I don’t know about you, but when there is something happening in the future that gives me a powerful dose of The Fear (rather than just the constant generalised anxiety), I comfort myself by thinking “ah, but that won’t be until after [insert activity/ date / milestone] so I don’t need to be scared yet.
Well, the last buffer between me and the next round of Things of Ultimate Terror has just passed and I am nervous as hell. The thing is, the first one isn’t for another seven weeks…
Saying that, this evening I’m doing something rather scary too; I’m the guest author on the Roundtable Podcast, which I’ve been listening to for a while now. Eeeep.
Nervously ever after
I’ve written about anxiety a lot over the years here, and I’m aware I haven’t wrote about it for a while due to having books to write and polish for my robot overlords (I, for one, welcome them) and also coming up with a short story every week. There aren’t many words left at the end of the day.
I think I’ve also been reluctant to talk about it because things are great and I didn’t want to sound like the annoying “oh I know I’ve got everything I ever wanted but boo hoo I’m feeling scared” kind of character. But last night, when I was having my usual 4am adrenalin shakes, I decided it was the wrong thing to do. Too often we’re sold the idea that when we save the kingdom / defeat the villain / find the prince / marry the girl etc it’s all happy ever after.
I want to be honest about how things can be fantastic and exciting and wonderful AND still just as terrifying (if not more so) than they were before the great thing happened. And that it’s okay to still be as frightened now as I have been before. It feels horrible, and I would love to be free of it, but I’m determined to not beat myself up for not managing to kick it to the curb yet.
Those of you lovely people who’ve been reading this blog for a long time know how much I wanted the kind of book deal I got last year. Those of you who know me in real life, and hang out with me on Twitter and Facebook also know how thrilled I am that the Split Worlds has found the best home I could imagine for it. I still feel kind of guilty saying that I am struggling when there is so much fabulosity happening all around me. However, signing a book contract doesn’t magically make you a fan of publicity and totally at ease during public events.
The old fear of being seen
This year I will be at more conventions than last year, with the new books on sale and being a proper Angry Robot author, rather than one who has just signed. There will be panels, and launches and readings and signings and trust me, I am extraordinarily happy about it. And excited. I’m sure it’s all there beneath the several inches of humus left by decades of anxious seasons.
The first review of Between Two Thorns came out a little while ago and I almost threw up when I was sent the link to it. I had to go downstairs and ask my poor husband to read it because I simply could not. Only after he’d assured me it was sparkling could I bring myself to look at it, and I nearly threw up again. I had to have a cup of tea and calm down afterwards! I mean really, what a coward I am!
I’m reading at an event in March and I need to send in a photo and bio. Have I done it yet? No. Because every time something like that comes up it makes me want to run and hide under my duvet and play with Star Wars figures.
It’s what I’ve always done
Like everyone else on the planet, maybe apart from my friend Tony, who is one of the loveliest and most clever quantum physicists a gal could know, I had some bad stuff happen to me in my childhood and teens. To cope, I escaped into books, writing stories, then playing with Star Wars figures and ultimately role-playing games. The only thing I still don’t do when I can’t handle upsetting stuff is play with my figures, but that’s because they were given away when I was a child. (Yes, I had stopped playing with them obsessively by then, but it’s still a wound people, still a wound)!
Now that defence mechanism is my livelihood and that’s kind of a weird thought. I’m not saying I write the books I write now to escape anything – there’s nothing like that kind of pain in my life anymore – but the skills I learned when I did that are the ones I employ every day.
I wonder if that’s one of the many reasons it all elicits such fear. Oh, and the usual primal thing of “if people don’t like me or my books I’ll die” stuff, but I mostly try to ignore that now.
Roleplaying a new character
I was thinking about all this the other day when an incredible opportunity crossed my path and I grabbed it with both hands. After I’d said ‘yes, I’ll do it’ (I will be able to tell you about it soon, I promise) I felt thrilled and excited for about 3 seconds. Then I felt sick and I started shaking and I couldn’t believe what I’d done. But this is the only way I can progress – I made a conscious decision a while ago that I had to say yes, I had to step up and put myself on panels, and do readings and all the stuff that happens outside of my little writing cave, because the fear will always be there, whether I do it or not. Or at least for the foreseeable future. These opportunities will not always be there. And the amount of fear and anxiety I experience is disproportionate and in no way an accurate doom meter.
So I pretend, in those critical decision moments, that I am not a person with an anxiety disorder. I let the part of me that wants to succeed and wants to write more and wants to have more opportunities in the future to do more and more exciting things override the lizard brain. It’s like roleplaying a person who doesn’t have a problem with anxiety. If I didn’t, I would never leave the house. And there’s so much out there. There are so many cool people to meet and make friends with and experiences to have and memories to lay down for the future. It’s a wonderful, terrifying and beautiful world and I wouldn’t see any of it if my fearful self got its way.
That fearful self is just trying to keep me safe. Sometimes, when I remember to, I thank it (sorry to sound crazy here, but bear with me) for trying to do that and then I gently remind it that there are other ways to keep me safe. Ways that don’t wake me up at 4am, every day, with enough adrenalin to pick up my son and run from a burning house. Ways that don’t involve a racing heart and the urge to vomit at the most inappropriate and irritating moments.
I’m still working on it. And I think that’s what I really wanted to say; it needs to be okay for all of us to say “this is still really scary” even when stuff is great. Holding both states – yay! and aaaaaaaacckk! – at the same time is exhausting. I don’t need guilt to join this party too.
And if you’re reading this and nodding and knowing how it feels, then I want to gently hug you and say, ‘yeah, it sucks, doesn’t it?’ and make you a nice cup of tea. A virtual one will have to suffice, I’m afraid.