ConFusion: Just Like Starting Over

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 6.03% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

ConFusion is a weirdly stressful con for me, because my time is split.
See, when Steve Gutterman first invited me to Penguicon back in 2005, I showed up alone.  I had a webcomic I’d just started six weeks ago, no stories published, and no real concept of what a con was.  So I went not as a Big Writer Guest, but as a scared novice con attendee hoping to find friends.
I found them.  Brilliant ones.  I remember going on long solitary walks around the loop of the hotel, feeling ridiculously lonely and plucky, enduring my social anxiety bells of “No one wants to talk to you” until I stumbled across a conversation that seemed interesting that I could join in.  I made twenty-minute friends – I’d join in a chat about some movie or website, the conversation would go wonderfully, and then people would wander off.
But by the end of the con, I’d go out on what I was already terming my Lonely Patrol – and people started to know me.  I’d get hailed by Randy or Kat or Alexa, and we’d go find other people, and then we friended each other on LiveJournal, and by the next con I was still on Lonely Patrol but those patrols were shorter.  And as I kept going to Michigan cons, I had tons of buddies to see.
And then I became a Writer person, with short stories and readings and whatnot, and found that the writers are all in the bar – and I want to see them!  They’re also wonderful people, all these fellow scribes!  They’re troves of Weird Shit, because you don’t become a sci-fi writer without acquiring weird anecdotes that you’ve turned into Story.  And when I go to a place like World Fantasy or WorldCon, the only people I’ve ever met at those places are fellow writers, so when I hang at the bar meeting people, that’s the most exciting part of the con.
Except at ConFusion, the writer-buddies are in the bar, and my con-buddies are off at the room parties.
So I gotta split my time, and never quite feel like I get enough time with either.  I had real issues with that in the last ConFusion, because I didn’t know which faction to choose, and felt like I was always choosing the wrong one.  It stressed me out all weekend.
For this one, though, I decided to be calm; whoever I hang out with, I hang out with.  Yes, I’d like to meet Sam Sykes to the point where he’d know who the hell I am, because he’s someone who’s pretty damn amusing on Twitter… but if I get a different dinner invitation, well, I’ll miss out on that.
And that was pleasantly serene, because by chance ConFusion was largely about catching up with all the old con-friends.  I sat down for almost two hours with my dear friend Sheryl.  I had a lovely evening meeting up with Alexa and her new wife.  I caught up with Hope, and Nick and Vascha, and spent less time in the writers’ bar than I’d like to.
Which was fine.  Robert Jackson Bennett said the other day that he’s basically given up on going to cons to promote his writing, he’s just going to hang with other writers.  And I have other cons for that.  WorldCon and World Fantasy are where I can both drink affably and make buddies with writers because hell, that’s pretty much what’s on the menu.
I dunno.  Here’s where I maybe get uncomfortably honest, and I’m actually humiliated to admit this, but fuck, that’s pretty much my schtick on this blog, isn’t it?
I have this weird feeling like whenever I do a con, I must emerge with deep friendships with three different writers Or I Have Wasted My Career.  Which is just some bullshit feeling placed there from years of How To Do Bizness tutorials… or, now that I reflect upon it, the fact that my highschool-damaged psyche views writers as The Cool Kids, and if enough of them like me then I will be magically healed of all my insecurities.
And that places a pressure on me that’s ludicrous.  I’ve thankfully avoided the smarmy tendency to view people as though I were some sort of fucked-up Pokemon trainer and instead forged genuine connections – but there are times I’ve been having a beautiful conversation with friends and had that back-of-the-mind whisper of, you know these people already, you should be getting to know new people, isn’t that the point of coming here?
No.  No, it isn’t.
The point is enjoying what I’ve got – which has never been a strength of mine.
Look, as a writer, I’ve never really gotten ahead thanks to connections.  Mostly, it’s been, “Did you write a good story this week?”  If the shit I write is good enough it’ll haul itself over the transom, and if not, then no amount of networking will save me.
And I have no idea whether this feeling of Go Make Connections is just me, or something that other writers feel.  But whether it’s personal or universal, it’s toxic.  Toxic personally.  I mean, I’ve never friended a writer because he was on some checklist of mine, thank God, but I need to stop feeling like a failure whenever I don’t friend someone in the industry.  I’m always at a tug-of-war between my big floppy dog instincts of “I love everyone” and these Borgian undertones of “join my collective,” and it’s time to unleash my inner Picard.  I mean, the good Picard.  Not that schmuck who got Borgified.
ConFusion was where I left those instincts behind, and just hung with whoever and strangled my inner Middle School Kid.  (Which is always a positive experience, really.  That kid is needy.)  And I did hang with some awesome writers, and had some stellar conversations with them, too… and that’s the way it should be, prioritizing whoever is fun to talk to.  But chatting with the people who literally inspired my love of cons reminded me of how awesome it was to let all of those expectations of what I should accomplish go, and just be.
As Myke Cole once put it, there is no amazing writer-party.  There is merely an amazing party, with many guests, and you should dance with whoever’s got the best tunes.
Maybe I’d have a couple of new friends on Twitter this morning if I’d done the Networking Thing.  Those friendships wouldn’t be half as good as the ones I rekindled this weekend.  And the reason they wouldn’t is because the friendships I’ve got are organic creations of pure Love, created out of desire and not obligation, and thank God I’ve always lent my ear to those better instincts.
Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a party on Twitter I need to join.

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