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Post-Con Neuroses

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.

Toastmaster with Epic HatThere 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…

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


( 132 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jan. 23rd, 2012 02:40 pm (UTC)
You're not the only one, but my neurotic overthinking is usually done by the end of the drive home, or at least by the time I go to bed after the con. Do you think it helps that you have insight into it? Are you able to set the thoughts aside, or do they run their course even though you know they're irrational? I have had some luck doing that, but my brain is possibly not as persistent as yours.

(I didn't notice you flubbing a joke, nor did I think you're 1980 comment was dickish.)
Jan. 23rd, 2012 02:46 pm (UTC)
My guess is I'm probably one of the only -- maybe *the* only -- one who noticed the flubbed joke or thought my 1980 comment was dickish. Intellectually, I know this, and by the time I get through a full day of my mundane life, I suspect most of this will have passed.

It does help some to recognize what's going on, that this is a normal part of my brain, and to try to keep things in perspective. Kind of like after you've written enough, you realize that the "I suck I'll never publish another good story again!" is a normal but annoying part of the process, and that this too shall pass.

I'm definitely in a much better space with it all than I was five years ago. Maybe someday I'll reach the point where I can leave a con, realize that I messed up when telling a story, and just shrug it off. But I'm not there yet :-)
(no subject) - michaeldthomas - Jan. 23rd, 2012 02:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cathshaffer - Jan. 23rd, 2012 03:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Jan. 23rd, 2012 03:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cathshaffer - Jan. 23rd, 2012 02:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 23rd, 2012 02:51 pm (UTC)
I do it after every con. In my case, I'm also trying to remember my jokes and opinions at BarCon in case I went TOO FAR. :-)

Cons are a strange place when you're a pro/aspiring pro. On one hand, it's about geeky fun! You're sort of on vacation! On the other hand, you're working. A cheap joke might get you a laugh, but you're also managing your brand and possibly networking with other pros. That laugh could cost you sales or an anthology invite.

So yeah, Lynne and I typically have a neurotic debriefing during our trip home. :-)
Jan. 23rd, 2012 02:54 pm (UTC)
Yes! Turning down the filters in order to play Extrovert Guy means I sometimes end up saying stuff that I wouldn't normally say, and then end up asking, "Wait, did that just cross a line?"

More than once I've come home and immediately e-mailed folks saying, "Hey, when I joked about this, was that funny or was I being a dick to you?"

I can't remember a single time anyone has gotten back to me and said, "You're such a dick, Hines!" But that doesn't stop the worry.
(no subject) - cathshaffer - Jan. 23rd, 2012 02:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - michaeldthomas - Jan. 23rd, 2012 03:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 23rd, 2012 03:00 pm (UTC)
I obsess over every little stupid thing that comes out of my mouth (which is an awful lot), often not just for days but for years. No lie, I still come over all embarrassed about things I did and said when I was like, 9yrs old. (I am 30 now.) I don't know why. Logically reasoning that most ppl don't care and probably don't even remember that thing I did at some such time doesn't even seem to take the edge off.
Jan. 23rd, 2012 04:01 pm (UTC)
Logic/intellectual and emotional just don't do a good job of communicating, do they. I wish we could just force those two to sit down and *talk* to one another.
(no subject) - sylvanstargazer - Jan. 23rd, 2012 06:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - barbarienne - Jan. 23rd, 2012 10:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bookishdragon - Jan. 24th, 2012 10:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - alicetheowl - Jan. 23rd, 2012 11:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - inizitu - Jan. 23rd, 2012 11:53 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 23rd, 2012 03:06 pm (UTC)
You're not the only one, but mine usually starts during the con. After the adrenaline of having fun fades, my OCD will treat me to a slide show of every potentially dumb or jerkish thing I think I may have said or did.
Jan. 23rd, 2012 03:30 pm (UTC)
It sometimes hits when I retire to my hotel room at night, once the adrenaline wears off and I'm trying to fall asleep, and the brain says, "NOW IT'S TIME FOR THE CLIP SHOW OF AWKWARDNESS!!!"
(no subject) - adelheid_p - Jan. 23rd, 2012 03:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - beth_bernobich - Jan. 23rd, 2012 03:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - marthawells - Jan. 23rd, 2012 03:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Jan. 23rd, 2012 03:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - beth_bernobich - Jan. 23rd, 2012 06:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 23rd, 2012 03:07 pm (UTC)
You are certainly not. I have this after any social gathering where I'm insecure about the impression I'm making. I used to have it at any social gathering, but I have relaxed a bit since then. Gained some confidence and some trust in the people I see at those gatherings. But you describe very accurately what happens in my head when I put my foot in my mouth.
Jan. 23rd, 2012 04:00 pm (UTC)
I think practice/experience does help, and the more cons I do, the easier the post-con cringing gets ... but yeah.
Jan. 23rd, 2012 03:14 pm (UTC)
From a fellow introvert who can play an extrovert, I completely understand. If I really get in a funk, I can cringe about comments I made years ago while under the influence of extraversion.

