Tag Archives: social anxiety

Creative Writing: The Emotional Toll

Refusing to be the Little Engine that Couldn’t

I am SO tired! Okay, whining done. I just had to get that off my chest.

I love (love, love) creative writing, and knowing that other people will be reading what I have written (that is, what I have written with my exceptionally talented co-author, Amanda, of course) is a huge thrill for me. But, like so many other things in life, the extreme highs that writing brings to my life has also sent some powerful emotions at the other end of the scale.

love of creative writingGetting the book published is the start of the dream. It really is. But it isn’t just a matter of finding a company that will put the book on shelves and then sitting back to relax as you automatically become a bajillionaire whose works have been read by pretty much everybody.

To be fair, I was never under the impression that, after finding a publisher, my only other activities would be to decide who gets the movie and merchandise rights. I may have been living on the fictional world of Qarradune for the last 14 years, but it doesn’t mean that I’ve completely lost touch with reality.

Still, even after having been the owner and operator of a small business for more than a decade, I wasn’t entirely ready for everything that would be required of me in order to make sure that Amanda and I not only had a book, but that people would hear about it and read it, too.

Look, Ma! I’m a marketer..?

Marketing is fun for me. I genuinely like taking part in the ads, videos, social media, and all of the other steps that we have been taking. I like to bring a personal side to things. I’m not one for hard-sells, but I like the idea of opening up a conversation with readers and, hopefully, engaging them to the point that they see the book – the passion of my life – as something that they’d like to experience.

True…but I’m still a writer, first

I take part in marketing every day. I also work every day and I try to write Book 2 most days of the week (because what’s the point in having only one book in a series?). As is the case with everything in life, things go right and things go wrong.

hard work creative writingWhat’s different about the experience when it has to do with my creative writing is that it is not only immensely personal and important to me, but it’s also happening at a time when I am stretched about as thinly as I possibly can be. Nearly every minute of my day is filled. If I’m not working, marketing, or writing, I’m thinking about those things. I haven’t had a day off this year, and it doesn’t look like things are going to slow down at any time, soon.

Am I upset about this? Nope! This is exactly how it has to be. But at the same time, the lack of rest and the extreme range of emotions that all this entails are certainly taking their toll! The idea that the result of all of this hard work could put me in the spotlight has also sent my social anxiety into high gear…which only makes me more emotional.

But it’s worth it. When you find what you want in life and you don’t put everything into it, you’re making the decision to be the “Little Engine that Couldn’t”. That’s not going to be me. I’m going to keep trying, keep working, and keep putting myself out there because I know that this book is a lot of fun, I know that the second book is going to be even more exciting (we’ve laid out the first seven chapters so far and all I can say is “wowee-zowee!”), and I am going to do what it takes to keep my dreams coming true.

If that means the occasional random tears of exhaustion and a lot of genuine apologies for snapping at people when they didn’t deserve it, then I am willing to pay that toll. Knowing that people are reading and enjoying the Perspective book series means everything to me. I guess that means that I’ll need to become a version of myself who can handle it.

This is going to be interesting. Look out, world!

PS – Do you find that creative writing is something that puts you on a roller-coaster, too? Tell me about it in the comments, below. I’d love to know that I’m not the only one who is responding to the writing/publishing experience in this way.

Okay, I’m going to go cry now…then snap at somebody…then apologize 😉

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My Dream is Coming True…I’m Terrified!

This week, as of Monday, Amanda and I have been on Cloud 9. In fact, if there is a better cloud than 9, that’s where you can find us. Our first novel, Love at First Plight, the start of the Perspective book series is getting published. Our dream is coming true…and I am so freakin’ scared.

Love at First Plight published Perspective book seriesI know for a fact that I couldn’t have done this with anyone but my co-author. The rollercoaster of positive and negative stresses from having been let down by so many different people and so many different companies, and from having been thoroughly supported from our closest friends and family (and from some unexpected places, too), would have tested even the truest friendship. If I’d ever had any doubts in the strength of my friendship with Amanda, they’re certainly long-gone, now.

