Panicking and all that

This weekend I’m off to an excellent mystery writer’s conference – Bloody Words XII in Toronto, ON. It’s one of those GOOD conferences, with a short story contest, the opportunity to have your MS evaluated by an author, a chance to take said story to pitch to an agent, plus lots of sessions on how to write, meetings with all the fabulous authors you read, and fun galore.

So I should be looking forward to it. Instead, I am in a state of suspended animation similar to that of a deer in the front of an oncoming Mac Truck.

You see, I missed the short story contest, despite promising myself I’d enter. My story didn’t fit the guidelines and I hated to send in a revamped weaker one that probably would just embarrass me.

I did send in a MS for evaluation, though, and am inwardly cringing at the potential for damning with faint praise from a real live author. Of course I assume she’ll hate it.

And then I booked an appointment with an agent, and now I am overcome, frozen, totally blinded by the view of my incompetence as I review my book, working on it so it’s shiny enough to pitch.

Part of it is the aloneness of writing. I’ve been lazy about sending things in for publication and my recent contest entries have been uninspired. I feel as if I am dabbling in the shallows of the tidal pools of my mind. Little little splashes.

Part of it is the difficulty I have roping my mind into behaving properly. It might be simple laziness, but I also wonder about the effects of my MS on my brain power. Of course, as soon as I

say that, I hear my mum telling me it’s just an excuse, but I do run up against limitations that seem real to me. Maybe the novel format is too much to take on, my “poor me I’m sick” self says.

“You’re just wasting time,” my maternal message says. “You can do anything you put your mind to,” she adds, dangling participles with abandon.

Self-messaging runs deep deep in our souls. Over years of therapy and self-examination and trying to pull them up by their roots, they still hang in there, sprouting in the darkness, waiting their time to reach into the sun and be seen, in all their malevolent beauty.

I still feel sleeping in past eight is “wasting the day” as my dad told me over and over, despite having a disease that demands more rest. I feel incompetent with handling my finances despite managing okay in general, but my relatives never let me think I could do it. I feel fat and lazy despite working out several times a week (and said illness) because that’s part of the messaging I’ve absorbed over the years. I feel inadequate and all that every day.

And yet, I’m not. I’m active, fit, smart, pretty, round, yes, but strong as a bull. I’m funny and witty and I write well when I write. I accomplish a lot in my humble circles and in bigger ones, too. So why, when presented with this conference, does my confidence drip away through the drain like so much sludge?