Doubt is an insipid emotion. It lingers. Damp, in the shadows, ever present. Ready to splash you with vague little thoughts and worries. It lurks until you are tired. When the strength to dismiss it dissolves. And then it hits. Not in a solid rush. But in small itchy prickles.
A year ago, two of my five horse racing clients merged. In one broad acquisition, I lost a decent portion of work. At the same time, I “finished” the never ending rich man’s folly – a book I’d been writing for a different client over the last four years. Suddenly I had oodles of spare time.
I spent a month (or few) pondering my career choices. I contemplated re-training. I even enrolled in a diploma that would have enhanced my current career. But really, if I had no clients (less clients) what the fuck was the point of making myself more expensive in a marketplace that already undervalued my skills. I un-enrolled and doubt seeped in. What on earth was I to do with my career now?
In the end it was a book that saved me. Lisa Kleypas’ A Wallflower Christmas. Daisy tells her friends that she complained to her husband that she’d read all the books in the house. “Why don’t you write one?” he replied.
Yeah. Why don’t I write one? I’d just finished a massive non-fiction book. I write for two magazines. I write for this blog. Surely I could write a novel.
Of course, there would be some style differences between non-fiction and fiction. I knew I would need to learn to adjust. It wasn’t it just a matter of writing and working it out as I went along. I did some initial research – essentially just reading about how to plot a novel. And then I started to write. Four months and 75,000 words later, I thought about submitting it to someone. Anyone. I hunted out agents on Twitter. I even submitted that dreadful first draft to a few.
Oh, how lovely it was to be confidently naïve. Freshly innocent to the game. One agent actually sent me a response, and kindly made me realise how much I had to learn in this transition from non-fiction to fiction. I promptly wrote “please delete this draft from your slush pile” emails to the few agents that I’d sent it too. I joined Romance Writers Australia and did some online courses. I improved that first draft and started the next book. A year after I’d started this journey, I had two complete novels. I submitted the first chapter of that second novel to Harlequin’s Historical Blitz. The feedback was promising. Doubt was banished. Hope reigned.
A few weeks ago, I went to the annual RWA conference. At the conference, writers were given the opportunity to pitch their novels to editors, agents and publishers. Thanks to the Blitz feedback, I gained enough confidence to pitch. In summary, I pitched to three different agents/editors and all three liked my ideas enough to want to see the first few chapters.
This is where the real doubt sinks in.
Over two days at conference, I listened to many different speakers and learnt more about crafting a work of fiction. I came home with my head full of all those finicky details that would make huge improvements to my work. I’m now caught between doing all those edits and improvements; and the (self-imposed) pressure of not wanting to wait too long before sending in those first chapters. After all, the pitch was the nerve-wracking part. I’ve managed to succeed at that. But the doubt sets in. What if I wait too long and they forget me? What if I send them too soon and they aren’t as good as they could be? When are those chapters good enough to send? If no-one likes them, do I have to throw away a whole year’s work? Will I end up back where I started – still waiting to answer that career question?
At the start of this journey I was naively confident. Even though I have improved my craft, I miss that brazen self-belief. In the meantime, I will put my head down, and work towards this opportunity. While I do that, there is comfort food. And nothing speaks comfort quite like an alcoholic cocktail-inspired dessert pie. This one is inspired by a lime version of a mimosa (orange juice, Grand Marnier and champagne). The lightness of the eggs in this recipe mimics the sparkle of champagne. I’ve also added some finger lime syrup in place of some of the sugar for an Australian bush touch.
A touch of Aussie: Citrus & Finger Lime Pie
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 300ml cream
- Juice of 4 limes
- 2 spoons of Finger Lime Syrup
- 150ml Grand Marnier alcohol
- 1 sheet of store-bought sweet pastry
Blind bake the pastry at 180°C in a tart tin for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a bowl, beat the 4 eggs. Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl and whisk together. Reduce the oven to 150°C. Pour into the pastry tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until the centre is set with a slight wobble in the centre. Set aside to cool down. Serve once cool. I served it with a dribble of chocolate syrup, but icecream would work well too.