilarious, and i like to laugh, so it's a great fit! =)

and i'm not sure how you knew i was reading and left a comment on my blog, but that was super fun and generous of you! thanks!

Soul-Fusion said...

I get this feeling in my professional life every once in a while. I will suddenly feel like everyone can tell I'm just pretending to be a lawyer but the longer I do it the less often this feeling creeps in.
But with writing? Ugh. I think I am currently paralyzed by this feeling. Only it goes beyond paralysis to the point of not even trying lately. I need to shake that off somehow!

Leca said...

That is exactly what I think to myself every single time I go to write a post. I think if I'm funny enough, people will excuse my mistakes and enjoy the piece anyway. If it makes you feel better, I think you are an incredible writer. Sometimes I just browse your blog for creative ideas-- cause you're full of 'um.

Annie said...

The only way you'll convince me that you are a fraud is if you invite me to take part in a pyramid scheme or can prove you run a lucrative money laundering operation.

A lack or excess of commas isn't going to do it.

Kami said...

I'm a total fraud. Wingin' it as I go, in my soft pants. You know the comfy ones with no restrictions. :)

Ann said...

Friends of mine who are published (some of them to great acclaim!) novelists always say they have no idea how to write a book. The feeling must be endemic. If that's the word I want.

In this same vein, Neil Gaiman once observed that every time you write a novel, you only learn how to write THAT novel. I think this is true of any writing we are brave/foolish/inspired enough to undertake.

Carry on. That is all.

Heather said...

I'm a fraudulent grown-up. I've pulled it off so far, but I always get a little confused when I have to be, ya know, responsible.

And Mia, Seattle Tiff sends me corrections by e-mail, too. She's a built-in proofreader!

Sometimes I think that we protect ourselves by convincing ourselves that we're terrible at something. We put ourselves out there, but if we don't claim to be good at it, we don't have to take responsibility for our mess-ups (that's not exactly what I mean. It sounds kind of harsh put this way, but it's the closest I can come to what I'm thinking). Or at least when we mess up, we can say, "Oh well...I suck at this anyways." That's what I find myself doing, anyway...

katie said...

i said it once, i'll say it again: i'd love to be able to write like you someday. honest. a writer or a would-be, i think you're pretty darn good. and i get a laugh 99% of the time. thanks!

Jodi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jodi said...

I'm a fraud as a mother. Fake it till you make it, right? So far, just lots of faking.

And my role in the stake primary presidency? WAY fraudulent. I'm expecting to be fired.

Jesse C said...

The greatest artists in the world were never concerned much by rules, and I'm sure that's not a coincidence.

Rules are generally just composed of convention and what has been done before.

In my opinion, the main test should be "is it honest?" and "does it communicate properly?" I think your writing passes both tests with flying colors.

Substitute "fraud" with "artist" and I think you've got it about right.

The Coolest Allen Family said...

I love that Kami calls them "soft pants". I have always called them "fat pants". Hers is nicer, I am going to call them that from now on. Thanks Kami.

I am not a writer, would-be or otherwise. I have, however, always been under the impression that the writer shouldn't be worried about proper use of punctuation or spelling or any of that kind of stuff. Isn't that what an editor is for? If not the editor, I know someone is responsible for that stuff. You just write freely and let your "people" figure out the rest. (If you don't have "people" will. Your too good to be unknown for long)

I am fraudulent at being a mom. I pretend like I know what I am doing, but really I am clueless. I think my kids are on to me though.

Keith said...

"Better to lay low, that's what I say."? Shouldn't that be "lie low"?

A would be writer indeed...LOL

Tiffany said...

Heather, I do think there's truth in that. I need to be careful to not make excuses for myself.

Ann, you are the best.

Jesse, you're perspective always boosts me.

Keith, thanks for pointing that out.

Keith said...

It was done all in jest, but thanks for mentioning my name!! And just what comment was deleted?

Bonnie said...

Sure I feel like a fraud, and then I pick up a book (published!!) that says "afterward by..." on the cover and I don't feel so bad after all. Apparently nowadays even your editor could have lost all his grade-school spelling bees and you'll still sell books!

Sarah said...

If you can write you can write! Editors are for grammar. You can write. But you can keep the "would-be" part if it makes you feel better.
Hey, I am a would-be foodie, so we are all would-be's anyway.

Ms Fish said...

i've decided to abandon capital letters. i feel like such a rebel. my pinkies have loved not having to 'shift.' i'm getting my doctorate degree and my writing has to be all stuffy. and technical. and staid.

so on my blog, i write the opposite. whatever that is. i hope someday one or two people will make their way over to it:

cuz I would luvvvv to be an honorary member of the would-be writers guild.

Ms Fish said...

and by the way, I agree with Jesse. I like the term 'artist' better than fraud. you are a literary artist. and even though I don't know you, you inspire me to improve. thanks so much for sharing your gift.

Kate said...

I fake being a good student. Lots of times I don't put in nearly enough time or effort to do my best. I spend too much time on facebook and stay up too late texting.

I also fake when I play music. I can make it look like I'm playing well in symphony, but I just fake the hard parts or play quietly in case I screw up.

I wouldn't say "fraud", rather, "full of potential". At least that's the way I see it. :)

p.s. I think you're a really great writer.

Kate said...

Oh, and the way I fight it (when I feel like fighting it) is just hard work and patience.

Christy said...

As a writer you are an artist.

All artists feel like frauds, at least the good ones do. They feel as if each piece flows through them from a source outside of themselves.

If you feel like a fraud it means you are an artist, a very good one.

Suzie said...

Fraudulent means you are deceptive or fake.

You are real.

I have spent my whole life muddling my way through-learning, trying new things, faking it.
Where I have a hard time is hearing the labels, the titles.
"Professional Event Planner"
"Business Owner"

I'm comfortable with none of that.
But fortunately I am confortable with me.
great post. made me think.
You are wonderful!

Donna said...

You do have this way of posting exactly what I've been thinking about.

But you, a fraud? Well, you do a damn good impersonation. Keep wrestling-- I love your writing!

Anonymous said...

This life didn't come with a book of instructions and yet we have to forge ahead everyday acting as if we know what we are doing. Especially when we have kids of our own and they think we know what we are doing. I never planned to be a business owner but life threw me into it and I have to fake it everyday. I have had to learn to shoot from the hip and keep going.


Angie said...

I've been working on a children's book, on history, and most of the time I think to myself, "Who do you think you are? You're not a writer." So I've stopped trying to wear the label and just do this because it feels right. Kind of like you did. I think of writers as those who have wanted it their whole lives, and have been doing it all along - like people who entered short story contests in high school. I'm not one of those. Truth is, I've never known what I want to be when I grow up, I'm just figuring it out as I go.

Shua said...

Don't tell my dad:

Bull shit.

You are an amazing writer. I don't buy this for one second. Your ability to describe an event, formulate a thought, provoke a laugh, 99% of the time all in one post, is truly abnormal and completely incredible.

If I could listen to one person's thoughts for a day, it would be yours, Aunt Tiffany. I hope to write like you someday.

alex dumas said...

Yes, I'm a fraud too, and I don't care. I embrace it. I call it "style." At least I still capitalize my proper nouns.

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