Hello all my wonderful debuts! Today, we're talking about a thing that is, as far as I can tell, ubiquitous for debut authors (and maybe all authors forever):
The dreaded Debut Anxiety. It takes you over, makes you think nothing but spiraling, negative thoughts, and ruins all the good feelings you SHOULD be having. Like "yay, I wrote a book and it's getting published!" Instead you'll think, "What if everyone hates my book? What if it gets the lowest star rating on Goodreads? What if Kirkus says it sucks?"
And around and around you go, until you're lying face-down on your floor in the dark, scrolling through tumblrs full of sad kittens.
So what can we do about the dreaded Debut Anxiety? Well, some simple stuff. Obviously, if you already have a diagnosed anxiety or depressive disorder, this is something you should be talking to your IRL therapist about. But in the event that you are without a preexisting diagnosis and you have situational anxiety that's making you miserable, I have a technique that just might help you out!
Okie dokie friends, first we're going to talk about thought errors (aka cognitive distortions, if we're being FaNcY). What are thought errors? Exactly what they sound like. Thought errors are erroneous ways of thinking that can make you spiral into anxiety and/or depression. They're called errors because they are INCORRECT and UNTRUE! They're lies your brain tells itself because your brain is a masochist and loves to torment itself.
Here is a list of ten thought errors. There are more than ten, but these are the most common (links at the bottom of this post), and a lot (if not all) of them are going to be things you've caught yourself thinking before.
All-Or-Nothing Thinking (aka Polarized Thinking): Life exists in only black and white. There are no shades of gray. Something is either good or bad. A NYT bestselling success or an abysmal failure, nothing in between.
Overgeneralization This one small incident happens, and now I'm going to apply this to everything. I got one two-star review, which means everyone is going to think my book is terrible and they'll hate it.
Filtering These negative things? Yeah, that's all I'm going to focus on. I'm going to gather up these negative things, I'm going to glue rhinestones and sparkles to them, I'm going to put them on a pedestal within the Louvre of my mind and just keep walking circles around them, taking pictures and ooh-ing.
Mind-Reading (aka Jumping to Conclusions) I emailed my editor about something, and she didn't email me back yet. It's been 24 entire hours. She hates me. I know she does. She hates me and she's talking about how annoying I am to the entire publicity team right now.
Fortune-Telling (aka Jumping to Even More Conclusions) If I ask my editor to send me to a convention, the answer is going to be no, so I might as well not even ask at all.
Fairness Fallacy My book is so layered and deep and the prose is tight and it's amazing. Meanwhile, Shelly McWritesalot's book isn't even that good but her deal is bigger than mine. How is that fair??
Labeling I forgot to send my publicity team a thank-you gift for my book's launch, so I'm a horrible, thoughtless person.
Catastrophizing (aka Magnification) IF THIS BOOK DOESN'T HIT LIST I'M NEVER GOING TO BE ABLE TO SELL ANOTHER BOOK TO ANYONE BECAUSE EVERYONE WILL THINK I'M A BAD WRITER AND I'LL HAVE TO GET A JOB FLOSSING CROCODILE TEETH AT THE ZOO.
Personalization Someone subtweeted something. I know it's about me. I'm not going to ask them or say anything, though. I'm just going to sit over here and stew in my bad feelings.
Unreal Ideal (aka Shoulda Woulda Coulda) I write YA fantasy, and so does Bob Writesenstein, but he puts out two books a year I struggle to do one. I should be able to write faster, like Bob.
Do any of those sound familiar? OF COURSE THEY DO! You can also see how some of these could be easily justified by an anxious brain, and how some of them go hand-in-hand with others, and how they are all nasty and don't help at all.
So what can we do?
I'm glad you asked!