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marthawells

Martha Wells

My Flying Lizard Circus


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marthawells

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I've been re-reading the Nero Wolfe books lately. I first started on them in 1998, when I was writing Wheel of the Infinite. Then my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimers, and I got blocked on the novel. (I finally finished it, but I've never been able to read it since it was published, and every time I look at it I think of my mother and the Alzheimers.) There were a few other major stressful things happening at that time, and they all seemed to feed into each other. Somewhere around then, The Death of the Necromancer was on the final Nebula ballot, but in all the haze of stress that seems like a dream sequence.

But as I've been re-reading the Wolfe books, I'm noticing something else. I don't remember any of them. I remember buying them, liking them, buying more of them. Some of them seem familiar, but that's because of the Timothy Hutton TV series, which I have the DVDs of and have watched several times. In a way it's good, because yay, new (to me) Nero Wolfe books. But I wonder what else dropped out of my memory back then.

Quote from The Father Hunt, which reminds me of how much I hate labels, stereotypes, and sweeping generalizations:

Wolfe was frowning at him. "If you please, Mr. Jarrett, no labels. Labels are for the things men make, not for men. The most primitive man is too complex to be labeled. Do you have one?"

"No, but I can label any man whose faculties are concentrated on a single purpose. I can label Charles de Gaulle or Robert Welch or Stokely Carmichael."

"If you do, don't glue them on, and have replacements handy."


***

I was talking to someone last night about impostor syndrome, and thought I'd repeat it here. Impostor syndrome is that feeling that even after you succeed at something, you feel that somehow your success isn't legitimate, and that you will eventually be "found out" and hounded out of whatever it is you're doing. It doesn't make any sense and is totally irrational, but that doesn't stop tons of people from feeling that way, especially writers. One of the first people I remember talking about having impostor syndrome was Damon Knight, on the old GEnie bulletin board system, back in the early 90s. He still had it.

Unless you hear someone talk about it, you think you're the only one who has it, but I've got it, too. Even now, knowing about it, you probably think everyone else who feels this way just has impostor syndrome while you really are an impostor and will someday be found out, etc. It's insidious, but common.

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Nero Wolfe plots are remarkably good at slipping out of my head. I'm not entirely sure why that is, or how that works, but I can read a Nero Wolfe novel twice in a year, without realizing that I did that.

There are certainly memorable moments, mostly relating to meals, and one or two plots that stand out. But most of them, though they're good books, and I always enjoy reading them, just seem to vanish out of my mind.

The Father Hunt! That's the only Nero Wolfe book I haven't read; I need to track that down someday. That's a great quote.

It is nice to know that 'impostor syndrome' is not uncommon, but -

ou probably think everyone else who feels this way just has impostor syndrome while you really are an impostor and will someday be found out

True. Bah.

I want to read the Nero Wolfe books...I loved the tv show so much, but I've never read any of the books.

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You aren't a real impostor. You only think that you are one. The real impostors are going to find you out. Well, actually, they are going to say they did, but they will have no idea.

Gah, yes, impostor syndrome. It's nice to be able to put a name on that nameless dread, if that makes any sense?

Been having that for a bit now, worrying that the fact I've been using every tool at my disposal in my workplace may mean that I'm not good enough to function without them, that if you took away my extensive toolkit I'd be worthless.

It's probably exacerbated by the thought that the price of failure is becoming unbearably high these days...

There's a study somewhere that only incompetent people are completely sure of their competence.

But, oh, God, yes, I'm an impostor. And a failure. And knowing otherwise doesn't mean I *know* otherwise.

The Dunning-Kruger effect. And yeah, I feel the same way on everything from software engineering to being an adult. I eventually settled on the criterion “adulthood is making sure the bills get paid”.

I inhaled my way through the Lymond Chronicles while in the depths of what was, in retrospect, postpartum depression. I remember almost none of the details; later I went back and reread Checkmate and Pawn in Frankincense, but the rest are lost.

That is such a wonderful quote: it's perfect for a situation that I'm in now, where a man is trying to demonize a large number of people by attaching a label to us that we wouldn't use ourselves.

I've borrowed it for my .signature.

One of the great things about Rex Stout's books is that they are eminently rereadable, even if you do remember the plots, because so much of their charm is the banter between Archie and Wolfe (and Lily Rowan), and their comments on life.

Re imposter syndrome: I plead guilty, too.

A friend of mine told me about imposter syndrome years ago, because she was in the middle of a bout of it. Great writer, PhD in classic, and she had it too, which made me feel better about my own frequent bouts of the stuff.

And yeah, I love rereading Wolfe novels. Even when I vaguely remember the plot (or clearly remember it), I enjoy Archie's POV and Wolfe's comments, and I always adore Fritz and Saul. Thanks for the reminder. I need to go reread/rewatch some mysteries.

And by the way? I think Wheel of the Infinite was the book where I finally knew about your work to start buying it in hardback. I'd read Death of the Necromancer to pieces (I now own a newer paperback of it) and I've collected your earlier ones in hardback now, but Wheel I bought at a B&N after a difficult move. Thank you.

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It's especially found with successful people. I'm told Garth Brooks, one of the most successful recording artists of our generation, as imposter's syndrome. You're in very good company.

I like the idea of not gluing the labels on and having replacements handy. :)

Very common. This is a human question-- how can anyone make serious comparisons (of difficulty, challenge, accomplishment) in a world as complex as this is?

I was once listening to wnyc and Twyla Tharp feeling imposter syndrome. I was amazed.

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