Musings, Writing

I dream it, I work hard, I grind till I own it

Pssst! If you’re new here at SweetMadeleine, this post (like most posts, if I’m being honest) does contain a few four-letter words. I’m sorry/You’re welcome/You’ve been warned 🙂

I Slay All Day print by Simple Element on Etsy

One my of favourite gossip columnists (Elaine Lui of LaineyGossip), often talks about something she calls “showing your work”. It’s shorthand for needing to be up front about the work we put into our achievements instead of diminishing them, demurring, and acting like it wasn’t hard. Pretending it wasn’t work.

This post is me doing that.

At 11:00 this morning, I stood in a conference room in a Calgary hotel and gave a presentation about the problem with the fast fashion industry.

I had been asked to present back in the fall, and let me tell you a secret about me. If you ask me to do anything more than six weeks in advance I’ll probably agree. Talking to me in the fall about doing a workshop at the end of April? At that point, April doesn’t even exist in my world. I may as well be agreeing to something that’ll never happen!

A conference? Sure! Speaking in front of a terrifying amount of people? Oh, no problem! An hour-long presentation when I’ve never actually given so much as a five-minute presentation? Great! See you in April!

Aaaand then, suddenly, it was March. And equally suddenly, April was not only a real thing that was happening, but it was – inexplicably – happening in a month. I wanted to cancel a million times in the lead up to today.

Instead, I worked my butt off to put this presentation together. I researched, procrastinated, rehearsed, practiced, stressed, asked for advice, even google image-searched the room I’d be presenting in so I could visualize it better.

And I did all of this while secluded in a lodge with no internet, late at night (sometimes until 1 or 2 am), after I’d finished all the rest of my writing assignments, and in between preschool pickups and playdates arranged so I’d have a few more hours of time. I put away time whenever I could and I got it done.

I couldn’t sleep last night for nerves and then this morning I woke early, got Olive ready, packed her snack for school and then dropped her off at the home of a friend whose nanny graciously offered to watch her for the morning and take her to preschool in the afternoon (Thank you, Nicole and Melodie!)

I didn’t drink one drop of coffee because I was worried about it making me more jittery than I already was. I drove to the hotel and registered and got my name tag identifying me as a presenter and I smiled and chatted with other conference attendees and tried very hard not to panic.

Then, at 11:00, I set up my presentation, stood up in front of that room and holy shiiit was I nervous. I had a lapel mic but I’d worn a dress and had nowhere to clip it. I’d worn heels and my legs were shaking.

Guys, I spoke for an hour. And I didn’t miss a beat. Or if I did, it didn’t register.

I did it. And I did it well.

And after it was over I answered questions and received great feedback, sold and signed all of the books I’d brought. I had lunch and then I left.

Just like that, it was over.

It’s very tempting to just move onto the next challenge on the horizon. The next item on the to-do list. Sitting here tonight, I’m realizing how very little time I allowed myself to feel proud of what I’d done before immediately thinking of what else needed doing. So that’s why I’m here, up late again, doing exactly that in this post.

I have a severe case of imposter syndrome. With every single article I submit, I expect an angry email from my editors tearing it apart – even when I’ve only ever received positive feedback. With every Twitter notification or email from someone who’s read my book or even when I slowly sat and read the feedback forms I’d asked the audience today to fill out, I’m always waiting for someone to say it:

This is shit. You’re shit. What are you even talking about? Who the hell do you think you are?

It’s not so much that I’m worried about this reaction as it is that I’m expecting it. In my mind, it’s just a matter of time.

So this post will hopefully serve as one small counterweight to that lurking, nagging expectation.

I am proud.

I’ve worked hard and it’s paying off and I’m so goddamn proud of that. I’m proud of what I’ve done and how I’ve gotten here and all the unrelenting effort I’ve put in even when others didn’t value it. I’m proud I stuck with unpaid writing for years before earning a dime from these words. I’m proud that I took the time to find an audience, hone my voice, refine my style. I’m proud that I put together a sixty-thousand-word book that’s earned great reviews. I’m proud that I’m making my living by writing; I’m a writer. This is literally a dream come true.

There’s nothing wrong with showing your work, we need to do it more. I  need to do it more without being so dismissive of my efforts and self-deprecating about my achievements. I talk about my “little book” and my “hippie nonsense” and all of it serves to undercut my accomplishments before someone else can.

