This weekend I had the honor of being Toastmaster at ConFusion. This was one of my best convention experiences ever … and in a few days, I’ll be able to focus on what an epic time I had. But first I need to get through what I think of as my post-con neurotic phase.
I’ve talked before about being an introvert. When I do a convention, it’s in some ways a performance. That doesn’t mean there’s anything deceptive or dishonest, but I’m basically playing Jim C. Hines, Extroverted Author. It’s a great deal of fun, but it also uses up a fair amount of energy. One thing I’ve noticed is that it requires me to turn down some of my internal filters and censors.
And that’s what leads to comments like the one I made during opening ceremonies where I introduced one guest who had been attending since about 1980, and remarked, “Wow … I was only six years old.” Now here’s a peek inside Jim’s brain:
Wait, why did I say that? That wasn’t in my script of jokes. I was trying to point out that this person has a great history with the con, but I basically announced, “Hey, they’re old!” That’s kind of a dickish thing to say. Have I just alienated our guest of honor or made them uncomfortable? What the hell, man?
This sort of thing doesn’t usually bother me too much while I’m at the con and “on.” It’s afterward, when I’m overtired and heading back to the real world, that it starts to get to me. I think back to Sunday afternoon when Sarah Zettel asked me to strike a pose, so of course I showed off the belly and gave my best hip-thrusting pose as I left the panel … which sent a familiar cramp of pain up the back muscles, eliciting a shout of, “Son of a bitch, that hurt!”
Why did I say that? I excised the word “bitch” from my vocabulary more than a decade ago! And it didn’t even hurt that bad; just a tight muscle from sitting in panel chairs all day. Way to go, Jim — you’ve just convinced those people who said you were out of shape that they’re right, because you can’t even do one little hip-thrust without whining about it.
There were a few other such instances. They get stuck in my head for several days after the con, the little things that I’m 99% certain nobody else noticed or really cared about. Sure, I flubbed a joke in opening ceremonies, but overall I had a great deal of fun introducing our line-up of awesome guests, and all of the feedback I received afterward was positive.
I really did have an incredibly good time. I’ll try to do a more traditional write-up, by the end of which you’ll all be rather jealous. There was the author D&D game, the dessert reception, my guest star role on Tom Smith‘s Rocky Horror Muppet Show … I had an absolute blast.
But after almost a decade of conventions, I also know that I overthink. I borderline obsess. And then, once I’ve caught up on sleep and gotten back to my real life, I get over it. But that day or two of post-con obsession is annoying. And I’m a little curious if I’m the only one who does this…
January 23, 2012 @ 9:39 am
I had a good time at Epic –my first Con ever!– because of you and the great GOHs. Thanks!!
Jim C. Hines
January 23, 2012 @ 9:44 am
I’m so glad you had a great time! My annoying neuroses aside, the con staff/volunteers did a tremendous job, and I had an absolute blast hanging out with everyone!
January 23, 2012 @ 9:56 am
All I have to say is that I knew that I liked you before the con, but this last weekend cemented that.
You did a fantastic job as toastmaster. Thanks so much for being epic-ally awesome.
Jim C. Hines
January 23, 2012 @ 10:03 am
Thank you 🙂
January 23, 2012 @ 10:05 am
Having met you before I knew you were an author, I thought you seemed to be a pretty good guy. Having read some of your book and blog for awhile now, and seeing your interactions at con up close, I was wrong.
You’re a really great guy. From all over the place over the con, I heard people who were excited you were there, and I never heard a moment of criticism from staff, guest or con-goer.
There have been many years in which I have obsessed over a moment I could have said something better at con. What I’ve come to trust is that the con is a place for us to relax and share ourselves with each other, and that if(when) I am not perfect, most everyone will understand. None of us are champions at the social game, but when I walk around at midnight in my jams and slippers, no one says, “aren’t you a little big to be wearing that outside your room?”.
Con is the magic hour in which we (largely, imperfectly) accept each other for whatever we feel comfortable sharing. My opinion, anyway 😀
January 23, 2012 @ 10:11 am
I’m glad I’m not the only one who slips into “extrovert” mode, says things that are innocently conceived, but then my mind tortures me later with “WTH were you thinking to say that?”
It was fun following everyone on Twitter last weekend, even if it made me a bit jealous. Thanks to you (and Peter Brett and Brent Weeks and Joe Abercrombie), I enjoyed the fun glimpse of fantasy authors on parade and playing (D&D) badly.
Jim C. Hines
January 23, 2012 @ 10:15 am
I beg your pardon? We played D&D AWESOMELY! I attacked an old dude with half a jaguar! You don’t get more epic than that!
And thanks – it helps a bit to know it’s not just me, and I’m glad you were able to participate in the fun vicariously. Clearly this just means you’ll have to come to ConFusion one of these days!
