Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Anxiety and Meeting The People Who Make the Stuff You Love

I'm a big fan.

Not just of you, (though I think you're pretty great) but in general.

I'm a fan of things. The X-Men, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, Dr. Who, the Boston Bruins (hockey soon? Please?), the restaurants of Paul Kahan, Conan O'Brien-era Simpsons' episodes, etc., etc., etc.

However... I've always been fairly aware of the fact that the things I love are made by people and that like most people, they're imperfect beings who through some combination of talent, luck, and hard work made it to wherever they've made it in the global social pecking order. Basically, I'm very aware that George RR Martin, Neil Gaiman, Beyonce, Gail Simone, John Green, Patrice Bergeron, etc. are all human beings who take naps, and fart, and get behind on their deadlines sometimes.

And I have this big thing with human beings where I get anxious that I might be bothering them.

For this reason, I rarely make an effort to actually MEET the people who make the things I love. I've never waited in line to get a picture signed by a Star Trek castmember. I've never had my photo taken with an X-Men writer or artist. I've never screamed the name of a celebrity as they walked past me on the street.

The exception to this rule is that in the last few years I have met some of my favorite authors.

Okay, more specifically, I've gone to see some of my favorite authors speak. I saw George RR Martin speak at the first C2E2. I walked up to him after and said (robotically) "It's nice to meet you, Mr. Martin. I'm a big fan of your work" while Chelsea got a comic book signed. I then walked away. This was RIGHT before the "Game of Thrones" TV show came out, so there was no line. There was no crowd to talk to GRRM. I could've asked him what it was like working in Hollywood or if he was reading anything cool, or whatever. But in my head, all I could think was "People bother this guy and make demands of him all of the time. I'm going to say hi, and then walk away. If I thought I was bothering GRRM I would hate myself." This is the kind of thing anxiety makes me think on a fairly regular basis.

I've repeated this process with John Green (saw him speak at the Chicago Public Library, didn't wait in the monster line to talk to him, though Chelsea DID high-five him as he walked out the door), China Mieville (saw him speak, left immediately after), and Patrick Rothfuss.

Patrick Rothfuss is the author of the best-selling "Kingkiller Chronicle" which is kind of... somewhere between Harry Potter and Song of Ice and Fire but also kind of funny. There are two books out so far, "The Name of the Wind" and "Wise Man's Fear" and they are both fantastic. Ask me, and I will let you borrow my copies. I also love his blog and his GoodReads book reviews.

About a year ago (well, 11 months ago) I was having a truly fantastic day. I had quit my job at World Book and was just flying (good flying), emotionally. I HAPPENED to have tickets to see Paul and Storm and Patrick Rothfuss at Link's Hall. The show was awesome. After, there was a line to meet Patrick Rothfuss and ask him to sign things. I looked at the line and thought two things: waiting in lines gives me wicked bad anxiety, and I don't feel like bothering this guy just to say hi because bothering people gives me wicked bad anxiety. Chelsea and I went home, content in having seen a great show by people who make cool stuff we love.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, and it was announced that the Doubleclicks, who make cool geeky music that you should most certainly listen to, would be doing a show at the Public House Theater with the Nerdologues and Cards Against Humanity. I bought tickets to the show because:

1. The Doubleclicks are great.
2. The Public House is right near where I live.
3. The Nerdologues are best good buddies with the Improvised Star Trek.

The night before the show, I was up late finishing some freelance writing work and as always after doing anything creative, I couldn't get to sleep. I went on Twitter, and noticed Patrick Rothfuss was tweeting about looking for something to eat in Chicago. This meant that he was in Chicago for some reason. I wondered if that reason was making a surprise appearance at the Doubleclicks/Nerdologues show.

Long story short: That was exactly the reason he was in Chicago. Rothfuss read a delightfully vicious book review onstage at the Public House, then stuck around to perform shenanigans with CAH and the Doubleclicks, and then hung out after the show.

So this is how I ended up having a 20 minute long conversation with him, mostly about Spain (SPOILER ALERT: Patrick Rothfuss is a big deal in Spain). I did also mention that I was a huge fan of his books and his GoodReads reviews.

And it was cool. He was a cool guy to hang out with and talk to. We talked to the Doubleclicks too! They were also supercool.

What am I getting at here...

Anxiety is a weird thing. It makes you think things that aren't true. It makes all kinds of everyday scenarios like asking for small favors or answering the phone (Have I mentioned I'm terrified of talking to people on the phone? Because I am.) seem illogically, sometimes painfully stressful. It also, from time-to-time, deprives you of having a cool, genuine experience. It might prevent you from meeting someone you admire, and that kind of sucks.

And I'm glad that in this instance, I managed to overcome that anxiety and have a cool genuine experience. Because the people who make the stuff you love ARE people. That means that just like you, they like to get compliments, and they like to hang out and chat, and they like to make jokes about Spain. That's just as real a thing as whatever ridiculousness anxiety is telling you to believe.