We need to show how challenging our work can be, but how rewarding, too.

Olive’s heard me talking about this presentation for weeks. Rehearsing it under my breath at the playground. Choosing outfits. Editing slides. Timing my talk. Nervously saying goodbye this morning. She knew how hard I worked and I talked to her at length about how apprehensive I felt and how important it was that I was doing it anyway. I want to make sure she sees me recognize the payoff of that effort, too.

It’s time to own your work. Stop dismissing it. Stand up and take credit for the effort you put in, for what you’ve done and how well you’ve done it to get to where you are now – wherever that is.

Show. Your. Work.

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  • Reply Kassey April 29, 2017 at 12:43 AM

    You’re a legend!

    • Reply Madeleine Somerville May 2, 2017 at 12:09 PM

      Ha! I’m sure that this is the norm for a lot of people, but it was my first time and DAMN it sure felt legendary! 😉

  • Reply Daniel Bradford April 29, 2017 at 12:46 AM

    Half my students are female, and it distresses me to see how many of them belittle their own accomplishments. The girls work very hard for less recognition than the boys. I’m going to share this blog post with some of them next Monday (bad language and all…trust me, teenagers don’t blink an eye at profanity!)

    • Reply Madeleine Somerville May 2, 2017 at 12:12 PM

      Aw thanks, Daniel! I wrote another article for QuickBooks about women and the pygmalion effect that they might find interesting, too. I’m on my phone at the moment but I’ll try to come back and post the link 🙂

  • Reply Kris April 29, 2017 at 12:55 AM

    Amazing Mads – you are such an inspiration!!

    So proud of you xo

    • Reply Madeleine Somerville May 2, 2017 at 12:17 PM

      Thanks, Kris!

  • Reply Kirstie April 29, 2017 at 3:11 AM

    Whoop whoop! Good on you, you’re a legend!

    • Reply Madeleine Somerville May 2, 2017 at 12:24 PM

      Thank you, Kirstie!

  • Reply Edith the Merry April 29, 2017 at 7:53 AM

    Yes! I am going through something very similar in the art world. Always battling The Imposter. Thank you for sharing these thoughts, Madeleine!

    • Reply Madeleine Somerville May 2, 2017 at 12:34 PM

      Curse The Imposter! Sorry you deal with this, too!

  • Reply Cynthia April 29, 2017 at 9:54 AM


    • Reply Madeleine Somerville May 2, 2017 at 12:27 PM

      Thanks, Cynthia!

  • Reply JENNIFER April 29, 2017 at 3:00 PM

    Well done! I’m proud of you. Always.

    • Reply Madeleine Somerville May 2, 2017 at 12:28 PM

      Love you, mama!

  • Reply Beth April 29, 2017 at 6:48 PM

    Wow, how AWESOME! Really. To say “good for you” seems kinda insignificant, but, really…GOOD for you! Thanks for inspiring all of us out here on the internets. I love your writing style, and all your stories and tips, and making my hippie deodorant from the recipe in your book (and giving jars of it to my friends). You have TONS to be proud of! Thank you!

    • Reply Madeleine Somerville May 2, 2017 at 12:31 PM

      Awww Beth! I’m so glad you enjoy my writing, and the thought of you becoming a hippie deodorant pusher makes me incredibly happy
      Thank you!

  • Reply Lorri May 2, 2017 at 12:05 PM

    Effortlessness is the most overrated virtue.

  • Reply Madeleine Somerville May 2, 2017 at 12:33 PM

    God, you’re so right! And it’s tempting, especially as a woman I think, to make it seem effortless. Like you’re just pulling this all off and it’s easy as our because you’re just THAT awesome. But it’s *not* effortless, it does take effort and a lot of it. A great reminder.

  • Reply Lindsey Hickman July 8, 2017 at 6:17 AM

    So catching up on your blog and love this! You are an amazing writing and I love your voice! And it kills me that you doubt yourself… so I’m glad to see this post and glad for your success and happy that you’ve given yourself this proud moment. Definitely earned and deserved… you put in the work and then time and have seen the results. Good for you! And for showing your daughter how. Well done and well deserved.

    • Reply sweetmadeleine July 9, 2017 at 1:14 AM

      Thank you, Lindsey!

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