At our Melbourne #WriteHere session, I mentioned that I was working on a “Fake it 'til you Make It” post, and one of our writers offered up an anecdote about an ill-fated horse-riding date.
Scant on details, he talked about the way that he’d pictured horse-riding as a combination of sitting, moving, moving fast, and steering. He could do all of those things. What he didn’t factor in was the horse. This live animal derailed an otherwise perfectly good date, as our protagonist realised that he didn’t know how to ride. I pictured some kind of runaway steed careening over hills, with the poor date chasing after.
The writer didn’t share details of exactly how badly it went, but the punchline was that pretending to ride a horse is pretty hard, and not something he'd recommend doing. While he might feel a bit like it didn't go wonderfully, I had to notice that there was a second date, so the fakery served its purpose.
I feel like there’s a parallel between this guy’s horse-riding story and my own writing career. I’ve pretended to be able to do things many times – I’ve given speeches, run workshops, run events – all with no prior experience. Once I went to run a workshop and nobody showed up. Another time I ran a workshop where a bunch of 16 year old boys “went to the bathroom” and never came back. I’ve written on topics I knew nothing about, and spoke about things I was far less than an expert on. My role at Writers Bloc is the biggest fakery I’ve made, hoping that transferrable skills would be enough to get me through – but where I initially felt like an impostor, things have eventually clicked. I hit my stride. I figured out how to ride the horse. Either that, or I got better at pretending to be able to ride the horse.
Fakery serves a purpose. I’m faking this post. I’ve sat down with little or no idea of what I have to say on the topic, and I’m bashing something out regardless. Like most of my writing, I’m working my way into meaning. Starting with only bare bones, or a slight intuition of meaning, I’m writing until I find my point, always keeping faith that there is one. What I’m saying is that fakery can help you reach an end. It’s not fakery full-stop: it’s faking until you make it.
Of course, there are the times when you just can’t ride the horse and that’s it. Horse-riding isn’t for you, just like the combination of poetry workshops and 16 year old boys aren’t for me. In this case, fakery still serves its purpose. You get to the end and realise that this particular activity (skill, genre, job or area) aren’t for you. And that’s okay. Sometimes there’s a second date, and sometimes there’s not.
This month’s theme on the blog is “Fake it Til you Make It” – every Monday this month, we’ll hear from writers whose journey into and through their writing career has involved some fakery. It’s been indirect and it didn’t always run as planned. I’d suggest that this is more of a rule than an exception.
As a writer, fakery can be an essential skill, almost as much as the ability to string together nice sentences.
Sam van Zweden was Writers Bloc’s Online Editor from 2013 - 2015. A Melbourne-based writer and blogger, her work has appeared in The Big Issue, Voiceworks, Tincture Journal, Page seventeen, and others. She’s passionate about creative nonfiction and cross stitch. She tweets @samvanzweden.