Jan. 23rd, 2012 04:00 pm (UTC)
I think the best thing about getting a little older is that my memory isn't quite as good these days, so I can't remember some of those really old comments.
Jan. 23rd, 2012 03:30 pm (UTC)
My big regret was being there but waylaid by work issues which had me missing much of the con.

I do much of what you say here, too. I over think what I said and obsess and worry (and repeat myself). Over the years, I've learned that people are very forgiving and often didn't think the things you were afraid that they would or don't remember you saying that particular thing at all. If people are enjoying your "performance" then they remember the good feeling and not so much the details. I think if everyone was laughing at what you said and did, then you did just fine and you shouldn't worry.

Also, I meant to tell you at the con that for your blogs on women's issues on the Internet, you are one of my heroes. Sorry I didn't get to say this to you in person at the con, though.
Jan. 23rd, 2012 03:59 pm (UTC)
Thank you! You know, even with being there for 72 hours straight, I didn't come close to having enough time to talk to everyone I wanted to. Too many great people, and never enough time.

Intellectually, I'm rather proud of how I did in my first Toastmaster gig. The emotional side should catch up in another day or so :-)
Jan. 23rd, 2012 03:35 pm (UTC)
I didn't see the hip thrust, but I did catch opening ceremonies and, for the record, you were fine. The "she's old" also works as "I'm a young whippersnapper."

Regarding second-guessing your actions, I think that's typical of most people, extroverts and introverts. The folks who don't have an internal filter are the rarities. Those who lack a filter and are easy on the eyes become reality TV "stars." ;-)
Jan. 23rd, 2012 03:58 pm (UTC)
Those who lack a filter and are easy on the eyes become reality TV "stars." ;-)

Eep! That's it, I'm a-keeping my filters!
Jan. 23rd, 2012 03:45 pm (UTC)
It's...sort of reassuring to know that I'm not the only person who does this. (I do it after pretty much every event involving people.)
Jan. 23rd, 2012 03:48 pm (UTC)
That reassurance is one of the reasons I wrote the post, too :-)
Jan. 23rd, 2012 04:00 pm (UTC)
You were only six in 1980??? My god, you're a baby! (There, do you feel better?)

Ironically, I had finally gotten past this kind of obsessing and fretting. Then a few years ago, I did a small local event with a friend (basically I was the pubbed author and she was the soon-to-be pubbed author that I was helping out). It was late, I was tired, and something I said came out wrong. The 15 or so folks there (either friends or my fans) all laughed, and no one thought much of it--except my friend, who got so upset about it, it eventually destroyed our friendship.

Since then, I've gone back to being worried that I'll say stupid things and people will hate me. SIGH.

BTW, I love the hat :-) ANd I'm sure you were great. Someday I hope to see that hip thrust movement in person...
Jan. 23rd, 2012 04:12 pm (UTC)
Ouch. But I think that illustrates part of what's beneath the worry. Even though I know 99% of the folks at the con were probably fine with everything, there's always the chance... I'm sorry to hear that things went so badly for you and your former friend.

As for the hip thrust, just remind me to stretch first :-)
(no subject) - deborahblakehps - Jan. 23rd, 2012 04:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 23rd, 2012 04:12 pm (UTC)
You should come to a con. It's lots of fun, and gives you a whole new range of things to obsess about ;-)
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - jimhines - Jan. 23rd, 2012 05:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 23rd, 2012 04:04 pm (UTC)
I neurotically overthink my social interactions after pretty much every party, never mind every con.

I can also beat myself up for dumb comments I made in 1993. BEAT THAT!

