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

An 8.5

Today, I had an awesome day. Today, I worked at the Career Carnival at one of the universities I teach at, representing the creative writing side of our English program and as an author. I loved every minute of talking to students about something we both love. What surprised me were how many non-English majors came to me and said that they love to write and are interested in taking a creative writing class. Writing helps them decompress, especially since most of the majors were STEM related. I completely understood, coming from a biology background initially.

Today, I had an anxiety attack that had nothing to do with my old fear of public speaking and crowds. The Career Carnival went great and I even got to chat with one of my favorite professors afterwards, but everything went to hell at home over something really stupid.

My dog had loose poop.

Yup, that’s it. That’s the thing that sent me careening over the edge into a 8.5 out of 10 panic attack.

From the moment I realized I would have to hose him down and that his could happen again, my body has been on high alert. My heartbeat is so obvious that I’m trying hard not to fixate on it which only causes more palpitations and more panic because it feels like it could stop at any moment. I’ve been still the whole evening, but no one seems to notice. I have my laptop open next to me with Scrivener open to the story I’m working on and Facebook, but I can’t bear to put it in my lap.

What if he has to go outside and in the time it takes to set it aside, he has an accident?

So I sit there playing on my phone when I could be reading The House of Many Ways, which I want to finish by tomorrow night. I text my boyfriend about my anxiety level. Somehow seeing it in numbers and words makes it easier to set aside for a moment.

8.5

An hour and a half later, it’s a 7.5. At least it’s an improvement.

It’s finally settling in at a solid 6 where it now sits like a lump in my throat. Even as I write, I can feel it ebbing and flowing like breath, a heavy helter skelter shroud engulfing me until I fear I will suffocate. As I sit staring at my phone, I picture myself hiccup sobbing. That’s where I’d be if it hit a 10/10, and I’m scared of sliding past the point of reason.

Mostly, I’m frustrated. I’m frustrated that dog shit is what has sent me over the edge after a really good day. I’m frustrated that I will be on the edge of sleep all night for fear that he will need to go out. I’m frustrated that people in my house tell me not to obsess or fixate as if I can shut it off or that I voluntarily surrender myself to sudden panic.

More than anything, I want to feel like this evening wasn’t a total waste, so I’m writing this post in hopes that someone might read it and understand that all-consuming visceral panic. Or maybe someone who has been in the grips of it will feel a little less alone.

Writing about panic and anxiety can be cathartic in my fiction, but not today, not in this. Today it just feels like I’m trying to swim to the surface on a dwindling breath.