Writing and performance anxiety

Later tonight, I'm going to be writing up the afterword to "T.X. Watson's The Book." In a way, this part of the project is stressing me out more than the actual writing of the piece did. I get a lot of performance anxiety when it comes to writing.  But it doesn't really come up during the process of drafting.  That part, I can just work through.  When it really hits is when I'm doing something that indicates my acknowledgement that I want people to read my work.

It's this weird moment of intense personal exposure -- when I'm writing an author's note, or submitting a story for publication, I have to drop all my defenses and accept that I care about what other people think, that I want them to pay attention to my work and to like it, and like me.  Add to that the fact that this exposure comes at the time where rejection would be most damaging to me, and I'm faced with an intensely terrifying prospect.

Tonight, I'll probably just have a gin and tonic while I write it.  But that's not really a long-term fix.  If I've got any readers who've been checking out my blog through The Book, or who've just stumbled on lately and have anything they'd like to say about dealing with the stress that comes with needing to open up but not wanting to be rejected, I'd love to hear about it in comments.

Existential energy burst!

So, I have a superpower.  Well, not really.  It's more like a lifelong undertone of mild self-loathing. But whatever. Anyway, I generally find it very difficult to get motivated about things.  Most of the time, the only reason I ever get around to anything is because I have a deadline.  That's why I make stupid bets and start massive, demanding projects. It's also one of the things I like best about school, and I like least about so-called "real life," which seems to be defined almost exclusively by the refusal of people who claim to be a part of it to tell you what's expected of you.  (And who then get really snotty at you if you fail to meet those expectations, but that's a different conversation.)

Sometimes, though, I manage to find the energy to compel myself to actually do things elsewhere -- I'm always really introspective, often very existential, and that occasionally has this delightful side-effect where I get a sudden, immediate sense of the smallness of the scope of my life, the looming oblivion I face, and premature lamentation of all the time I'll ever have wasted.

I find this very invigorating.  It's what got me out of bed this morning, and is usually the reason I start those stupid bets and big projects.

So, that's my tip for the day.  Feeling unmotivated?  Consider oblivion, react by desperately grasping towards existential relevance.

Brain crack redux

I wrote a few days ago about Ze Frank's concept, brain crack, and about how I intend to try to get ideas out of my head faster than I've done in the past.  In the video, he says he's afraid of running out of ideas every day, because he never leaves ideas kicking around in his head. I've only been pushing myself to keep up with Ze Frank's style of idea movement for a few days, and I've already run up against this wall.  It's not completely unfamiliar territory, but it's the first time I've been paying close attention to it -- and it is a scary place to be in, feeling like ideas just aren't coming.  There doesn't seem to be anything waiting in the wings.

On the other hand, I've actually put up a second YouTube video, started the Manifesto Club (link in the sidebar) and learned how to set up subdomains under my domain name, which will be useful for future brain crack.

I think it's probably not true that I'm never going to have another good idea.  I think I'm probably going to be fine in a couple of days, even though right now it feels like I might be edging towards the precipice of an eternity of boredom and banality.

Talk to you tomorrow.

I am easily horrified

I don't know how many of my reader(s?) are familiar with the Slender Man mythos. Quick primer: it's a sort of online family of horror stories, told in different media in a number of loosely interconnected narratives.  Most of the works acknowledge as canon at least some of the other series.  And they all feature some version of the Slender Man, a tall, thin entity, ambiguously faceless, who kills/abducts/drives insane his victims, targeted on the basis of whether they know he exists. I shouldn't read Slender Man stories.  They always leave me terrified for weeks.  But I definitely shouldn't have been reading them tonight.

It's snowing here, a lot, and we were pretty sure the power was going to go out.  So, about an hour ago, I was in the middle of an article exploring whether the symbol (x), used to ward him off, works, or whether it attracts him, or whether drawing it is part of the compulsions associated with his beginning to warp your mind.

Then the power went out, and the house was plunged into darkness.

The generator is on now, so I'll be fine for power, but I won't sleep easily tonight.

What is it with spiders?

I'm a bit past halfway through Perdido Street Station right now, and [SPOILER] I just got to the bit where it turns out the Weaver is some sort of extra-dimensional spider.  [It's not really much of a spoiler.  I still have no idea what that means, in context of the setting.] Giant, terrifying spider imagery seems to be a staple of sci fi/fantasy horror, dating all the way back to Tolkien, who loved them.  I'm guilty of it, myself -- there was a giant skeleton-spider monster in my first novel (still in post-production).

I think it's because of the alien nature of spiders.  There's something intensely terrifying of a creature with roughly the same physiological components as us (head, body, limbs, mirror symmetry) but which nonetheless is intensely different in every appreciable way.

(For the record:  I'm arachnophobic, so this post is making me twitch quite a lot.  Expect me to never write about spiders again.)

Humans have the same sort of response to snakes, which I think supports my theory, and with other insects.  Less with fish and birds, though.  My guess would be that's because

  1. We interact with them less frequently
  2. they tend to be  either fairly human shaped, or so completely not that it's hard to draw a comparison
  3. they tend not to be filled with poison.

And then, obviously, there are the usual irrational reasons for phobia.  We're afraid because the world is scary, and some stuff just rubs us the wrong way.

Spiders also have that physics thing going for them, viz. terror.  The fact that surface tension acts on their bodies more than gravity is so distant from our experience of the world that it looks, intuitively, like utter defiance of the universal laws to which we are bound.  It doesn't help that they look like tiny little eldrich horrors.

So, that's what I've got for you:  Spiders.  So terrifying that genre writers have trouble leaving them out.  Even me.

Now, I'm going to go read some comics or watch a movie or ANYTHING WITHOUT SPIDERS IN IT.