{oh god oh god now he's going to think I'm a total ass, like that "Topper" guy in the Dilbert cartoons, why the hell do I do this? CHRIST I'M SUCH AN ASSHOLE.}
Jan. 23rd, 2012 04:14 pm (UTC)
'93? I CAN TOP THIS! Back in '93 I was 19 years old, so pretty much THAT ENTIRE YEAR was a social disaster worth beating myself up for!
(no subject) - naomikritzer - Jan. 23rd, 2012 07:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Jan. 23rd, 2012 07:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - inizitu - Jan. 23rd, 2012 11:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 23rd, 2012 04:14 pm (UTC)
I graduated from college in 1980. My God -- am I the adult in the room? No-ooooooooooooooooooooooo!

Oh, and get off my lawn.

Dr. Phil
Jan. 23rd, 2012 05:19 pm (UTC)

I graduated from college that same year!

(Deleted comment)
Jan. 23rd, 2012 04:14 pm (UTC)
I do the same thing, of course, and after almost any group event -- even my writing group meetings. For some reason on the dumb stuff I said lingers.
Jan. 23rd, 2012 05:04 pm (UTC)
In a way, it reminds me of reviews. I can read 10 reviews of my stuff, and if 9 are great and 1 pans me, it will be that last one that sticks in my head...
Jan. 23rd, 2012 04:16 pm (UTC)
Everybody does this, all the time. Everybody. And nobody noticed any of the things you're worried about.
Jan. 23rd, 2012 08:28 pm (UTC)
Nobody noticed until I went and pointed them out on my blog post. Aw, crap. What have I done???

Thanks ;-)
Jan. 23rd, 2012 04:20 pm (UTC)
I for one found you entertaining, thoughtful and very generous of spirit. So, erm, yeah, don't overanalyze this...
Jan. 23rd, 2012 04:38 pm (UTC)
And I’m a little curious if I’m the only one who does this…

Far from it. I do exactly the same thing. Wish I knew how to stop. *sighs*

("Turning down the filters" is so true - I need to, or I'd be standing there tongue-tied, but then all sorts of things slip out that I didn't actually mean to say. And the instant it's out, I want to sink into the floor. Gah!)
Jan. 23rd, 2012 07:21 pm (UTC)
Yep. I get the necessity of lowering some of those filters ... but at the same time, those things are there for a reason, ya know?
Jan. 23rd, 2012 04:49 pm (UTC)
I'm an introvert who often has to wear the extroverted mask, and oh, does this sound familiar: the out-of-character comment and the obsessing afterwards :-)

One of the first bricks I ever remember dropping was during a group conversation at a con in Albany; someone said something witty and I unthinkingly replied (in a rare moment of disinhibition), "Wow, you're much smarter than you loo--" Followed instantly by my blush and apology. (Although, my fellow attendee was dressed as a werewolf and his face was obscured by fur so I think the words didn't sting too much.)

Since then I've tried to keep more of a lock on my tongue. Not always successfully, of course :-P

But TBH, Jim, although I only know you through your blog, you come across as someone who is fundamentally kind and thoughtful. If I heard a quip from you that was borderline, I'd assume it was motivated by goofiness rather than vindictiveness. Wouldn't surprise me if your audiences feel the same way.
Jan. 24th, 2012 11:09 pm (UTC)
It seems like it's always those first few cons where we're the most nervous and end up saying the (in our opinions, at least) worst things...

One of my first cons, I ended up on a panel where I blurted out -- and messed up -- a joke.

After the panel, I realized where the joke had come from: it was something Scalzi had said a few weeks back on his blog.

The topper: not only had I swiped and ruined John Scalzi's joke, but I had done so while on a panel with John Scalzi.

I e-mailed him afterward, completely mortified, and he just shrugged it off, but I was in the Zone of Burning Shame and Mortification for a while after that one.
Jan. 23rd, 2012 04:50 pm (UTC)
::tilts head::

You mean there are people who don't feel they have to perform if they're in public and interacting with someone, in any way at all?
Jan. 23rd, 2012 05:58 pm (UTC)
Jan. 23rd, 2012 05:21 pm (UTC)
Welcome to my particular brand of manic depression.

Before medications this was every single day of my life, before during and after every single thing I did. From the hello at the door to the waiter (still thinking, an hour after I left, about whether or not I'd said something stupid to them or if I'd pissed them off, and why should I care because I was there to eat but that's just rude of me as they're people too but I should be able to be better than that but I should be allowed to have a bad day and... all over a 'hello') to the time I had to stand up and say something publicly.

Being able to do it situationally? Turn it off? Oooh, it is lovely.

But not unexpected. It's essentially running on full throttle for hours at a time, while idling in place. It's bound to do some kind of damage at some point.

