There is something wrong with paying for an airfare, crossing the country, changing time zones, checking into a hotel that could do things better for the rate they asked, and attending a writers’ conference to emerge feeling like a fake.
Imposter Syndrome was a feature, an unintended consequence of the RWA Freo conference: having it, fearing it, worrying about it, crippled by it; being ashamed to admit suffering it.
And it wasn’t even on the agenda in a year where more first sale blue ribbons were given out than usual.
I had to leave the room during Submission Island because—geez, though the panel were probably more considerate than they might have been at their regular desks, it made me second guess all the first sentences of my as yet unpublished work. Which, when my head is screwed on properly, I know are fine. I think.
I’m not sure if it’s a natural by-product of the way women think, the way writers think, or a virus they ran through the air conditioning system in a fun experiment called, Let’s see what happens when we fill the writers full of hesitancy, indecision and self doubt. “Dial it up, Barry, they’re not twitching hard enough yet.”
Whatever. It’s just not on.
I spoke with amazing writers who worried about turning out the next sentence, the next idea, the next book. Most of them had already proven they could do all that and do it well enough to be published and purchased.
On the other side of the self doubt equation were aspiring authors: clever, ambitious, working hard. Why did it seem to me they had more faith in their abilities than the more established writers? Is it as simple as wide-eyes wonder, or the fact they felt they had nothing to lose?
A certain amount of self doubt has to go with the territory. We’re trying to be creative. And who knows what that really means, and of itself, it’s a hiding to nothing. There’s no such thing as a universal like button that gets applied to every big juicy, imaginative effort. If only.
But then again, how boring that would be? Safe. Not fraught. So yawn.
But self doubt sauce slathered over talent and ambition—could there be anything less productive, more female and anger inducing?
(Obvious answer: Yes, drowning baby girls at birth comes to mind, but I’ve got conference head hangover—so give me a break here.)
It’s too easy; trite, unhelpful to say, “Get over it,” though I spent a fair bit of time saying pretty much that, because the right words wouldn’t come. They were stuck behind the sense that this is more an issue for women than men, and had we been a room full of testosterone, there’d have been more chest beating then bleating.
We need to try harder to accept that we’re freaking great. We write. We put thoughts and emotions and magic on the page. We rock.
If there was an anti-self doubt pill you could take, we could all do with a dose. Not to build us monstrous egos with no self awareness, no consciousness that being a creative writer is a dodgy kind of thing to feel easy about anyway, but to settle the nerves, stroke the confidence and stiffen the spine; replace angst with quiet, mindful confidence, and fear with the freedom to feel good about putting one letter down after another.
A Serotonin for self-belief for chicks who write.
I’ve put in a call to some pharmaceutical companies.
Seems to me we’re ripe for a drug trial at the Sydney Conference in 2014.
I’ll see what I can do.