Fright

(Originally titled “Performance Anxiety” but I changed it because snickering.)

I am not a performer. I don’t enjoy the spotlight. I’m not even a particularly eloquent speaker: I talk too fast at the best of times and I stammer when I meet someone new or when I’m nervous. I possess just enough coordination so I walk into a door jamb only a few times a week. Writing is my domain, the closest I get to putting myself on display. I communicate better through the written word and manage to come across as a reasonably intelligent person, which doesn’t tend to be the case when I’m stumbling over my words even when I’m operating on a full night’s sleep and only two cups of coffee. So it might come as a surprise to learn that I spent my school years heavily involved in drama and music performance.

I loved plays growing up; I just didn’t care for the actual performance part. Learning lines and stage direction, working with other people to put something together and all of that—awesome. An audience? Not so good. And it wasn’t a good kind of nervous, either. It wasn’t that mix of anticipation, excitement, and a little bit of fear. No, this was the “Oh, God, don’t let me wet myself instead of saying my lines” and “Why do I do this to myself?” kind of terror, especially as I got older (I actually threw up after my last-ever play in OAC drama. I took it as a sign and I haven’t been on a stage since).

Those old feelings dredged themselves back up when Supernova was released last year. I hadn’t been that anxious about my work in years, and that includes studying art in college. The feelings ebbed away as time went on and it sold fairly well, only to come back when Celestial Chaos was published a couple of weeks ago: “Oh, God, people aren’t going to like it. They liked the first book and they’ll be disappointed with the sequel OH GOD I SHOULD JUST THROW IN THE TOWEL ALREADY and go back to what I SHOULD have been doing all this time!* I’m not a writer, I’m a HACK! A HACK I say!” and other depressing, self-deprecating BS that I don’t believe when I’m actually writing something. Or at pretty much any other time except when a book launches.

I don’t view books as a piece of my soul being pushed into the world on a tiny life raft. I put everything into them, I write them to be the best they can be and have quite a bit of help on the way, but at the end of the day they’re consumer products. They’re a few hours of entertainment available for money, and that’s what scares me. It feels like responsibility. People use their money and take time out of their day to read something I wrote, and it freaks me out a few shades. This isn’t like filling out TPS reports at Le Day Job. This is something that people read in their precious spare time.

(Did I mention I get a little anxious? I get a little anxious, and possibly a smidgeon over-dramatic.)

 

 

*My first crack at college was a law clerk program. I lasted three semesters. I have all kinds of respect for law clerks and paralegals, but I realized early on that it was not the career for me.

**As for music, I was a mediocre performer and a solid second chair, that position only obtained because there weren’t enough euphonium and baritone players to outrank me. I was fine with that. Music wasn’t really my forte (“Knee-slapper!” says you) anyway.

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