Personal Life · The Reanimator's Heart · Writing

The Fear of Success

This isn’t actually the post I had planned to put up this week, so bear with me if this seems off the cuff because it is.

Since the end of last year, I’ve been trying to get my shit together, especially in regard to my writing life. I ended up taking both of Sarra Canon’s classes, HB90 (a planning/goal setting system) and Publish and Thrive (a course on indie publishing), because I felt like I was spaghetti flinging hoping what I was doing would work. I’ve been sort of methodically moving forward trying to set and hit goals in order to move toward what I want. That goal is having more time for creative pursuits, leaning more into my writing, and only teaching at the university that gives me better opportunities and is better for my mental health but pays less. I have a chunk of savings as a cushion and have been trying to strategize how I can go about doing this in a way that doesn’t totally kick my butt and doesn’t depend on my partner landing a much better job as we cannot control that.

The Reanimator’s Heart has sort of been step one in that goal. It’s the project I’ve been working on since I started trying to get my shit together, and things have been going well. I do well with structure and goals, so I have surprised myself by actually getting a lot done. After taking Publish and Thrive, I was also able to brush up on what is working in indie publishing right now, and from watching various indie authors on Youtube, I’ve been working on my publishing strategy for this book. In the past, I’ve sort of just haphazardly launched things. I would let them rip as soon as I finished or not send them to any bloggers/ARC readers. I’ve certainly done things to tank my own success because I was more excited about people reading my work than doing a good job with the launch. This time, I’ve purposely slowed myself down, made lists, made a half-formed plan for releasing this book.

The problem is that I’m scared because it’s working.

Yes, I raised my eyebrow at myself too at the realization, but as reviews have been rolling in and people are enjoying the book, I’m panicking more. The cover is beautiful (thank you, Crowglass Design), the characters are lovable messes, and the pacing and such is solid. Between this book and Kinship and Kindness, I think my skills leveled up in certain areas, and that sort of rise and recognition of that rise is scaring me.

What if this is the best book I ever put out? What if everything after this is a disappointment?

Thus far, I haven’t gotten too far into my own head, but the panicked thoughts are seeping through more and more. The pitiful thing is that this isn’t like super viral panic-worthy success. This is “I’m doing better than my previous launch” success.

After everything that’s happened these past two years and my own issues with confidence as a creative person, I am always waiting for the shoe to drop and things to go wrong. It is an absolutely shitty way to look at life, but part of me feels like I should be bracing for impact instead of celebrating that things are going well. It’s possible to do both; I wildly vacillate between “Omg, look at my preorder numbers” and nail-biting panic.

Part of this, I think, has to do with also reaching outside my comfort zone with this launch. I set up my book with a review service, and I’ve reached out to a few authors I love and respect for potential blurbs, which I’ve never been brave enough to do. Pointing eyes to my work is something that could pan out for me, but also could potentially magnify the imperfections. Logically, I know not everyone will like my book. Certain people will absolutely hate Oliver and Felipe, which is fine. It really isn’t bad reviews that are bothering me (trust me, I’ve seen enough homophobia on The Gentleman Devil‘s reviews to cure me worrying about them). It’s a fear of success.

What if this book does really well? What if more people start reading my books? What if they’re disappointed when they go through my backlist and the rest of my books aren’t as good? What if nothing I write after this is as good as The Reanimator’s Heart? Or what if someone outside my usual circle sees it and sends the 1 star mob after me due to homophobia or whatever other assholery they can come up with?

Living in the age of the internet means constantly worrying about the wrong kind of attention for your creative projects, especially if you’re a queer author writing queer characters or in this case, a neurodivergent author writing neurodivergent characters. Will someone flag Oliver as “the wrong kind” of autistic and rip me and him to shreds? I could come up with a myriad of what-ifs at this point, all of which get more illogical and self-destructive.

On the flip side, I’m constantly trying to remind myself that people preordering and/or enjoying The Reanimator’s Heart is a good thing. It means I’ve done a decent job planning this launch, and that its success might move me a step closer to my goal of having more of an income from writing. This success isn’t random is something I have to remind myself. It means that I took the things I learned and applied them in a way that worked. Like I said earlier, this isn’t a runaway, gone viral, wtf happened kind of success. This is a building upon past success with previous books to make this launch even better. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I put in the work, and by doing so, things feel less out of my control.

I’m sure I’ll still have several absolute oh-shit panic moments between now and October 25th, but I’ll just reread this post and stare at all my past to-do lists to remind myself that months of work went into this launch and I should be proud of what I’ve done instead of scared.

