I spent most of the weekend reading. I’m not even ashamed to say it. Tune in this coming Saturday for more on what I read (I’ll sum it up here by saying it was a YA dystopian trilogy which was problematic in at least fifty-thousand-squillion ways but – and this is the important bit – I read all of it. So, draw your own conclusions.) Those bits I didn’t spend reading I spent watching the final of the Eurovision Song Contest and getting teary-eyed at how awesome Europe can, at times, be; I also did a bit of panicking. As you do.
I panicked about many and varied things, dear readers. Perhaps the following will give you a flavour of it.
One of the weirder things I do in terms of my writing is convince myself that I’ve made a dreadful error once something has been submitted, or gone live, or been posted, or whatever. I make myself so certain that I’ve flubbed – I can see the error, dancing before my eyes like it’s taunting me, the traitorous lines of the letters going ‘nyah-nyah-nyah-NYAH-nyah!’ in their most irritating voice – and I have no peace until I check the text. I rake over it, heart pounding, searching for the nasty little mistake, feeling the sweats starting.
And, 99% of the time, do you know what I find?
There’s no mistake. My mind concocted the whole thing. The words I thought I’d misspelled, or put in the wrong order, or which I’d convinced myself were grammatically incorrect are either fine, or not there at all. This is weird. It’s strange for your mind to remember something so clearly which then turns out to be a fiction, but it’s far from being the first time this has happened to me. When I was a kid, I used to have a hard time telling dreams from reality; I regularly woke up convinced that what I’d just dreamed had actually happened, and lots of my ‘memories’ from childhood are probably not memories at all, but half-remembered dreams. Even still (as recently as this morning, in fact), I find it hard to shake off dreams when I wake up, and they linger – a touch, or a scent, or a voice, or a sensation like rain or cold wind or fear – long after I’m out of bed and going about my day. So, it’s no shocker to me that my brain can make me believe funny things. I suppose, too, that one of my biggest fears is making a mistake in a document; the fact that I’ve started up my business, Yellow Road Editing Services, has made this slightly worse. Now, I really have to turn out perfect copy, time after time, or risk professional meltdown.
But then, I’m a person who, as a kid, used the word ‘laudable’ incorrectly in her diary; at the time I used it, I thought it meant something akin to ‘laughable.’ When, years later, I discovered it meant something else entirely, I hunted down that diary and went through it until I found the incorrect word. I erased it, and replaced it, and sighed with relief as I slid the diary back into its hiding place – where nobody but me would ever even see it. Such is the level of word-nerdiness we’re dealing with here.
Anyway. So, I convinced myself I’d made errors all over the place – in blog posts, in Facebook status updates, in Tweets (one of those was correct, actually, but we’ll move on swiftly) – and it took major self-control not to whip the laptop out and pore over everything I’d written for the last month. I just sat and worried about it instead, in silence.
Panic – or anxiety, I guess – is no stranger to me at the best of times. I usually have a mild form of it buzzing just underneath my consciousness, muttering things like Are you sure this is a good idea? Shouldn’t you be writing now? Perhaps you should be doing xyz instead of abc. This story idea is no good, you know – it’s bound to burn out around 25,000 words. Then, what’ll you do? Silly girl. Who do you think you’re fooling, here? Writing blogs like this really help to shut it up, but nothing – besides total, complete absorption in my work – can really quiet it. However, it’s hard to become totally absorbed in my work when this buzz-saw voice is keeping my brain from focusing. It tends to make me flit from one task to another, not completing either of them very well; it makes me feel as though I’m incapable of doing anything right, and then I feed it by falling into its trap.
But you know what helps, too? Reading. Spending a weekend with my loved ones. Taking my eyes away from a screen and engaging with the real world. Watching an awesome bearded lady become Queen of Europe. Remembering to breathe. Being thankful for all the happiness which my panic sometimes makes me forget about. Realising that everyone makes mistakes from time to time and that, if I do, the world’s not going to end.
Now. Let’s see how long I can keep these lessons in mind as I get stuck into a new week…