I may have mentioned this before, but I’m crazy. I don’t like talking about it because, well, it makes me sound crazy. I haven’t written about it much, or at least I haven’t written about it much on such a public space as this because for one, I don’t like to admit I’m struggling with anxiety. I’d much rather ignore it and hope it goes away, okay? And for two, maybe I feel like I’m admitting weakness. I know this not to be true. Still, I feel like I should just be able to get over it already. I think, What’s my problem? I have two healthy kids, a husband who’d do anything for me, a home in a good school district. I don’t live in Syria. What could my problems really be?
Still, for the past few weeks the anxiety has creeped in, wrapped it’s tendril-like fingers around my throat and pulled tight. I wake up with it, the nauseating gnawing in the pit of my stomach. I try to press on with my day, ignoring it, hoping by doing so I can shake it, but I’m never able. I’d always thought my anxiety was confined to my OCD so that if I wasn’t ritualizing or obsessing about germs, I was fine, disorder-free or as close to it as one can get. And while over these past few years I’ve been able to suppress the OCD much of the time or at least to the point where it’s manageable, the thing about anxiety is it’s always with you. It lies dormant, waiting, and there’s no telling when it might walk through the door again.
Anxiety can always be counted on to make an appearance during stressful periods so it makes perfect sense that the anxiety would rear up now at a time when I can least afford to yield to it. I’ve just started querying agents with my book proposal. Which should be a joyous occasion except that for me all good news is tempered by doom. The whole process has sent me into a paralysis of inadequacy and doubt. I feel rather like a joke. I think, how long can I fool them before they figure out I don’t know what the hell I’m doing? How long can I pretend to be a capable person before they learn the truth? In a word (or six) I feel out of my league.
It’s a little ironic at the point I must present my most confident self, I am the least capable of doing so. Have you any idea how hard it is to be an eager and enthusiastic self-promoter when you’re depressed? I just want to shriek, “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know!” as I shake my head and fall to the floor. But I don’t think that’s a good thing to write in a query letter.
Fortunately, I’m not in a deep depression. I know what a blessing that is. If I were, I wouldn’t be writing this at all. Still, with the haze sifting around in my head, I’ve become a muted, dulled version of myself. I can’t find my footing. I am unsure of everything – myself, my work, my voice, my ability to pull this off – and fear my writing will turn out as flat and dull and grey as the thoughts in my head. The anxiety obscures my ability to see clearly, to focus with objectivity, to think. Without that how am I supposed to do anything? I try to work through it while wondering where the end is. Will I reach it?
But you can’t say any of this. Not if you want to be seen as reliable, confident, intelligent author. Funny thing, though, is that while in life you’re supposed to present a polished, assured facade, in writing you’re supposed to present the truth. I’m having a hard time bridging that gap. Maybe I’ll just publish this now so that it gets buried at the bottom of my blog and by the time an agent takes a fleeting interest in me and checks out my site, they won’t find it.
To keep myself going, I tell myself all I have to do is write one query letter a day, but of course it’s not quite that simple. Nothing ever is with OCD. First I must conduct exhaustive research. So I spend my days Googling and reading up about agents instead of actually writing the letters because that’s easier. Plus, I can never be sure I’ve gathered enough information. There’s always another link, more to read. When will I know everything?
I keep reading and wasting more time. But all the advice tells you to study up on the agents and the industry. The agents want to know why you’ve selected them, why your project is right for them. After hours of research, I still don’t know. I become paralyzed with indecision. So I do nothing.
And here we are. And I’ve wasted so much time already, and I should have landed an agent months ago, and I still don’t have a decent query letter. And there’s no one to ask. I’m the boss, and I’m not qualified for the job. I have no one else, no one to say good job or send it out or you need to rework paragraph two because that shit is stupid. Who the hell would say something like that? You’re suppose to be a writer for Christ sakes, and you can’t even write a simple letter. You sound like a goddamn idiot.
There’s just me, and if I mess up the third sentence in the last paragraph, I’ll blow my chances, and you only get one shot, and that could have been the perfect agent, and now I’ve ruined it all, and I’ll never find another agent again.
That’s pretty much the perpetual beat inside my head, which tends to wrench the joy out of just about any situation. On a logical level I know the answer. It’s to relax and just be myself because at the end of the day, if you don’t find an agent who really gets you, if you don’t have that connection, it’s never gonna work. But that’s a shitty answer. Be myself? Who wants that? I need to be better than who I am. But how?
So you see my dilemma now, don’t you?
Photo credit: Flickr/Chris Devers