This book has threatened to bring out the ugliest in us, and has allowed us the opportunity to rise above it. At the risk of sounding completely full of myself, I’m going to declare that Amanda and I have done just that. We faced one challenge after the next, and now a story that we adore is getting started in a published book. I am very proud of our book and I am very proud of having survived the process of making it.

If you are a published author and you are reading this, my hat goes off to you. You have made it through a storm that cannot be understood by those who have not experienced it for themselves.

Notre Dame stained glass rose windowGetting a book published is like looking at the stained glass from the inside of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. It’s like crawling, climbing, and wriggling your way through the systems of tight limestone tunnels and vast caverns of the Mammoth Caves in Kentucky. It’s like trying a very good quality of chocolate for the very first time. It is like facing your fears, your insecurities, and your dreams, head-on, and discovering who you are when you reach the other side.

You can certainly imagine what all of those things would be like, but until you go through them for yourself, it is impossible to know the complete experience. Without fail, what you see, feel, hear, smell, or taste will be different, and greater, than what you had thought.

That’s exactly what this last week has been like for me. At first, I went through a stage of denial. After all, just knowing that Love at First Plight would be an e-book and a paperback didn’t create an immediate change in my life. Certainly, I felt excited, but nothing had technically happened, yet. I had bragging rights, of course, but there is still a lot of time left before the novels will be on the bookstore shelves.

That did move on to a feeling of excitement. Equally, I think that aside from being thoroughly ecstatic (and immensely impatient – I’m not exactly known for patience), the other reining emotion that I am feeling, at the moment, is terror! Since Monday, I have been very thrilled about the future of the Perspective book series, and yet, now that my dream is coming true, I wake up in the middle of the night, sweating, with a pounding in my chest. I love the book and its characters with every part of my heart, but now that world is about to be exposed to the world…that’s a terrifying thought!

It’s a great story. It really is. I wouldn’t have put my name on it and published it if I didn’t completely believe that. At the same time, I am aware of the fact that if I actually talk to people and tell them about it, then they’ll never be able to discover the story, for themselves! This places me in the spotlight, and as someone with a social anxiety disorder, that’s not exactly the most comfortable place for me.

There are few things that I want more in life than for Love at First Plight – and the Perspective series that follows – to be a tremendous success, but even as the hype begins to build among friends and family, I can feel a rapid heartbeat kicking in with every “tag” my name receives in a Facebook post.

Love at First Plight - Perspective book series 1I feel genuine excitement when someone mentions the Perspective book series page on that social network, but whenever the attention is aimed directly at me, I find myself shaking in my boots (or, more accurately, fuzzy purple slippers, since I don’t tend to wear boots when I’m at my computer). This is definitely something I’m going to need to work on if this book is to go somewhere. After all, I don’t think that the media would be satisfied with quotes taken from the book series Facebook page. I’m going to need to start being me, in front of real-live people.

This is going to be the most important “therapy” of my life. I need to ensure that people will hear about this book so that they can enjoy the world of Qarradune as much as I have for the last 14 years. I need to be there for Amanda and for Love at First Plight if I am going to keep this dream come true going.

It’s time for me to move beyond writing a strong female character who will take on the world so that she’ll achieve her goals and dreams. It’s time for me to become one, too.

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Nothing has Changed but Something is Different

If I ever tell you that I don’t care what people think about me, then please feel welcome (and justified) to tell me that I’m a liar. A big, bald-faced (what does that even mean?), dirty-rotten liar.

When I started writing on this blog, I told myself – and I may even have told Amanda – that I didn’t care if people read it. I just wanted to be able to express my thoughts and keep myself motivated to get back to the Book’s first draft. I intended to use it like a kind of journal.  Today, not even a week later, I know that either this has changed dramatically, or I was lying to myself (and my bestest friend, for that matter).

Julie Campbell writer feeling great!In my efforts to become a bigger person (in character. only. Physically, I’d rather be a smaller person), I will admit that every time I post another blog, I visit it every few hours so that I can scroll down to the bottom of the text and check how many other bloggers have “liked” it; how many times it has been posted on Facebook; and how many times it has been Tweeted (less important than Facebook, because I still have no idea how Twitter works, despite the fact that I post there regularly). Then I repeat my feeling of frustration at the Google+ button for not giving me a total, dang it!