If you’d like to help out while simultaneously adding to my panic, you can preorder The Reanimator’s Heart here. Paperbacks will be available closer to release day.

Personal Life

The Nervous Nelly

So I realized I haven’t written a blog post in over a week. I’m not sure how I managed that, but… sorry. I’ve been feeling mildly overwhelmed this past week. Our house has been torn apart by construction workers, which means my dogs have not shut up every time they come to work. Honestly, it’s been fraying my nerves a little.

This has been manifesting itself as anxiety at school. I try to keep my anxiety under wraps, but it’s like a bag filled with water. If you squeeze it down in one spot, it just pops up somewhere else.

During my thesis seminar class, I have been having a very hard time reading my work aloud. Part of the class is that we bring in a chapter/section of our project, read it aloud, and then our classmates give their feedback. My classmates and professor are great, so they aren’t the issues there. It’s just built-up anxiety.

I have been battling stage-fright for as long as I can remember. In elementary school, I performed in the talent show and realized I was terrified by being on stage. In middle school and high school, I dreaded being called on to read aloud and being the center of attention was a nightmare. Unfortunately, this has stuck with me through college and graduate school. If I signed up for an MFA reading or to speak at a conference, I’m okay because I chose to speak and have prepared (probably over-prepared) for it. When randomly called upon, I feel my anxiety level jump about three notches.

Last Tuesday after dealing with strange people in our house, dogs barking all day, and trying to scarf down a late lunch at my job, my nerves were frayed by the time I got to my thesis class. I sat there with my classmates’ papers in front of me barely saying more than a few words. It seems as the anxiety level rises, so does my muteness. Everyone seemed ten times as chatty as they normally are and speaking seemed absolutely impossible, so I didn’t bother.

I sat for over an hour listening to everyone else read their work and get their feedback, my chest tightening as I watched the pool of potential readers dwindle until there was only me. In an instant, my spit dried up and no matter how much water I drank, it didn’t get any better.

“Your turn,” my professor said with a smile as she flipped to my chapter.

I drew in a tight breath, opened my mouth to speak, and faltered.

“Dear, you can have someone else read for you.”

“No, I’m fine. I’m just a nervous nelly, I’m fine.”

And so I droned on for five minutes, stumbling over words and apologizing for every screw-up. The one week I got out of reading my work aloud, I was so thankful, but this week, it was impossible. Yes, I could have said, “Please let someone else read my work,” but I can’t. It’s my story, and if I’m in the class, I will do whatever everyone else does even if it makes me incredibly uncomfortable. I try to not let my anxiety run my life when it gets bad. Sometimes I fail at it, which of course causes another anxiety spike.

Some of you may be wondering why I bothered telling this story of a young woman who gets heart palpitations when she has to do a task as simple as reading aloud. The thing is, I want people who don’t have anxiety to understand how it all builds up. Yes, the task at hand may be simple, but you don’t know what has happened earlier that day or even earlier that week. Instead of telling the person to suck it up or not to worry (totally useless platitude, by the way), try to be supportive. Give them a moment to collect themselves or try to accommodate things that help lessen their anxiety. For example, I do better when I do my reading earlier because it doesn’t allow the anxiety to build over the course of an hour or two.

I also wrote this to remind those who have anxiety that you aren’t alone. Most of us put on a brave face, and while we’re melting into a puddle of anxiety, we barely show our panic on the outside. Just know, it can be managed and it feels worse than it looks most of the time.

If anyone has any tips for managing anxiety that have worked for you, please pass them on! I’m always looking for new ways to deal with stage fright and all of my other anxieties.

Writing

Fear, Self-Doubt, and an Update

This post would have been written earlier, but I woke up with the worst headache I have had in a while. The kind of migraine that makes your face hot, your eyes sore, and your neck stiff. Oh well.

Anyway, this post isn’t about migraines, it’s about The Earl and the Artificer and writing. I’m hitting that “I’m nearly done, so now I’m getting really self-conscious about my story because I don’t know if it’s good or not.” Part of the problem I think comes from the fact that I really liked The Winter Garden, and this book is nothing like it. There isn’t that darkness or intimacy that I enjoyed writing in that book, and because I know that will be in book four, I feel myself being pulled toward that book while forcing myself to finish this one.

The odd thing is, I like this book. I like the softer tone, the different focus on intimacy, the role Hadley plays in this book, and the new character, Nadir Talbot. I keep reminding myself that I feel this way every time I hit the 2/3 mark of my manuscript. Typically, I’m a fairly confident person, so feeling down about my work is a bit soul-sucking. This book has done this to me more than either of the others, and I have to think I’m doing something right. I’m trying some new things, expanding the cast of characters and delving into history. Probably when I begin editing it, I will feel better about it, especially after I tighten things up and smooth over some early draft hiccups.