Jim C. Hines
January 23, 2012 @ 10:18 am
Thanks – I know I said it before, but really appreciate everything you and the rest of the con staff did this weekend. I don’t know what happened in the gripe session, but I had absolutely no complaints.
I hadn’t considered it from that angle, but I really like that — the idea that the con is supposed to be a place where we’re allowed to be flawed. Imperfect acceptance, and there are limits of course, but I love the ideal/goal.
::Note to self – buy epic slippers for the next con::
January 23, 2012 @ 10:53 am
This is kind of personal, but I wanted to share.
I dealt with such ruminations for years, sometimes over things that happened years or decades ago. It was part of why I struggled with anxiety and depression: I knew if I ever messed up it’d be stuck with me forever, and I had a little voice in my head telling me how terribly I’d messed up every minute of the day.
I tried the CBT approaches to countering negative self-talk, but found that personally I had trouble lying myself better. In the end it was medication that made the difference (not any of the anti-depressants, they just tried to chemically lie myself better, but there’s a class of anti-epilepsy drugs that my ancient psychiatrist suggested. Since there’s not a diagnosis that fits “rehashes mistakes constantly without any other symptoms not caused by being constantly reminded of every way I’ve ever messed up” there’s also not been psychiatric medication research that would target it. Luckily the drugs that help are decades old, safe and in most patients at psychiatric doses produce no side effects.)
I’m not suggesting that you need fixing or anything, but rather wanted to share that this isn’t something you are the only person to face. I appreciate you being willing to talk about it in public; even though I know I’m not the only one mostly I only know that because I found a doctor who’d seen it before.
Getting stuck on the things we’ve done wrong I believe has something to do with brain wiring. It can be incredibly useful when we’re trying to make ourselves better people, but it can also overwhelm the good parts and just be exhausting. My goal has been to keep the skills of self-analysis while giving up the memories-on-repeat track that compelled me to adopt them in the first place.
January 23, 2012 @ 11:19 am
Jim, you ask if you’re the only one. No.
[Section discussing my mistakes and following obsession over them removed; due to this not being my blog, but yours.]
You have the best excuse for everything – any joke-errors or surprise profanity were due to your Epic Hat temporarily turning up your natural telepathic abilities (100% improve for 1d20 hours) in a convention full of sleepy, caffeinated, hyperactive, unfiltered teenagers. (Seventy-teen is still a number, right.)
January 23, 2012 @ 11:19 am
Nope, you aren’t the only one with those. I often leave a con with the feeling, “well, what relationship did I screwed up this time and how badly did I screw-over my nascent career? And they’ll probably never ask me back again.”
January 23, 2012 @ 11:48 am
Definitely one of the catches of being an introvert! And yeah, one thing extroverts don’t tend to understand about introverts is that even when we really enjoy being around people, it still takes a lot more *energy* out of us than it does them.
Good luck getting past the obsessing… that’s definitely a pain in the butt, if inevitable!
Jim C. Hines
January 23, 2012 @ 11:56 am
YOU! You’re the one who TWEETED MY EIGHT INCHES COMMENT WITHOUT ATTRIBUTION! You’ll never con in this town again, mister!
Jim C. Hines
January 23, 2012 @ 11:57 am
Thanks. I like this theory, and shall be using it to defend any and all criticism that comes my way for the foreseeable future!
Also, it’s my blog, but it doesn’t have to be all about me. I mean, how freaking boring would that be???
January 23, 2012 @ 12:05 pm
I’m sure you’re not the only one to second-guess yourself, but I’m also sure that no one else was keeping track of your perceived slips 🙂 I had a wonderful time at the Con as a whole (my first Con experience–couldn’t have asked for better!), and in particular I was so glad that I got to meet you and get my local library tshirt signed and tell you that I love your writing and your blog and most especially that I love having a feminist ally that spreads the word about crap stuff that’s going on. Seriously, the Con was great and you were too! Thanks for being so nice to us wonky fans 🙂
January 23, 2012 @ 12:20 pm
I suffer from the “why did I just say that” more than a few times. Sadly, I was hoping it would go away when I got older.
I loved the bit on your Twitter about the goblin fight. 🙂
January 23, 2012 @ 12:35 pm
Anybody else like that? Yes. It hits even people who are more toward the extrovert end of things. It’s worse for me if the depression is also in play (when ANYthing I say sounds to me like the worst possible utterance) but it can happen any time I open my mouth and out come (possible) toads instead of (definite) roses. (I forget which fairytale that was, but I’ve always loved the metaphor.) On the other side of the I/E scale, though, it’s possible to utter some very warty toads and not realize it because the high of being not-alone and with-great-people (for even some-time extroverts) sort of blurs out what was actually said. So at the same event (whatever it was), I can decide a slightly imperfect rose was a toad, and think a toad was nothing but a peanut butter sandwich. Until, that is, the 24 hours later, 3 am wake-up call from the introvert side of the brain.
