I don’t like public appearances because my brain is a giant hot mess. I’m fine around good friends and one-time interactions–my heart goes out to those poor souls who suffer anxiety every time they have to make a purchase and have to deal with the cashier–but if you know who I am and I’ve never met you? No. My brain trips and falls over itself, and I’ll say things that are dreadful. Absolutely dreadful. Things I don’t mean and would never say if my brain wasn’t feeling slightly comfortable and slightly off-balance all at once.
[There was a story here in the rough draft of this post. It proved what an awful horrible terrible person lurks in the back of my head. I deleted it, because as much as we like to pretend otherwise, the Internet isn’t a safe space and your words can and will be used against you, over and over and over again, and God help you if you misspoke.]
I don’t like doing conventions, mainly because the energy it requires can peel my faux-extrovert paint job faster than anything. I’m good on Friday and most of Saturday, but by Sunday I’m hiding in the bathroom and probably crying. But this writing thing has become my job, and like any job there are parts of it that need doing, regardless of whether I want to do them or not. I was chatting with a buddy who summed it up perfectly:
So I have heard, from those whose occupations require it…it’s a weird quirk of the modern age that while in many ways the act of not just writing, but publishing a book can be more cottage-industrial than ever, the author can’t (well, in most cases) just pull a Salinger anymore, pretty much because of the ease by which books are published. You need to be your own noisemaker because no one else will, and how do you stand out from the deluge otherwise?
I’ve done a bunch of comic conventions, which are decent money and you go home with a few good stories, and a bunch of anime conventions, which are great money and you go home with the weirdest stories ever. Writing or SFF conventions specifically to network and promote my work? I’ve never done those, and the idea of selling myself and my product to a new audience terrifies me. (It seems like this would fall into my anxiety skillset of being able to talk to strangers, but it doesn’t–I don’t like selling what I do or who I am. Never have. It’s got nothing to do with the stigma that society has placed on self-promotion; it’s that these topics fall outside of my brain’s natural comfort zone.)
Got to be done. And I’m riding the assumption that I can expand my brain’s comfort zone through positive experiences: if I can survive a couple of these, then I’ll be willing to do more conventions, and so on.
My biggest concern is that experience and familiarity will put me in that place where I feel slightly comfortable and slightly off-balance, and then those absolutely dreadful things will start coming out of my mouth.
I don’t know what to do about this.
9 thoughts on “Conventions”
Can you go to conventions as an Attendee or does the Speedy in the back of your brain come out then too?
Isn’t getting the Speedy Treatment just part of the charm, though? It’s the closest we can get to meeting real-life Speedy! Woo!
Tough Gig, have you tried smaller get togethers so you can acclimate yourself rather than the full on convention?
What he said! Also Donovan’s idea above!
They both basically suggest to do the low-budget equivalent of “confrontation therapy”: confronting your fears from a safe platform, and gradually expanding your tolerance from there.
From what I understand, this is the general therapy for all fear/anxiety related afflictions.
Step one: don’t feel silly or inadequate!
Step two -> infinite: go someplace you find a little uncomfortable, and keep relaxing yourself until you’re OK with it. Repeat with something slightly bigger.
A practising psychiatrist I used to live with told me about what they do for people with arachnophobia (fear of spiders):
The really severe cases they bring into the hallway, go stand in front of the cleaning closet’s door, and tell the client: “see that door? behind that closed, locked door, is our animal lab, in there is a single locked box containing a spider. Now I want you to find a place here in this hallway where you’re comfortable standing that close to that spider.”
Some clients apparently shriek and run away to the far side of the hallway.
Over several sessions (dozens if necessary), these people eventually end up cuddling Tarantula’s barehanded..
For fear-of-flying his procedure is much the same, first take a taxi to the airport, and just stand near the entrance, later, go inside the terminal, later again: maybe look at the runway from the viewing-terrace, all the way up to city-hopper flights with your therapist next to you, leading to “solo”-flights in the end.
The idea in all cases is to provide your lizard brain with irrefutable experimental evidence that it’s OK, safe, and nothing will eat you.
This also means you should never push yourself beyond your limits, if you start panicking, that bodily reaction is negative proof for your lizard-brain, and it reinforces the fear.
Good therapists will always let you go slow, and make sure you are visibly calm and used to the situation before gently urging you to continue to the next level.
As long as you feel “slightly unbalanced”, don’t go for bigger stuff.
I’d offer to help, but it seems I’m firmly in the category of people who “know who I am and I’ve never met you”, so I’d probably only be a hindrance. Sorry!
So yeah, start small, and full of acceptance of yourself!
(as for actionable tips: Take someone you trust with you. Really trust. someone who will, if required, physically restrain you from saying those terrible things, and you’d be OK with it, because you know and trust they do it FOR you;
Chances are just that extra security-precaution will help you relax, without it ever needing to be triggered)
Can you find counterexamples? Authors who were successful doing something other than conventions? If so, maybe you can learn their secrets. There has to be a way. It’s not going to be less effort, but as long as it’s not meeting tons of people directly, it could be better.
Why did it show me as anonymous?
Are you secretly a Ninja? (or PRINCESS Ninja??)
When I was still science-ing as a career, conferences were mandatory. Networking was a necessity. If you blew it, you looked like an idiot in front of your future manuscript/grant reviewer or department chair. It was lots of pressure. I just went to my first medical writers convention, and it was a completely different experience. It was a whole conglomeration of introverts who were getting their yearly dose of interpersonal interaction. Everyone is a little bit awkward, so no one was going to judge you for social flubs. I’ve interacted with a fair number of fiction writing groups on the internet, the type of people who attend the conventions you are talking about. From my conversations with them, it seems like SFF cons are a lot more like the latter example than the former.
Maybe you could rent a koala from this website (http://pitt.edu/~jtf30/group/index.html) and everybody would be so busy trying to hug it and take photos with it, that you could just sit back and relax. P.S. website is a joke one – though I thought it would be a great little business:)
Also if the opportunity is ever offered to come to Australia for a convention, please come. I can guarantee you would feel right at home here