“Chainmail gloves will not prevent a plant from stabbing your hands. Also, they aren’t gardening gloves and gardeners will not know what you’re talking about.”
I read the editor’s comments, my gut tightening in that familiar way. “Really? Really, Miss Editor of the fucking year? What the hell do you think they wore in the time of sharp things stabbing at you constantly? Huh? They wore chainmail. Why? Because it gives you a chance not to die from the sharp things, you jackass.”
I don’t type this in the little message box we’re supposed to write our “rebuttals” to the editor in. No, I’m quite pleasant as I go about explaining Medieval attire to this person, and how chainmail gloves are available to buy in many places and no, they aren’t a typical gardening item, but when one works with this species of Yucca plant, one might want to avoid the leather cloves that the leaves can CUT RIGHT THROUGH. I hit send, knowing that the article will be rejected and I just wasted three hours of my life on an article that won’t earn me the fifteen dollars I was hoping for. C’est la vie.
This is not the writing career I imagined a few years ago when I said, “I shall be a writer and I shall entertain the masses with my witty prose and amusing banter.” Still, I have hope. I stare out the window. The dog barks. He thinks I’m looking at something interesting and bark-worthy. I’ve forgotten how he does that. I quickly look back to my screen. He barks a few more times and settles back into the chair.
The email icon flashes blue. I have mail. It never fails to excite me just a little. I’ll cop to that. Damn, it’s that little Spaniard again with more of his brilliant ideas. I open the email and see a list of things we have to do before our monster book is published. I want to punch him in the mouth for this email. I tell him so. He is not alarmed. There’s an ocean between us and also, he knows my fits of rage are short-lived. I dutifully save the list and wonder where I’ll find time to do what it is we need to do. I suppose I could cut back to four hours of sleep instead of six. I’ve done it before.
Anxiety burns in my chest. I push it down. It resists. Fucking Anxiety. Why does it always have to be so confrontational? Anger goes back down without much fight, so does sadness, fatigue and that jittery feeling I get when I view Clive; what’s Anxiety’s problem?
I push it down with a bit more force than the first time. It settles in my gut. We reach a compromise.
Pulling up the page of notes I made the day before, I begin the next article that some copyeditor, whose name I’m not allowed to know, will surely take issue with and force me to edit to suit his or her whim, and I write. My brain fogs over while writing articles. I’m not entirely sure it’s in a good way, and certainly not the same way it does when I write fiction. I don’t hear anything else until my brain cramps and forces me to come up for air. I submit the fruits of that fog and cross my fingers.
I have a designated internet break half way through my day. During this break I flip through Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Cracked, and YouTube. It’s a good way to decompress my brain and shake the ickiness of content writing from my heart.
My mind drifts to the queries I’ve resisted sending for an entire month. Anxiety tells me to send a query. Just one. But I’m sick of rejection. Sick of feeling not good enough. Sick of the hoops. But the anxiety pushes upward, telling me if I don’t send a query then I’m stagnant. “Nothing worse than not doing anything.” It says. I might argue that the awful feeling of failing yet again is worse, but anxiety won’t have it. “You’ll never publish anything. Ever. If you don’t keep doing, you won’t see a result. Probably better if you just give up right now. Have you ever experienced as much heartache as you have during this writing thing? No, I don’t think you have.”
Anxiety is right, in part. I have never felt this emotionally spent in my life. Not even when I truly believed I’d be alone forever because I was not good enough to be loved. (oh yeah, I was that pathetic) Anxiety also reminds me that with the Writer’s Companion coming out, I’m in way over my head. How on earth did I ever convince myself I could manage such a thing? I’m just Renee Nothing from Nowhere Ontario who can’t even manage a couple of dogs. How the hell would I make a book about writing successful? Why should anyone buy it? No one’s bought my fiction so far. Obviously I’m doing something wrong. Even worse, if it’s successful, people will expect more greatness. What if that’s all the greatness I have? What then?
This folks, is my daily dialogue with myself. It’s intensified right now because I have a book coming out in a matter of days and of course, I’m insane with worry over it, not because I think it sucks, but because I know it’s good and I want it to get the chance it deserves. Also, it’s not just my baby. Carlos busted his ass on this one too. I want it to be all that he envisioned as well.
Most of my trouble with this stems from the fact that we’re publishing this book ourselves. We have an editor. Yes, a real one and we’ve spent months poring over every sentence, every comma, to make sure it is exactly as it should be. Nonfiction is one of those markets where self-publishing is encouraged, but it still bothers me. I got into that “must have a publisher” mentality and it’s hard to shake it off. I feel guilty that I look at my manuscripts and feel an almost irresistible temptation to just go for it. Anxiety says I’ll ruin my career if I do, but in the same breath it also says I’ll have no career if I don’t. I hate Anxiety.
Most days I don’t have this double stress. Usually it’s Anxiety telling me that the reason I’m not published is because I suck. Period.
Believe it or not, this inner dialogue is what keeps me going. It makes me study harder and push farther. Insane, I know.
I’ve fought self-doubt and low self-esteem most of my life. I was a shy, fat kid who didn’t make friends easily. People liked me, but interacting terrified me. In my teens I was a freakishly tall, flat-chested girl who wore a back brace made of solid plastic that covered my body from just under my nonexistent boobs to my pelvis. Yeah, real popular with the boys. In my early 20’s I wasn’t as skinny and lost the back brace, but I had no view toward the future. I had no hopes or dreams. I was just living each day as it came and considered it a good day if nothing catastrophic happened. I don’t want sympathy. I’m just explaining why I keep doing this thing that makes me want to stick my head in the oven at least once each week.While I am a confident person for the most part, I do get discouraged quite regularly.
I’ve never worked this hard for anything in my life. Quitting is not an option. When I start feeling like maybe I’ve made a mistake, it strengthens my resolve to “do this thing” and believe me, I plant to do the shit out of it.
And besides, we’ve established I am not cut out for housewifery.
4 thoughts on “Up Yours, Anxiety”
Brilliant post. Especially the first part. The Montaigne of Tweed
You like that? I yell at editors quite frequently. Usually I'm the one that's wrong and I beat myself up accordingly. But recently there's been an epidemic of stupidity in the editing department.
You wouldn't know it to look at me, but I am the Grand Puba of anxiety issues.Some people work all their lives and never accomplished half of what you've attained in your short life.It might look like you're hitting brick walls, but you've also knocked a few down. And those you don't knock down, you climb.Not bad, grasshopper. 🙂 Not bad at all.
You called me grasshopper. 🙂 That is what I keep reminding myself, because Anxiety hates to hear that. I think people trying to reach a goal (any goal) need to realize that everyone–even those who seem extremely confident–has days where self-doubt and frustration tempts them to give up. Those that ignore that temptation eventually succeed. It's good to know that Anxiety doesn't only visit my house. Thank you, Maria.