Thus far, I am at 68,000 words (not including what I’ll write tonight). Something else that’s bothering me is that I wrote so much in August that September feels meager. I know, grad school started, so I need to consider that I have new sources of stress and that I’m adjusting to the new schedule and balancing act. I’m set to hit my minimum monthly goal of 10,000 words in a few days, and I should finish in October. That scares me. I’m nearly done. Oh my god, I will be DONE soon. I’ll finish it and it will be out in the world before I know it.

Writing makes you vulnerable, and at the moment, that terrifies me. After two times, you would think I would be over it, but you’re laying yourself out for judgment each time you publish, letting the reader get an intimate glimpse of your inner world. Sometimes it’s just harder than others.

Personal Life

The Jane Austen Protest

Marriage, marriage, marriage.  It’s enough to make your head explode.  Being an English major, I have been subjected to reading literature from the Regency period to the Victorian era, on my own and while under duress, and all I can say is, what is so bad about not getting married?!  I do understand that it was a product of the time period, and women needed to be monetarily provided for by either a husband or male relative.  It just aggravates me that even today women believe that a husband is the be all and end all of their lives.  Before I get accused of being a bitter single woman, I have a long term boyfriend that I love dearly…who feels we should get married one day.

I truthfully don’t understand the need.  Maybe it’s because I have Asperger’s Syndrome and somehow don’t grasp the norm, but the idea of getting married has always bothered me.  It’s a piece of paper that says I can now file taxes with you and the state has a record of us being a couple in case we decide to call it quits.  Then, I wonder if I just tell myself this to legitimize my insecurities.  I despise the thought of standing in front of everyone and being dragged to a party while being dressed in formal wear just to appease other people’s desire for normalcy.  Is my bitterness about this subject due to a fear of not enjoying this whole process and ruining it for my partner?  Probably.  I know when I get stressed, I am unpleasant to say the least, and this ugliness and is usually directed full-force at my unassuming boyfriend because subconsciously I know that he may get mad at me, but he’ll still love me unconditionally and won’t keep bringing up that I had a nasty moment.

I am scared that I will look ugly, that I will pick things because I am under duress and want to get out as quickly as possible but hate my choices later.  I fear losing myself in the process or becoming a monster because I am a stressed-out control-freak that cannot let go and trust others or herself to make the correct choices.  I am indecisive, to the point that I can’t even decide how I feel about my life in general.  I immerse myself in school work and getting ready for graduate school and a possible doctorate in the future.  If I stay in school, I will never have to grow up and face life, or at least that is the not-so-subconscious mentality.  I can stave off engagement and marriage if I don’t have a job and live with my parents.

I’m torn between ruining things for my significant other and possibly making myself incredibly miserable for a certain amount of time.  The thought of this makes me hyperventilate and pace inside my head (I’ve gotten really good at masking anxiety and stimming).  I don’t think marriage would change anything in our relationship, besides him wanting to get our own place, but that scares me because change is a scary uncertainty.

I hate the idea of unwanted attention. People asking me questions, looking a hundred times happier than I am about the whole thing.  I’m not a person that gets excited about anything or looks happier than content most of the time.  I fear not looking happy enough and having people assume that I am not happy in my relationship or have cold feet.  In the past, my lack of excitement has caused me to appear as an ingrate or unhappy when I really was content, so now I’m paranoid about not exuding happiness.

I try to convince myself I don’t want things, but I’m not sure if I don’t want them or I just don’t want the attention associated with them.  Do I let other people ruin things for me?  Sometimes I wish I could live by myself with just me and my dog and my writing because it would be so much simpler albeit lonelier.

I try to rationalize that everyone gets cold feet, but this isn’t cold feet.  I don’t want to abandon my relationship, I just have an incredible amount of anxiety about dealing with this sort of thing.  A part of me wonders if my flip-flopping between fantasizing about a possible wedding and damning all things white and traditional comes from some Asperger’s traits.  People often talk about aspies as only seeing things as black or white, and often I feel I see a wedding as love or hate.  I don’t know how to formulate a middle ground in this case, and to me, that is a horrible feeling like a lack of mental control.

For now, I still am not sure how I feel, but through this little self-“talking cure”, I have at least reasoned out some things about myself and what affects my thinking.  Sorry about this rant, any advice is appreciated… except the suggestion of eloping.