January 23, 2012 @ 12:51 pm
But I tweeted it in only the most loving fashion. Wait, that sounded dirty. Never mind.
January 23, 2012 @ 12:53 pm
Oh, wait, you’re pissed that I didn’t say it was YOUR 8″ of hardcovered glory. My bad. Would you like a correction? 🙂
January 23, 2012 @ 2:05 pm
As another introvert who is “on stage” when I am at Cons, or any other large group of people, I very much empathise(sp) with what you go through.
We should have a little symbol to put on our badges to let other introverts know who we are.
Jim C. Hines
January 23, 2012 @ 3:36 pm
I’m glad you had such a good time! For me, most of the fun comes from getting to meet and talk to people, both the ones I’ve known for years and the brand new attendees 🙂
And wait, you mean they *didn’t* hand out a Jim’s Flub-Ups scorecard at registration?
January 23, 2012 @ 7:18 pm
Oh, you were at the con too? Hadn’t noticed…
But seriously, writers like you are a BIG part of the cool factor at Confusion and thanks for sharing EVEN MORE of yourself in blogs like these where we find out that even the “Pros” second guess themselves sometimes. Shaking hands with and getting signatures from the people we’ve read is always nice, but finding out that you share something in common with their inner dialogues… that’s really cool.
January 23, 2012 @ 7:39 pm
You two so totally deserve each other, here.
January 23, 2012 @ 8:23 pm
Sometimes I groan audibly when reflecting on things said/done and how I may have been (mis)perceived at cons. Next, the self-loathing kicks in, and I swear on Elvis’s grave that I will never ever go to another one. Neurosis? Why yes, I’ll take two.
I personally would have laughed at all the things you mentioned being mortified about, which makes me feel a lot better, and tells me maybe I’m being over-sensitive, and just maybe my post-con humiliation-fest is an understandable reaction from too much face-time and too little self-time. Thanks for the post, truly.
January 23, 2012 @ 9:22 pm
I think you nailed it for most introverts when you explained how you function in a large public setting–almost consciously putting on an extroverted alter ego. But it’s draining to be someone else for any length of time. Even when I’ve had a good time, it exhausts me to the point where I feel disoriented and hung over afterwards. And I don’t even drink anymore, so I get the hangover w/out the fun.
Just commenting on a blog is pretty extroverted for me.
As I’ve gotten older, I do worry a bit less about looking stupid, but I still obsess about whether I’ve inadvertently said something insensitive or hurtful. To this day, I will dredge up things from decades ago that may have been unintentionally unkind to strangers. Yeah, there are probably meds for that.
Jim C. Hines
January 24, 2012 @ 8:15 am
Yeah, I stopped by for a few minutes there 🙂 And thanks!
Jim C. Hines
January 24, 2012 @ 8:17 am
I can only imagine the effects of adding depression to the mix of second-guessing and self-recriminations.
I’m not recognizing the toad fairy tale, but I like the metaphor!
Jim C. Hines
January 24, 2012 @ 8:19 am
Thanks for sharing this. I’m curious what about the anti-epilepsy drugs caused the changes you describe, but I’m very glad to hear that they helped.
January 24, 2012 @ 2:50 pm
The Andrew Lang is not one of my favorite versions, but here is the fairy tale Elizabeth Moon was talking about:
I always thought it would be very inconvenient to have objects falling out of your mouth every time you opened it, but at least the toads run away. (And, in fact there may have been a Rocky & Bullwinkle Fractured Fairytale to that effect. Can’t remember.)
((Now I get to feel neurotic about providing information nobody actually asked for at a blog I don’t normally comment on. You all totally think I’m a show-off stalker chick who butts in on other people’s conversations now, right.))
Jim C. Hines
January 24, 2012 @ 4:35 pm
“You all totally think I’m a show-off stalker chick who butts in on other people’s conversations now, right.”
Absolutely! Expect an e-restraining order within the next 24 hours.
And thanks for the link! 🙂
January 24, 2012 @ 9:18 pm
I, too, was interested in this.
Neurontin? Topamax? I think both are/were classed as anti-seizure/anti-epileptic drugs and have since been used off-label for a host of other conditions. I’ve taken both for SLE symptoms–not particularly helpful, but did discover Topamax works wonders for migraines. I’ve known other people who have taken them for everything from weight loss, to fibromyalgia, to anxiety, to bi-polar disorder.
Maybe there are additional ones I’m not aware of.
January 25, 2012 @ 7:02 am
Oddly, many bipolar drugs are also anti-seizure drugs. At the last time that I looked into the issue (maybe 10 years ago) it really wasn’t understood why the same drugs targeted both.
A Very Atypical ConFusion Report | Ferrett Steinmetz
January 31, 2012 @ 9:25 am
[…] I dunno.
January 31, 2012 @ 9:40 am
You’re making me quite relieved, now, that I’m not the only one who does this. (So no, you’re not the only one who does this…)