The alarm went off twice this morning. Well, I think it was twice. Maybe it was three? I cracked open an eye and cringed back into the sheets away from the sunlight streaming through the curtains. The alarm blared once more. My hand slapped the off button. I groaned and dragged myself out of bed.
I’m really not a morning person, especially after draining several days worth of spoons with an all day event. (The spoon theory is an effective way of describing how chronic illness or disability affects life. If you’re not familiar with the theory, you can find out all about it here.) Friday’s 13-hour celebrations for steampunk’s 30th (naming) anniversary left me depleted. It was a long (but fun) day.
Socialising takes a lot of effort for me. It’s exhausting. It’s not you. It’s me. In public, I spend most of the time trying to fight the urge to run away and hide. Anxiety does that. I usually organise my social events carefully, with a few days after to recover those precious spoons.
Fortunately it was an online event and it was celebrating something I love: steampunk. (Otherwise I would’ve been a gibbering mess if I’d spent all thirteen hours face-to-face with so many people without a break.) Large crowds, particularly in shopping centres with their cacophony of noises, crush me.
This got me thinking. Why do I do this to myself? Why do I do conventions? Why do I do talks…? Why do I walk out the door at all?
There’s a stereotype: the starving writer (that’s a whole other blog post just there) scribbling away in a lonely garret – alone, with only the artistic muse for company – locked in the struggle to create the perfect prose. But, despite this romantic (Victorian) vision, writers need company too. I need company too. I need to experience life, not just write about it.
So why do I keep pushing myself to attend events – social or professional?
Because, deep down, I like people. I love conversations where I suddenly realise the sun is rising and we’ve been chatting all night. I love talking writing, science, art, Doctor Who, steampunk. I’m fine one-on-one or in a small group. Where I feel safe.
On a bad day, I push myself to do online socialising. I can cringe in the corner while I type supposedly confident words – and no one can see my fear. But I’m still engaging with the world.
A couple of years ago I found an online steampunk forum, The Steampunk Empire. Tucked away in a corner was a writers group, The Scribblers Den – a band of steampunk writers spanning the globe. We chatted about writing, steampunk (lots of steampunk), events, shared pictures and stories. I felt comfortable there.
Unfortunately, as online entities often do, it disappeared. Some of us had seen the cracks. Some of us lived in denial. On a, soon-to-be bleak, day in March I logged onto the forum and – horror of horrors – my beloved Scribblers Den had dissolved into the aether!
But, never fear, my dear Reader, we had a plan (albeit a very vague one). Soon the Refugees of Steampunk Empire assembled on Facebook. We lamented, explored a few new enclaves and finally found a new home; the Steampunk Dominion was formed. My dear Scribblers’ Den had returned from exile! (Thank you to the intrepid pilgrims – especially Lee and William – who founded our new realm.) I could once again frolic in steampunky goodness and forget about my anxieties.