(Initial) Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali's blog has now moved to http://blog.mahabali.me

#rhizo14 Sustenance for a Compulsive Writer with Impostor Syndrome

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I’ve been wanting to write about my compulsive writing (I know, compulsive, right?) and impostor syndrome (the latter mentioned on facebook recently) and then Sandra commented on Sarah’s MOOCaholic blog post saying she was “sustained by the people” she met here… and I was just… oh my God. That is such a good word to describe how I feel… how I’ve been feeling…

(Funny enough, I just gave a workshop today on authentic and sustainable assessment, but that’s a different issue)

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But back to the original blogpost that was going to be written before I read Sandra’s comment (her comment inspired it to GET written; beforehand it was written in my head, as David Wheeler has said)

Let me start by being totally honest. I don’t have “impostor syndrome” in the sense explained here

The author and impostor-syndrome expert Valerie Young says the condition “refers to people who have a persistent belief in their lack of intelligence, skills, or competence.” She continues: “They are convinced that other people’s praise and recognition of their accomplishments is undeserved, chalking up their achievements to chance, charm, connections, and other external factors.”

I mean, I am a pretty confident person. It’s not an act, or anything. But I think there are some factors that make me feel like… I appear to be more than I really am, or something? For example, doing a PhD remotely meant I did not “get” all the experience as other people did (though I tried to approximate it). I did not get the experience of interacting with other students, more academics beyond my supervisor. I was lucky to be working at a university but there was no school of Education for most of the time I was working on my thesis. Of course, doing a PhD just helps you realize how little you know – it is a case of the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know and I had complete writer’s block until I finally wrote my conclusion chapter where I critique everything in my thesis and say how I would have done it differently, what I would do in future, etc. THEN I could go back and edit my thesis. Whew.

And since I finished my thesis, I’ve lost my writer’s block. I just re-blogged a piece on writer’s block but really I have had writer’s diarrhea or whatever since I submitted my thesis. It started out innocently enough as I was trying to write some peer-reviewed pieces to keep my mind and writing muscle alive, waiting for my supervisor to give me feedback on my almost-final-dissertation… and while doing them I read a lot of blogs and chronicle articles (because one of the articles was about MOOCs and there was not much peer-reviewed stuff on that) – and I felt like I had opinions and things to say that were not scholarly but worth being said… first piece sent to the Chronicle got rejected… but after that, my writing got accepted in other places (the chronicle continue to reject my stuff for some reason, but it does well elsewhere). Anyway… at some point I felt that I’ve got sooooo much writing inside me that I don’t think any online magazine or journal have the time for (no matter how much they like me or how kind they are – it’s not a newspaper column). So I started the blog, and I did so for myself. It was OK if no one ever read it, but that’s not been the case. It’s not entirely coincidental that I started my blog in December and joined rhizo14 in January. I met Dave through my blog, actually! I was writing a post about rhizomatic learning after having just heard of the term, and I tweeted to tell him something, and then (because he’s such a nice guy) we had an extended twitter exchange where I asked if he’s teaching any MOOCs anytime soon and he said “well, since you ask…” and that’s how I joined rhizo14! And my blogging has helped me a lot in terms of learning and interacting in rhizo14 (I was not blogging while in edcmooc and I now regret that).

But anyway… I still feel like I write too much. I don’t always post my new blogs on rhizo14 facebook (not immediately anyway), and it’s amazing because there was one post I did not put on facebook that Clarissa did on my behalf and it got SO popular. I write some things and think they might not interest people so I don’t overly publicize them (as opposed to the latest Hybrid Pedagogy piece which I’ve been spamming ppl with hehe). I do still feel like I’m imposing, even though people could always ignore me and not read stuff, right?

For example, the recent article Shyam and I published on Hybrid Pedagogy. I think it’s a great article with great ideas, I think we’re onto something big here. I think it was written in the most collaborative way and worked out so beautifully… and then when it came out and the Hybird Pedagogy people used quotes from it as they promoted it on social media, I told Sean Michael Morris how great they were at finding good quotes and he replied:

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-partner=”tweetdeck”><p>Bonds of Difference: Illusions of Inclusion <a href=”https://twitter.com/Bali_Maha”>@bali_maha</a&gt; <a href=”https://twitter.com/sharmashyam”>@sharmashyam</a&gt; <a href=”http://t.co/ACcXZjiOby”>http://t.co/ACcXZjiOby</a&gt; <a href=”https://twitter.com/HybridPed”>@hybridped</a></p>&mdash; Sean Michael Morris (@slamteacher) <a href=”https://twitter.com/slamteacher/statuses/452093600508039169″>April 4, 2014</a></blockquote>

