Like most people, when I begin a project, I’m confronted by a blank computer screen. Mine has a virtual mixer, every instrument you can imagine, and thousands of digital and physical gadgets to manipulate sound. In order to deliver a finished product, I have to set these thousands of gadgets in just the right way. It seems like an insurmountable task and I often feel like I’ll never be able to figure it out.
Once I get started, the process is slow, but after a few hours, I usually have something presentable. I’ve probably finished several thousand pieces of music, but I have this feeling each and every time I start a new one.
Here are my strategies for overcoming my imposter syndrome:
1. I ask for deadlines.
Nothing focuses the mind like a deadline. I learned this working in television where If I miss a delivery, even by a day, it can throw the whole production off. So there’s no time to think about if I can or can’t do it. I just have to get it done.
2. I set aside specific times where I won’t be interrupted, even by emails and texts.
I work from home; so for me this means closing the studio door, leaving my phone and non-musical devices outside, and just working for a set amount of time. I usually come up with something; though sometimes I need to repeat this process a few times.
3. I brainstorm until I find the right idea.
I think it’s worthwhile to try things out even if the deadline is tight. A good idea is easier to finish than a not so good one. I think that the time spent finding that good idea, is saved when finishing it.
4. I’m undeterred by failure.
A good project is like an oasis. It’s lovely when I can stay a while; but I’ll eventually be tossed back into the desert. So when I get kicked out of the oasis, or when I knock on the door and they won’t let me in, there’s no time to feel sorry for myself. I just have to move on and find the next one.
5. I always try my best.
I think the most pernicious side effect of imposter syndrome is the propensity to give a project less than 100%. There truly is nothing worse than putting my best work into a creative project only to find out that it’s good enough. To avoid this pain, it seems rational to never give anything 100%. If I didn’t try my best, and I failed, at least I was in control of my destiny the whole time, right? The way to overcome the fear of failure is simply to fail more and get used to it. Success is a muscle that is exercised by failure.
This is a difficult topic to write about because, as my opening line suggests, I felt like an imposter for even attempting it. Then I thought, “If I can get that line published, it’ll serve as tangible proof of it’s own flawed logic.”
I hope that someone struggling with a new project will procrastinate their way to this article and find it helpful. If that’s you and you’d like to procrastinate for just a little while longer, I’d love to hear your strategies for dealing with imposter syndrome in the comments below. Then, get back to doing the great work you always do!