Rest. Recoup.

And thinking of.. the single worst thing I could do - this is for myself - was to try to correct/deal with those things in that same moment. Waiting until later? Made my hands itch but... ultimately it was a lesson worth learning.
Jan. 23rd, 2012 06:33 pm (UTC)
"And thinking of.. the single worst thing I could do - this is for myself - was to try to correct/deal with those things in that same moment. Waiting until later? Made my hands itch but... ultimately it was a lesson worth learning."

Mentally inscribing this into my brain for further pondering, because I get the feeling this is something I'd do well to incorporate...
(no subject) - mt_yvr - Jan. 23rd, 2012 07:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Jan. 24th, 2012 09:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 23rd, 2012 05:33 pm (UTC)
My brain does the same thing, but the language is much more harsh and vindictive, along the lines of What are you saying? Stop! You sound like a lunatic. It happens while I'm talking, and can make me stop in the middle of a sentence and stand silently.

I like to avoid situations that trigger this.

Edited at 2012-01-23 05:36 pm (UTC)
Jan. 23rd, 2012 08:27 pm (UTC)
Brains are mean...
Jan. 23rd, 2012 05:43 pm (UTC)
I obsess about stuff like this quite a lot in everyday life. I often look backwards and evaluate myself negatively, and though I know it's over and it's pointless I still do it.
I'm just hoping that maybe it'll happen less as I grow older, because the only coping strategy I've found is to distract myself until the obsessing has died down. Problem is there always seems to be a next time.
Jan. 24th, 2012 09:46 pm (UTC)
It's gotten better for me over time ... I suspect some of that might be age and some of it is probably experience -- the more I attend cons, the better I get at avoiding the worst foot-in-mouth moments and at getting over my neuroses for the ones I do stumble into. But it certainly hasn't gone away completely.
Jan. 23rd, 2012 05:43 pm (UTC)
I'm actually more likely to get neurotic about stuff I say in writing on things like- well, other people's blogs, for instance. It's probably because I can go back and look at what I wrote and reassure myself that I sound like a complete doof at my leisure. Whereas anything that happens in person just slips into the murk that is my unreliable memory. (And I've found that other people tend to remember me as being much more friendly, clever, and erudite than I am. So I must assume they've forgotten all the times I'm a complete doof, too.)

Of course, the closest I've ever come to a Con was some comic book thing they had at the local library and a rather boring academic conference in Chicago when I was an undergrad. People in crowds are scary. *shiver*
Jan. 24th, 2012 09:45 pm (UTC)
One of the things I really enjoyed about this con was getting to go up a day early before most of the crowds arrived, and just get some quiet conversation time with a few friends and other writers.
Jan. 23rd, 2012 06:01 pm (UTC)
Apparently, I'm doing it wrong.

I'm so introverted I can't even pretend to be otherwise. I spent about five years as a con vendor, and while I do manage to be outgoing and charming enough to chat with people and make sales, I always miss the evening con festivities because I'm so completely drained from being "on" all day that all I can bear to do is go to my room and crash and hide.

One of these days I'll go to a con I'm not working, and try that "social", "making friends" thing I've heard so much about!
Jan. 23rd, 2012 06:30 pm (UTC)
I don't think there's really a "wrong" about this sort of thing.

I've literally spent ten years learning how to perform as "extroverted Jim" at a convention, and for those first few years, I sucked at it.

There's a part of me that enjoys performing and acting, which helped some, but it's definitely something that took a lot of work and practice.

I never go to con parties for exactly the reason you describe - I just don't have enough left by the end of the day, and I'd much rather collapse in the hotel room, click on a low-brain movie or show, and try to recover a bit.
(no subject) - aszanoni - Jan. 26th, 2012 02:15 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - 3rdragon - Jan. 24th, 2012 10:45 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 23rd, 2012 06:16 pm (UTC)
I get neurotic about dumb stuff I say in ordinary life, esp. if I am being a smart-aleck. I think it happens to everybody. It sucks, tho.

Jan. 23rd, 2012 06:29 pm (UTC)
I've run into that as well - I'll post a blog entry or a comment somewhere, realize I wrote something in a clumsy fashion or just wrote something I didn't intend, and spend days kicking myself about it...

The hat came from a ren fest years ago :-) I love it, but it's slightly too small, so I get major forehead dents if I wear it for very long.
(no subject) - rosefiend - Jan. 23rd, 2012 06:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Jan. 23rd, 2012 06:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
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