Friday, October 23, 2009


I am a nervous wreck! Oh, I should preface this by saying that as you read this I am in Surrey, British Columbia for the Surrey International Writer’s Conference (SiWC). And that I am actually writing this post on Tuesday. And I’m still a nervous wreck!

Time has crept up on me and I’ve done the usual "Oh, I have plenty of time, no worries" only to discover I’m two days away from a major writing conference. Did I mention I’m a nervous wreck? I’m not sure why I do this to myself – I’ve always been a ‘cliff-hanger’. Unless there’s an imminent dead line, I find other things to do. I always seem to do my best work under pressure (Muse suggests I do my only work under pressure and if I spent more time, my work would be even better – I’m going to get Muse some chocolate, be right back…)

So, I’ve worked my butt off to get ready. One-sheets, business cards, 3-pages for a blue pencil session, (a romantic comedy that no one’s seen), workshops decided, blog posts scheduled. I really need to go back and re-read those time management posts the other Chicks have posted. And through it all my anxiety has escalated. We’re all writers here so playing the ‘What if...’ game is common practice. Here’s a list of some of my ‘what ifs’ in regard to the conference:

What if – I draw a complete blank when the editor asks me about Hugh’s motivation/Mena’s conflict/plot points/etc?

What if – I throw up a little in my mouth before I begin my interview?

What if – the person before me goes long and I get a measly 3 minutes to sell a 100,000-word novel?

What if – my feet hurt so badly from wearing actual shoes versus slippers and runners I can’t walk, trip on my way into the room, fall on my face, break my nose, am rushed to hospital…?

What if – the editor gets so fed up with all of us wannabes that she quits seeing us right before my interview?

What if – the hotel catches fire and I have to race back to my room, dodging a buff firefighter (wearing nothing but coveralls and suspenders – the firefighter, not me), to get my laptop and getting trapped in the elevator because I had a TSTL (too stupid to live) moment?

Well, you can see where my ‘what ifs’ have taken me. You should hear my ‘what ifs’ about the actual plane trip! So, I turned to a man who’s wisdom is Oprah-worthy, Eckhart Tolle . These are two quotes I found this summer and they were so profound I just had to write them down. Now, I want to share them with you.

"Focus your attention on the now and tell me what problems you have at this moment."

Now this is interesting. As I was writing this, I stopped to focus my attention and realized I have no problems at this moment. I’m typing. I’m exercising my mind by choosing words and sentences to relay a message. Not one single problem is at hand.

The follow up quote really drives home the message:

"It's about realizing that there are no problems. Only situations - to be dealt with now, or to be left alone and accepted."

Hmm, interesting. I have a situation – conference. I either deal with it, or leave it alone. End of story. Putting it in that perspective really takes the nervousness away. There is only the now and the now is not sitting in front of an editor hawking my story. The now is finishing this blog post. When I get there, when it becomes the now – then I’ll panic!

I love inspirational quotes. Especially those that make me stop, think, and re-evaluate my life. I usually come away inspired and/or thankful for the life I have, the friends I cherish, the opportunities provided. Today, as you read this, I’ll be at a conference drinking in every sight and sound, learning things about a passion I want to make into a career, sharing and laughing with good friends, making new friends, and discovering that this now is pretty darn spectacular.

I’ll also be trying really hard not to be a nervous wreck. Change doesn’t happen overnight; blogposts maybe, one-sheets perhaps, but not change.

So, People of Blogland, what do you do to calm your nerves? Do you live in the now or worry about the future? For fun, give me another ‘what if’ for my situation – I might just pick one and write a short story for a future blog. I’ll try and check in when I can, don’t know about the Internet availability.



P.L. Parker said...

Oh my goodness. "What if" plagues us all. I suffer terribly from shyness and strange situations throw me for a loop, so I try to avoid them. Not good when you consider the promo opportunities I've missed. Good luck today and update us on your experiences.

Karyn Good said...

Very thought provoking quotes, Janet. I'll keep them in mind as I try and accomplish the 100 things on my to do list.

Hope you're having a great time.

Although ... what if while waiting for a workshop your hand is shaking so badly your coffee cup is rattling on the saucer and because you don't have a great hold on the cup when Jana accidently bumps you from behind you lurch forward spilling coffee down the back of Donald Maass who in agony stumbles and spills his hot tea all over Diana Gabaldon and so on and so, until you've got everyone attention on the conference room floor and for the rest of the conference people refer to you as 'that writer, you know the blacklisted one'.

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Hah, very encouraging, Karyn. I was going to suggest she spills hot coffee on Don Maass, Diana Gabaldon, etc, and the con needs someone to stay with them on the way to emergency... and while the ambulance is whirling its way along, the eternal question pops up, "So, a writer's conference eh? What are you working on?"

Although perhaps more realistically... what if all of the above horrible things happen, resulting in essentially a mass explosion of slapstick comedy, and a screenwriter witnesses it all, gets an idea, turns your antics into some hapless character idea, sells it to Hollywood for amazing money, it becomes a smash hit, and for the next five years people are saying, "Well, romance is great, but we're really looking for another story like that Janet woman."

As for my own stress, I tend to run through things once in my head on the day of, such as going over how I'm going to do a presentation or the like, and then once it's down, I leave it least until the heartrate goes wild a minute before start-time. I've also learned from various English seminar presentations, which clothes are effectively at obliquing or avoiding panic-sweat. Spent an entire seminar class stuck in a too-hot hoodie with my arms rooted to my sides because I knew I couldn't take it off :p

Other than that, I find it best to figure out what you want out of a situation, what's in your hands, and concentrate on that. I can't control what mark I get on an assignment, but I can control whether I seemed calm and conversational during the presentation, as opposed to rattling nervous papers the whole time. Likewise, we can't control whether we'll get a publishing contract at a conference, but we can control whether we leave that meeting with insight into the industry, a better sense of whether our stories work as they stand, or satisfaction in knowing we did our best at that moment.

And my word verification is coment... yes, I'm just abot to ;)

Ban said...

Love the last 'what if' Janet - don't worry, you'll do fine er.. you DID fine - I'm sure !

Janet said...

Hey, finally checking in. Thanks to those that commented - and added to my what ifs. I love it. I think we should do a what if progressive story one of these days.

I'll try to report on the conference soon. It was amazing - and chalk full of information I'm still trying to absorb :)