Clearly, the fact that other people are paying attention to what I have to say means quite a lot to me. As someone who has spent my whole life trying to remain as far from the spotlight as possible, praying that the teacher wouldn’t pick me in class (even if I knew the answer), and loathing any recognition that I received in the workplace for any exceptional achievement (I really am a very driven worker) because it means that someone will talk to me, I seem to be quite the attention-slut when it comes to blogging!

I’ve mentioned, briefly, in one of my earlier posts that I have a social anxiety disorder. After having been called “very shy” my entire young life, my sister happened to hear a radio show about social anxiety disorders and agoraphobia and immediately pointed out to my mother that the former of those conditions sounded exactly like me. I was in my very early 20s at the time.

My mother’s very sharp and exceptionally logical brain suddenly kicked into high gear and filed all of my “unique” behaviors into lists of symptoms, instead of quirks. Suddenly, that day that I came home completely hysterical and sobbing because the transit bus had been crowded and the window was stuck shut – and decades of similar behaviours – made a lot more sense.

I have come a long way, since then, and while I have shared my struggles and my victories with my closest friends and many of my family members, this is the first time that I am discussing my social anxiety and panic disorder openly. Over the years – and a number of different treatments (including 9 years of various medications – Zoloft, Paxil, Ativan, some kind of beta-blocker to slow my heart rate, etc, etc – that I am very grateful to have been rid of for several years now) – I have stopped being embarrassed about it. It’s not something I’m doing wrong. I’m not just shy. But at the same time I have  been continuing to try very hard to keep it hidden. So even if I know you, I likely haven’t told you about it.  Panic attacks aren’t exactly something that make me feel proud, but unless you know me very well, you’d never recognize that I was panicking. It’s much easier to hide the dizziness, pounding heart, nausea, loss of feeling in my hands, chest pain, and likely two to three sleepless nights to follow as I relive the situation and torture myself about it.

Intermission
Wow, this has become a very long post! Please take this opportunity to rest your eyes!

Over the last couple of years, mental health awareness days and the willingness of many well respected public figures to share their own struggles with issues such as depression, social anxiety, panic disorder, bipolar disorder, and others, have made me want to “come out” about my own mental health challenges. As much as it may not be taboo anymore, it still doesn’t feel entirely socially acceptable, either. Many people don’t “get it”, and the thought of being judged is very painful.

But it’s time to share, and it’s time to stop hiding. I am a good person, a friendly person, I’m good at my job, and I try very hard to help other people. I also happen to find it very hard to be seen by others and after something as simple as a conversation, I will replay everything that I did and said – and everything that the other person did and said – until I convince myself that I have offended the other person and embarrassed myself irreparably. It’s not nearly as tough as it used to be. The panic attacks are few and far between now (at my worst, I was having 40+ per day). Still, anything from going shopping to meeting a group of friends, or from family gatherings to saying hello to someone as I take the garbage out can be enough to cause another round of symptoms, self-torture and sleepless nights. Nevertheless, none of this makes me bad, stupid, or crazy.

Why am I going on and on about this? No, I’m not a celebrity and I don’t think that telling people about this will make a big difference to their abilities to cope with their own mental illness struggles.

Julie Campbell writer thank you!The point is that this blog has allowed me to enjoy having people’s attention directed at me, without the typical consequences.  If I hadn’t shared all of this with you, it would be impossible to relay how profoundly important it is to me that, for the first time, I am finding that I want to be seen! It is giving me an entirely new reason to adore writing.  The more I find that people are watching what I write, the happier I seem to be! I am thrilled when I discover that people are liking what I write enough to share my words with their friends on social networks. The one thing I feel most passionate about in life is now being seen by other people, and I’m actually delighted about being in the spotlight!

For this, I’d like to take a brief moment to thank you, Reader. You mean the world to me!

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