Lately, due to some fun opportunities that have come up, I’ve found myself talking with friends about Organizing by STYLE. In the process of these conversations, a strange thing has happened. My voice has dropped, and I’ve become suddenly apologetic about the fact that I write about this topic.
It’s not that organization isn’t a valuable subject — even my listeners agree that it is — but rather, that I am the one writing about it. I feel exposed, somehow, as though my every organizational flaw has been magnified and as though the listener will suddenly burst into raucous laughter and say, “You? YOU write about … organization?”
None of them does, of course. Yet the feeling of being an imposter persists.
I’ve known from the start that what I write here so often is true: that I’m an organizational work-in-progress. I’ve also known that’s part of my charm, so to speak — I’m writing not as a someone who has gained expert status through training and certificates, but rather through research and experience. I know this and find value in it, yet I allow it to hijack my self-confidence when I’m in the presence of Type-A organizers. The very judgment I seek to eradicate in my readers, I impose upon myself.
Rather self-defeating, don’t you think?
After walking away from several of these conversations annoyed with myself, I’ve come to realize that these interactions, uncomfortable as I have made them, have served only to remind me why I started writing about Organizing by STYLE in the first place. Organization is not a one-size-fits-all concept, look or process. Yes, I would love my house to be spotless, and no, it never will be. And, if it is, something has gone horribly awry because the only way it will happen is if I stop living my life and instead devote my time solely to organizing.
Not gonna happen.
Still, I need to find a way to shake the imposter syndrome. I’m proud of how far I’ve come, of the work I’ve done and of the fact that I can make people laugh when I talk about a topic that has frustrated them and made them feel like impostors, too.
And then today, even as I was contemplating this post, I was reminded (again) of the value of an alternative approach. I met with a student — bright, articulate, creative, funny — about a paper she is writing for my class. She has tons of ideas, but getting them from her head to the page without them colliding with one another and creating a mess in her head before they get to the page is a struggle for her.
As I watched her jot her notes and listened to her articulate where she ran into trouble, I saw a fellow I need to see it person. Instead of trying a standard (Type-A organizer) approach using outlines and multiple drafts that suck the life out of the paper before it’s written, I suggested that she write each of her (many) ideas on a Post-it note and arrange them and rearrange them to her satisfaction before she started writing. In listening to her, it was clear that she needed a way to manipulate her ideas before she started writing and, that if she could do that, she could retain her excitement over what she wanted to say and avoid getting sidetracked and missing connections.
Sure, we were talking about organizing ideas instead of stuff, but recognizing not only what she said but also how she organized it enabled us to come up with an approach that allowed her to feel good about herself — justifiably so as her ideas were good — and that made it easier to complete the difficult work of writing a paper.
Though I respect my Type A colleagues, I will never be a binder-and-file cabinet kind of organizer who uses outlines to write. And, while many people — including me, in moments of weakness — see this as a potential credibility issue, I think the world needs more Post-it-note, open-storage people who mind map their papers.
Now I just need to put my self-confidence where my passion is.
Copyright 2018 Lisa Hess