I’ve been playing a lot of Phoenix Wright: Dual Destinies lately on the Nintendo 3DS. This game with two main phases can best be described as a cross between a murder mystery and a lawyer simulator. There’s the investigation phase, where you poke around crime scenes and talk to witnesses. Then there’s the trial phase, where you’re in a courtroom and have to cross-examine witnesses. You poke holes in their testimony, using evidence you picked up in the investigation phase.
The premise of the game is that you’re a defence lawyer, who tends to take on cases where all the evidence points to your client being guilty. It’s the up to you to turn the case around and find the real killer, in order to clear your client’s name. Most of the time, you start off with very little information and the judge biased toward the prosecution. As the defence, you end up in many situations during the trial where you’re simply bluffing, feeling your way toward an answer you know must be there, if only you can squirm your way out of enough tight situations.
Given that it is a game, things tend to fall into place. A propitious slip-up by a key witness, or a damning piece of evidence that so happened to be left lying on the scene, ensures that although you may find yourself up the creek without a paddle, you will always be able to bluff your way back down. Blow enough air into a sail and the boat will move, I suppose.
But what the game doesn’t show is the stress of bluffing not just through a few days, but constantly doing so day after day. Fake it till you make it? Sure. You just have to constantly worry about being exposed for the fraud you are.
Team lead at work? Of course I’m ready for the next level. Just don’t let anyone know that I can’t deal with conflict, or that I get seriously stressed out talking to people I’ve never met. And let’s not even mention my lack of organisational skills, especially when it comes to other people. But that’s okay. I’ll put a smile on, hide my fears and glaring inadequacies, and pretend I have a clue about what I’m doing and what’s going on. So long as I can get away before everything crumbles around me.
Determined writer? Oh, most definitely. I mean, I’ve finished two whole novels along with a few short stories! We can conveniently ignore the fact that the first novel was universally rejected, the second is in the middle of editing hell with no end in sight, and the short stories have been all but unsaleable. Motivation (and output) has flatlined. But that’s also okay. I’ll force myself to stare at that stubbornly blank screen or notebook page, and tell others that yes, I am still beavering away on my latest masterpiece. Tell them that yes, following your passion is the best. Thing. Ever.
How about something as simple as gamer? Why yes, I keep up with everything going on in those worlds, and can wax eloquent on games like Braid, Gone Home or To The Moon, Dishonored, Bioshock Infinite, the list goes on. (All truly great games, by the way.) But let’s keep quiet that I can’t aim a gun to save my life (even with keyboard and mouse) and lose all sense of strategy beyond button-mashing when cornered by enemies. Forget stealth or platformers–I’m yet to work out this whole coordination business. Yes, I play games on “easy”. But as long as I keep up with news, reviews and opinions, and can sound knowledgeable about them when talking to others (“the twist at the end totally blew me away!” or “the gameplay’s so different from everything else that’s been released lately”), all is well. I can fake it, as long as you don’t ask to watch me play.
Granted, the latter two examples are different, in that they’re roles I’ve taken on by choice, as opposed to having them foisted on me. But the same principle applies–I have no idea what I’m doing and I’m completely unqualified.
Even this article is part of my “fake it till you make it” scheme. I had no idea what I was going to write about, just a vague concept, until I started writing. Even after the first paragraph or two, I still wasn’t quite sure where I’d end up taking it.
But I grit my teeth and kept writing, despite being so clueless. It may well be that I’m a fraud on all the counts listed above, but that won’t stop me from trying. It won’t stop me doing my best as I know how, being a team lead and a writer and a gamer and a rambling article writer by my own definitions of those terms. The hardest bit is accepting that the world may classify my definitions under the category of “failure”. (Yeah, I’m still learning to accept that.)
And look! I’ve finally reached the end of this article. I made it. Perhaps there’s something to be said for blowing air after all.
Leanne Yong is an aspiring Aussie author who is working on her second young adult novel. Check out her blog at Clouded Memories for more information and a journal chronicling her latest foray into novel writing.