See, I read that, and I think, how can one of my favorite writers ever (Sean) who is a writing teacher say that about my writing? My next thought was, well, I’ll write all my new articles co-authored with Shyam since he’s a great writer so it must be helping raise my level 🙂

Uhhh, yeah. Me, who blogs like almost every day, and gets something published on Al-Fanar around every month, and somehow sees almost every interesting idea we discuss on #rhizo14 facebook as an opportunity to publish 😉

So I’m not really sure how to reconcile my “impostor syndrome” thing with my “compulsive writer” thing – and for some reason, I’m always now compelled to write for a public audience. Email? Why confine ideas to a few people I know? Why not open it up for the world, including people I do not know, and meet new people (love it when someone I don’t know tweets, comments, reads, likes my stuff) – but also love it when someone I do know (like Clarissa, Simon and Scott just did) comment on my peer-reviewed work or whatever is published outside my blog.

I’m always feeling like maybe I shouldn’t be sending so many articles to Al-Fanar or Hybrid Pedagogy or all those nice people who seem to like my writing. I was just talking to my boss today and she asked when I was going to get around to writing an article for our department’s newsletter and I laughed. I was like “you can use any of them” – because actually, sometimes I want to write something and it is not yet “time” for our bi-weekly newsletter, or someone else is writing it that week, so I can’t wait. I just blog it. One such post eventually caught the attention of Al-Fanar so has already been re-posted and I don’t think it can tolerate a third re-post… or can it? 🙂

Well, I’m a writeaholic and so I could just write a new one, can’t I?

P.S. while writing this blogpost I was chatting with Clarissa and I told her something I wanted to share with rhizo14: I love how we bring our parenting into the course. I hate how academics or professionals in general can be discouraged from doing that (though I have to say it is not the case in my workplace). But it’s such an important part of my identity and I am glad we all “bring it” with us openly.

[apologies for abrupt ending to post, but Clarissa has told me about interesting thread on fb that I must read before I sleep and it’s midnight already! Why publish it incoherent? Because I’m sure I’ll have a totally new thing to say tomorrow anyway… inshallah]

 

UPDATE: I read through the facebook thread and one of the articles posted by Ronald on that thread  brought on an interesting idea relevant to this post!!! That in Brookfield’s research, he found that people starting to become liberated and empowered through critical pedagogy (not the parts in bold I emphasized):

in the course of his phenomenographic study, it emerged that they also experienced powerful feelings of alienation both within their learning community and outside it. Brookfield identified five themes that exemplify what he terms the ‘dark side’ of critical reflection: impostorship (feeling unworthy to participate in critical
thinking), roadrunning (incremental struggles with new modes of thought), community (support for those
engaged in the critical process); and also ‘cultural suicide’ and a sense of ‘lost innocence’ resulting from
the multiplicity of new ideas that replaces old certainties, and the resulting sense of isolation and
exclusion within existing communities whose value systems remain untroubled by critical thought.

More on all that later, then!

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Author: Maha Bali

Associate professor of practice, American University in Cairo

6 thoughts on “#rhizo14 Sustenance for a Compulsive Writer with Impostor Syndrome

  1. Maha, this is awesome. I’ll just come clean abiut this – I, too, suffer from phony syndrome. As a matter of fact, I was just about to head to my virtual home to blog about feelings of self-confidence and worthiness and I dropped by because I remembered that you’d written something that had made me think about all those issues, and I stumble upon this gem.
    I identify with your every word.
    Love this.

  2. Brilliant post, Maha! I identify with a lot of this… although I’d prefer a different term for loquacity than ‘writer’s diarrhea’!!!

    • thanks for commenting, David. I was actually planning to edit that expression “writer’s diarrhea” but forgot to 🙂 Not sure which expression would fit best (does “loquacious” have a more positive connotation? Because I was trying to make fun of myself also). I was just telling a colleague at work that people must think the quality of my writing cannot be this good if I write this often and publish this much (I’m talking about the stuff published in journals and magazines, not my blog)…
      I want to follow up on what you just said but I think I’ll do that separately 🙂

  3. The ‘writer’s diarrhea’ comment made me laugh, Maha — I was just pulling your leg. 🙂

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