Ainslie Paton romance author


doubtThere 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than they might have been at their regular desks, it made me second guess all the first sentences of my as yet unpublished work.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.

Good enough

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.

14 Responses to “Doubt

  • God Ainslie. So well said.

    • Ah – and I have such a headache! I’ll probably think better of posting it tomorrow. Ah well!

  • I’ll email you with my notes from Sarah Wendell’s amazing round up ech that you missed. When i was sitting there with similar awful feelings, Sarah Wendell (smart bitches, trashy books) did something wonderful that soothed my aching, overdone soul.

    Oh, hang the email, I’ll write it here since I just found it! This is my paraphrasing:

    Look not only forwards but behind you and be pleased with what you’ve done. You may not be able to see your trail or the wake (like a surfer) but you’ve done great things and worked hard.

    When you look forwards, wait for the next wave with faith. You’ve ridden the wave before, you know you have, so have faith. It will come, you’ll work hard and it will be awesome.

    And the greatest thing she said: Americans ARE interested in Aussies, Aussie settings and Aussie books and can even handle Aussie spelling! She believes that Aussie books will grow in the US market.

    God I loved her talk! 15 mins of empowering when I felt all done in.

    Cate xo

    • Turn your head for one minute and you miss something good. Thanks for posting it here.

  • So heartening to hear that more than a few of us suffer the syndrome… and to hear the Americans ARE interested in Aussie stories. Yay for both! And yay for looking forward!!
    Thank you

    • Yeah, that one was a new one on me. If you look at some of the comments in reviews on Amazon for my books you see plenty of complaints about spelling and grammar. It served to reinforce the fact that maybe an Australian writers voice was too, well, Aussie for the US market.

  • Loved Sarah’s key note, thanks for posting the highlights, Cate. It’s often hard to look back and say, “wow, look how far I’ve come” when the road ahead seems so harrowing, but hell, if you’re handing out confidence supplements, sign me up! 🙂
    Great blog post – this will resonate with a lot of creative types.

  • I am an American reader and loved your book!
    Would it help to remind you that a lot of the greatest singers and theater actors actually throw up before going on stage and yet they sing and perform that leaves us in awe?

    • Hi Mary. Now you can’t just say that and not tell me which book, you tease!

      It is hard to imagine how nerves so bad they make you physically sick still leave room for a performance. I’ve seen that happen up close. It’s like an out of body thing, and you’re right. Awesome.

      • I read Hiding Hollywood while traveling, and hope to read Detained soon.

        • Oh my gosh. Thank you. Will you pop back and tell me what you think? They are very different. When I changed my writing style I wondered if it was possibly disenfranchising. If you like one you might not like the other… nervous now

  • I am an American reader and loved your book!
    Would it help to remind you that a lot of the greatest singers and theater actors actually throw up before going on stage and yet they sing and perform that leaves us in awe?
    Or another way to look at it…. There are those that have stuff in their heads that are too fearful to put it on paper. It takes courage to get there. And then, more than once.

  • Ainslie – thank you. One of the great challenges for women is the constant urge to prove ourselves worthy of success, over and over again. We don’t have the sense of entitlement to success many men have. Your post is a timely reminder that faith in oneself can be drawn from the incredible faith others have in us. So many people tell me, Just look around and see the faith people have in you. Yet I know I’m not the only one who has trouble seeing it. Nevertheless, it’s there and we are worthy of it.

    • Complex isn’t it. Because when has it ever been true that we believe entirely what others try to get us to see about ourselves? It’s self belief that’s the hardest thing to achieve. Your The Yearning was beautifully done. And no matter what you think, l’ll be interested in your next book…

Hello, what are you thinking?

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