On Anxiety

by kurtiswiebe

I saw a post on Tumblr today about a young woman who was both excited and nervous about ECCC. She had concerns about the crowds, about being stuck inside a building with countless people.

I empathized because I’ve felt that way for a long time myself.

So, I wrote her a short response, because it’s totally okay to feel anxiety and that in such an intense atmosphere like a convention, it’s normal.

This is what I shared:

Hey. I want to let you in on a secret. I have huge convention anxiety, too. A lot of people are surprised by this because I’m a pretty social person that is confident in social situations.

Here’s the thing. I AM confident in social situations that are… controlled. Hosting a party at my place, going out with friends where I know mostly everyone, doing a signing where there’s already a connection established between me and the people I’m talking to.

Conventions on the other hand are very difficult for me. It’s quite a few things, which I’ll summarize

  1. Crowds: So. Many. People. Getting jostled, having to push through people to get where I’m going. Feeling like I’m drowning in flesh.
  2. Selling: I always have a table and I always bring books to sell. It’s how I cover the cost of the trip to attend, flight/hotel/food. If I don’t sell books, I lose quite a lot of money. So, there’s anxiety around pressure to hand sell merchandise and I absolutely struggle to initiate conversation with passersby.
  3. After Parties: This is an industry thing. A lot of people really look forward to these, but for me this is probably the worst of it. Especially as the show winds down and I know I have to go out again. I’ve been overwhelmed with… noise all day and I just want to go back to my hotel, cuddle up with my partner and watch tv.

NYCC was a huge revelation for me. I’d always felt pressure to just suck it up and make it happen. And I was always completely exhausted emotionally and, to be honest, I often walked away with negative feelings. But that show I realized something about myself and my career. So, here’s some tips about enjoying a convention coming from someone who both loved and hated them.

  1. Engage it on your terms: Serious. Do it. Go in for awhile, look around, and when you feel that old friend anxiety growing… leave. Just, go out, have a smoke, get a coffee, go for a walk. Find a quiet place at a coffee shop and take the time you need to find some peace. The convention is all weekend long, all day long. You won’t miss anything.
  2. Plan! If there’s people you want to see, or panels you want to attend, get out a map of the floor and times of the panels and schedule yourself so that you don’t have to constantly be drowning in crowds. Want to check out all the cool merch in artist alley? Make it a specific chunk of time so you’re not wandering aimlessly. I always do my walk around artist alley on Sunday, usually two hours before the show ends. It’s a bit quieter, so I can talk to the artists and sometimes you can get good deals because they don’t want to carry a bunch of shit home with them. I know I do it.
  3. You aren’t alone. I’ve talked to a lot of other writers that feel the same as I do. You’d be surprised who they are given their place in the industry, because was surprised. I immediately felt that little bit more normal and found a sort of connection in what I had always assumed was my weirdness. So, while you’re feeling all that lovely convention anxiety, so am I, and so are dozens of others. We’re all a bunch of weird geeks and that’s rad.

ECCC is a fantastic convention, it’s hands down my favourite. It has a lot of personal importance to me. It’s where I first pitched my series that was picked up by Image Comics and led to the state of my career now. I have met dozens and dozens of wonderful writers, artists and fans who’ve made a huge impression on me. And Seattle is lovely. I’ve always sworn I’d move there, but I’ve found the Canadian equivalent in Vancouver.

Hope this helps, and see you at ECCC!