Em's place

Writing, anxiety-wrangling, tea.

What the build-up to Worldcon really feels like

By Emma on August 16, 2012

Two weeks today I’ll be in Chicago. Chicago! I still can’t believe it, and I’m sure it’ll take a while to sink in when I’m there. I’m going to Worldcon, which is really called Chicon 7 and is the 70th World Science Fiction Convention. Here’s where I’ll be – thought I should list this before my anxiety convinces me not to, more on that afterwards…

Thu Aug 30 4:30:pm – 6:00:pm
New Writers panel
Room: Addams

Sat Sep 1 10:30:am -12:00:pm
Social Media for Writers panel
Room: Gold Coast

Sat Sep 1 1:30:pm – 2:00:pm
Reading – I plan to read a sneak preview of The Split Worlds: Between Two Thorns which is being published by Angry Robot books in March next year and a couple of other things too.
Room: Dusable

Sun Sep 2 10:30:am – 12:00:pm
World Building from Games to Stories panel
Room: Grand Suite 2AB

Mon Sep 3 1:30:pm – 3:00:pm
Autograph Session – Other authors signing at the time are George R.R. Martin and Gene Wolfe so I’ll be able to watch and learn from them!
Location: Autograph Tables

So… Worldcon… I’m utterly terrified.

No really, I’m absolutely out of my mind with anxiety at the moment. For the last two weeks I haven’t slept well thanks to nightmares and anxiety spikes in the small hours when everyone is asleep and tiny monsters become gargantuan. My baseline adrenalin levels are currently equivalent to being in a doctor’s waiting room about to be called in for an injection and the tiniest thing makes it leap up to “there are rabid dogs chasing me” levels.

Urgh. The strange thing is I’m really looking forward to it. How I can maintain both states simultaneously is a mystery to me. I’m sure that in my youth I was capable of being excited about something and not have to go through all this anxiety bobbins. I wish I could reclaim that art.

I’m most looking forward to seeing friends, some of whom are UK people who I only get to hang out with at conventions, another is an online friend who I’ve been chatting to for years (looking forward to meeting you in person @wiswell!) and there are probably others too. And I’m looking forward to seeing Chicago after hearing such great things about it from a good friend of mine and, truth be told, seeing it in the background of lots of ER episodes. I’ve had a fantastic time at all of the conventions I’ve been to so far and it will be a grand adventure.

So why the constant low-level panic?

Well… I don’t know. When my anxiety flares up it isn’t very helpful at sign-posting exactly what’s causing it. That’s probably due to two reasons. One: it’s a generalised anxiety disorder thing and two: there are lots of teeny tiny things that are worrying me, each one forming a pixel of this scary, scary picture.

There’s also the ugly little creature that sits goblin-like inside my skull and just makes stuff up to freak me out. Oh dear, I’m sounding a little insane there aren’t I? I should say before I go any further that I know there’s no goblin in my brain. Well, I’m mostly sure of that.

This grotesque creature grabs a passing thought and weaves it into an intricate and totally believable (at the time) story that I respond to as if true. For example, I’m on several panels, which lots of people find nerve-wracking, but the goblin can spin the most elaborate images of embarrassment, humiliation and all manner of failures just from the schedule alone.

Sometimes I can say “hang on, it’s really unlikely that I’ll be struck down with bubonic plague five minutes before the panel” but other times it’s more subtle. It just whispers little tales of how I’ll be exposed as knowing absolutely nothing about the topic / writing / being an author / roleplaying games / insert other item of my neurosis in front of a lot of people. Sometimes there are no people there at all, usually when I think ahead to my reading slot, but I reckon that’s a universal author fear.

I’m trying practise being mindful of the undercurrent to stop myself reacting to these goblin tales, but it’s hard when filled with rabid dog pursuit levels of adrenalin. I’m trying to remember all of the times over the past two years when I’ve been this terrified before an event and it’s gone brilliantly. If only the goblin could be defeated with empirical evidence!

The other thing I’m doing to cope is sewing. Back in January I went to the SFX Weekender and made a costume for the masquerade. It was the best distraction technique I’ve found to date. I’m making two outfits for Worldcon with a stupidly short deadline (made all the more exciting by two sewing machines breaking down on me this week) because it’s so much easier to channel my anxiety into “will I get them finished in time?” rather than “I’m not brave enough to go to Chicago, let’s hide under the duvet until September”.

So here I am, in a house filled with bits of fabric and a head full of goblin tales as the days tick on towards the big adventure. Yes, that’s it, it’s a big adventure and I’m a big brave soldier.


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{ 10 comments... read them below, or add one }

  1. Laura Lam says:

    I’m feeling nervous too. And also guilty because I didn’t sign up for readings or panels or anything. I figured I’d just enjoy my last con as a non-published author who has to do work! BRING ON THE GIN. Ahem.

    I am also trying not to think about it overly much. This will result in last minute panic yaay!

    But it’ll be a blast. Can’t wait to see you!


  2. Jo Hall says:

    *hugs* All totally normal author anxieties! You will be fine. In fact, you will be awesome 😀 Deep breaths. I’m having exactly the same stresses about FantasyCon, and I’m only doing one panel 😀 And then there’s the “Oh god, what if I throw beer all over someone important in the bar / fall over / throw up during the panel / get lost…. None of which are likely to happen, but it doesn’t stop me worrying about them!
    Things are rarely as catastrophic as you imagine them to be before you do them 🙂

  3. I panic massively as well. My panic mostly involves thoughts like ‘will anyone want to spend time with me?’ ‘Will they be faking enjoyment in my company?’ ‘Will they be peering over my shoulder, trying to find someone more interesting?’ ‘Do I actually have any friends?’

    Crazy thoughts. Crazy unwelcome thoughts.

  4. Anne Lyle says:

    Hugs – you’ll be fine! Don’t forget we agreed at AltFiction to schedule some downtime away from the crowds, OK 🙂

    And if things get too much, you can always call on me to deputise – I’m not on any panels, for some reason (not sure if there was a tech fail submitting the form, or if they just don’t like me…)

  5. Icy Sedgwick says:

    You’re so lucky to be going to Chicago, and your work is awesome enough to speak for itself. You’ll have heaps of fun and it’ll all be worth it. So tell your anxiety to go and have a little holiday while you enjoy yours!

  6. Tony Noland says:

    This is so terrific – I’m sure you’ll be great!

  7. *And* you might get an interview with the SF Signal people. 🙂

  8. ~Tim says:

    You’ll be great. I am so looking forward to your recap post when you get back and tell us about all your fun and success.

  9. John Wiswell says:

    I can appreciate your nerves, Emma, and would likely be just as bad if I were doing panels this year. As it is, I’m only nervous about finding the rooms. “Gold Coast” and the like are baffling in a world of “Floor 2, Room 5.” Printing out a map for myself and might spend Wednesday getting acquainted with the place.

    I think you’ll do fine, because you really do know your stuff, and you’ll be working with professionals. I’m hoping to at least hit your reading, if not the Social Media and signings. And like Paul says – SF Signal!

  10. Clive Martyn says:

    Go for it, Em. You are going to do great 🙂

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