Impostor Syndrome

n. A phenomenon in which a perfectly intelligent person perceives that he or she is inferior to those around him or her, leading to a sense of falseness or feeling like an “impostor”. Particularly acute among academics.

Today I felt like Stitch when he carries the book about the Ugly Duckling out into the woods and cries, “I’m lost!” I don’t have a PhD topic. I know I have the mental capacity and the writing ability and just the skills that I need to do a PhD, but the subject, the focus, the topic continues to elude me. Everyone says this is normal, that is okay. It doesn’t feel okay. I feel like I’m wasting my time. I am simply interested in too many things, seemingly disparate, that I don’t know enough about to bring together. And yet I can talk about science fiction until the cows come home.

Things I am interested in: The Bible; reading in Middle English; Church tradition; theology and orthodoxy; mythology, folklore and faerie stories; faeries; encountering the supernatural; the unknown and the unknowable; abstract thinking; the Other; sociology, anthropology, psychology. The two medieval texts that continue to capture my imagination and that I can retell (in my own words) from memory are Sir Orfeo and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. I am interested in how the medieval mind conceived and perceived the supernatural. I am curious why I haven’t come across anything about Celtic folklore/paganism in my readings about religion in the Middle Ages. I want to find out what accommodations, compromises, parallel mindsets, syncretism took place to negotiate the co-existence of Faerie and Heaven. I want to uncover the medieval view of faeries, because so much of the folklore we have has been influenced by the Puritans. Robert Kirk (1641-1692) theorized that faeries were spiritual beings existing on a plane between angels and demons. I have read and seen hints that this idea existed long before him.

I mentioned this, briefly, to Alan, a post-doc who is also at the conference. He said he knew nothing about folklore, but that it sounded incredibly original. I know that I want to avoid the term “folk religion”. Other than that, I don’t know if I actually have anything here. Can I bring about a marriage between folklore and medieval religious thought (in the vernacular)? Can I find the texts and manuscripts to make it literary?

P.S.
I don’t normally like to post twice in a single day, but it’s been such a long day it feels like two. And it’s my blog and I can do what I want.

Away again

I am in Leicester. (I know, whenever am I at home? I ask the same thing.) Yesterday as I traveled here, to a city I’ve never been, to a city where I’m not meeting anyone I know but going to a conference, as I checked myself into the B&B and asked where I could get dinner and then went there, that I might be doing this whole grown-up thing after all. I was reminded of Sarah’s post about the certain art of loneliness. The train rushed through rain storms and sunny skies and there was at one point a double rainbow, a brilliant, bright redorangeyellowgreenblueindigoviolet arc over the sky. I saw two pheasants and I read about brownies and other tutelary spirits in an Irish pub.

The conference starts in a couple of hours and I have happily finished my word count for today. I am still ever so slightly more than a day ahead: 8530 words. Today our noble knight has encountered a Black Knight, a band of Tylwyth Teg, and rescued a damsel in distress. All in a day’s work (and considerably better than yesterday, where to his embarrassment the damsel wasn’t quite in distress). He still needs to encounter the Green Knight before this chapter ends. I better get on that soon.

NaNoWriMo 2009

Clive "Jack" O'LanternOur house was the only one in the block with a pumpkin. His name was Clive “Jack” O’Lantern, and he was a jolly fellow.

Yesterday I posted on twitter, “Happy Halloween! Reformation Day! NaNoWriMo Eve! (On what other day do you get to celebrate THREE holidays at once?)” And though today I was thwarted from going to church for All Saints’ (since my church is All Saints’ Episcopal, I was expecting them to pull out the stops to celebrate), I hope those who observe All Saints’ have had a blessed day. November is here, and with it the rain and wind.

This morning, between the wee hours of 12:10 and 12:59 AM, I wrote 1,349 words. Today, in between rereading The Last Unicorn and catching up on episodes of The Daily Show, I have added another 1,775 words. I am only 200 words shy away of being a full day ahead of schedule, but I think I’ll be able to do that easily enough after dinner.

This passage reminded me (not that I had forgotten) why I love The Last Unicorn:

With an old, gay, terrible cry of ruin, the unicorn reared out of her hiding place. Her hooves came slashing down like a rain of razors, her mane raged, and on her forehead she wore a plume of lightning. The three assassins dropped their daggers and hid their faces, and even Molly Grue and Schmendrick cowered before her. But the unicorn saw none of them. Mad, dancing, sea-white, she belled her challenge again.
…..And the brightness answered her with a bellow like the sound of ice breaking up in the spring. Drinn’s men fled, stumbling and shrieking.
…..Haggard’s castle was on fire, tossing wildly in a sudden cold wind. Molly said aloud, “But it has to be the sea, it’s supposed to be.” She thought that she could see a window, as far away as it was, and a gray face. Then the Red Bull came.

As for my NaNoNovel, I am writing The Faerie King (Or, Prince Silas and the Faeries): “The King of Caern had three sons. [His] third and youngest son was Prince Silas, and he had no story.” Well, we’ll soon change that, won’t we?