Faking It


My guitar and I went to a “jam session” Sunday night. About ten of us gathered with a variety of instruments to play and sing our hearts out. We did some songs we all knew, and some songs some of us knew and the rest of us followed along the best we could. It was fun.

At one point, another guitarist asked me a couple questions about how to play certain chord variations, and even though I’d just played through the lines in question, I had to say I don’t know. See, I’ve got no training. I just play. When I need a new chord for a song I want to play, I learn it, and when I’m in the midst of playing in a jam session and need a note or chord I don’t know, I fake it. (Apparently, I fake it reasonably well. They think I can play! Ha!)

You know, that moment when I was asked the how-to questions, I got a familiar feeling… It was that same feeling that dances through my writer’s heart with unfortunate frequency:

I’m a hack. A poser. I don’t know what I’m doing.

It’s not exactly a pleasant feeling, but you know, last night it dissipated when I laughed and admitted I didn’t have a clue. I just make music. I just have fun playing songs.

For me, writing’s the same: I’ve no training–not the official kind, anyway. I just write. I just have fun telling stories and playing with words. And when that scary, kinda-embarrassing feeling comes around–that feeling of being a total hack just hiding out amongst real writers and hoping not to be noticed–I try to laugh, acknowledge the truth in it, and keep right on faking it writing.

Is this how it is for other writers? I know I’ve heard authors expressing similar feelings even after they’ve had a book published (or several books). So, maybe it’s normal. And maybe it doesn’t go away. And maybe, if I twist it around a bit, it might even be a good thing…

If I acknowledge I’m a poser, fumbling along in my creative efforts, maybe what I’m really discovering is this:

There’s no definitive Right Way of doing this creativity thing

Sure, some music theory and grammar lessons will serve me well, and I’m not for a second knocking the value of LEARNING NEW STUFF to help me grow as a musician or as a writer.

But here’s the thing: If  (1) I’m having fun creating, (2) I’m creating something that communicates what I want it to, and (3) it’s not excruciating for others to sit through, then faking it is okay. It’s good, even, because it keeps me writing, keeps me making music, when I might otherwise give up and hide under a table. (Is this a time when fake-it-’til-ya-make-it is a totally valid philosophy? ;) )

I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to do things someone else’s way, or some imaginary “right way”. I just need to create. Learn and grow and experiment and try, but never stop creating.

What do you think about this? Can you relate at all?

Peace… :)


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14 thoughts on “Faking It

    1. Shari Green Post author

      Thanks, Carol Anne. It really is good to know we’re not alone in the challenges/struggles! So many kindred spirits in the writing community… :)

  1. Kristin Butcher

    Who makes the rules? And besides, rules are made to be broken. It’s only a rule until something better comes along. Learn the basics, yes, but then fly.

  2. Chris

    Great post! I fake play/sing but I prefer to call it Confident Improvisation LOL
    I love this quote:
    In his 90’s, cellist Pablo Casals was asked why he still practiced 4-5 hours a day. He replied: “Because I believe I am making progress.”
    However we choose to hone our creative skills (whether in music or writing or art), we’re always making progress and discovering (often accidentally) beautiful and wonderful moments along the way. Enjoy the journey!

    1. Shari Green Post author

      “Confident Improvisation” — “improvising” sounds so much better than “faking it”, lol. I think it’s probably the confidence part I’m lacking….

      It’s definitely a journey, and I truly believe there should be joy in that journey. If not, I’m doing it wrong. :p Here’s to joyful creating!

      1. Chris

        Definitely agree about the ‘joy’ in the creative journey. I think the confidence part will come as a byproduct of the joy.

  3. elderfox

    After putting my “creativity” in writing I am always wondering: How do I make it better. And I’m off into “revision” land again. I don’t know how I got into “perfectionism”…when I know I’m not. However, I just read a new novel by a favorite author and it’s really not as good as those she’s written before, not by a long shot. Still she wrote it, and no doubt revised it, and it’s published (because, no doubt, she’s who she is). So, Shari, thanks for the whack upside the head! It may sting a little, but it sure opened my eyes.

    1. Shari Green Post author

      It sure can be hard to set aside our perfectionist tendencies, but I know that for me, if I don’t set them aside, I don’t get much done! I find perfectionism blocks creativity, but oh, it’s so hard to just let things be and move forward…

  4. Carol

    I like Chris’ “confident Improvisation” description, although I, too, tend to be short on the confidence end. I’m not sure how I managed to direct a choir for 19 years when I can just barely read music! Creativity is one part imagination and one part desire, with elements like ability being a bonus and perfectionism a non-player. :D

    1. Shari Green Post author

      Maybe not being sure how you managed choir all those years — and yet managing it quite nicely! — says something about not limiting ourselves: not saying we can’t do something, or not being afraid to dream big dreams, because even we don’t know what we’re capable of until we try! (I just stumbled across that Mandela quote today: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” :) )

      1. Chris

        Carol, I think you’ve hit it on the head! Imagination + desire = creativity (well at least to me). As far as reading music, Paul McCartney and Irving Berlin didn’t read music, and look at their repertoire! There are/were non-sighted famous composers as well (Stevie Wonder, Irving Berlin), and Beethoven continued creating music after he could no longer hear it.
        Shari – great Mandela quote! Thanks for sharing it.

  5. Deb A. Marshall (@debamarshall)

    Oh my gosh…I can so relate to this I got goosebumps. For years I worked as a storyteller, workshops for kids, residencies in schools, in service sessions for teachers. I always got nervous about conversation going too far into education, literacy etc cause I have no formal teacher training, literacy specialist training, writer, author etc etc…”just” a storyteller who can work with the inspiration that a told story provides. A pretender, lol. And I am that way with my writing–I write stories, have fun with them, even have a couple of books that make me “author” . But what does keep me going, writing, storytelling is I love, love to do it–like someone says passion trumps the insecurity!

    1. Shari Green Post author

      passion trumps insecurity — I like that! And I think it’s true. Who cares if we’re “pretending” if we’re having a blast?! ;)

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