I’m leaving Friday for Boston to spend some time with friends before heading down to Martha’s Vineyard for the Viable Paradise workshop.
I’ve been trying to head off the nerves I know are coming with the workshop by keeping busy/not thinking about things. That coupled with the twitter hug-fests, squee-athons and giggle fits has enabled me to let off enough steam to keep functioning normally. But tomorrow I’m working from home so I can run some errands and get packing stuff done. And Friday I hop on a plane at 11:30.
And the nerves are starting to chatter.
Back in 2007 when I re-dedicated myself to writing fiction, I was DYING to go to the Clarion Workshop. I’ll admit that it was primarily because I wanted to bask in Neil Gaiman’s warm glowing warming glow for a week, but I hadn’t read very widely in genre fiction at that point. I’d barely written anything. My prose was terrible. And I had never critically read anyone else’s work or had mine read that way (beyond one creative writing course taken back in 2001 in college). Even if I had managed to write two stories that were good enough to get me accepted, I can see now it would have been an awful experience.
I know that because in the subsequent years, I can see how raw I was. I would finish a story and send it to an online critique group, KNOWING that the story was amazing and that there were no faults with it (god I was naive). The feedback (both gentle and blunt) hurt me so much more deeply than I thought it would. I had told myself I had a thick skin. I was so very wrong. I would have spent the entire six weeks crying and hating myself (beyond the crying and self-hate that I did on my free time at that point).
It took a few more years until I became comfortable with being critiqued. My writing got better. I learned more rules I hadn’t been aware of. And I wrote more.
And I READ. Oh, dear sweet baby jeebus how I read. I hadn’t read regularly in years. And though I had read a LOT when I was a kid, it was mostly horror, or non-genre YA, or some limited high fantasy stuff. In 2007, I was a scientist and I wanted to take all those interesting observations about science I’d accumulated over the years to write science fiction.
And now, four years later, I actually FEEL ready for this. And honestly, I can’t believe it’s happening.
I so can’t believe it that the past few days I’ve been fantasizing about terrible, freak accidents that would result in my death before I get on the plane. For example, I’m standing on the corner, smoking a cigarette when a liquid nitrogen truck leaving my company explodes, sending out shrapnel that severs my head. Or I’m driving home, and for whatever reason someone is inspired to emulate the freeway shooting spree from a few days ago and targets my car because of the Sci-Fi raygun sticker on the trunk. Or a satellite falls on my apartment, crushing me, but leaving the latest episode of Mad Men playing undisturbed on the TV.
It’s a good way to keep myself from having to think about it, by taking it away.
In fact, I’ve done such a good job NOT thinking about it that I’ve convinced myself one of these things WILL happen.
But I know they won’t. And that’s where the nerves are coming in.
Things are starting to happen. Things that I have been working towards for years now. Viable Paradise is gonna show me things I didn’t know I was doing wrong and all the things I might have done wrong in the future. I’m hoping it’s going to speed my improvement up considerably.
And it’s because I feel ready that I know the nerves aren’t coming from a feeling of being unprepared or undeserving. They’re because this is happening. And that means my honeymoon of expected incompetence is coming to a close. I’m going to expect more from myself and from my writing. And I’m afraid I’m not going to live up to my own expectations.
So there’s nothing I can really do about it. I just know I’ll have to work on managing expectations once Viable Paradise is over.
In the meantime, it’s just an autonomic nervous system response.
I’m hoping to blog about the experience, though I can’t make any promises about doing so while I’m there. And unsurprisingly I am being very careful to not know quite what to expect, but at least I know if I feel the need, there will be WiFi in the hotel.
In the meantime, join me in saying, “Fuck you,” to your autonomic nervous system. Seriously. Fuck that thing. Go make some fucking art.