I've been doing this for well over 20 years now, this writing for money thing. And yet, the moment of letting go remains terrifying for me.
It happens every single time. I finish an article, a book, a press release. I put it into an email for an editor to look at, or a scientist to review; I post it on a website for the world to read. And then, with almost as much inevitability as my next breath, comes the panic.
Sometimes it's brief--a blip, an extra heartbeat, maybe a catch in my throat. Sometimes, though, it nips at me for hours, on and off. Today's was a true nipper. I sent off a press release to the scientists about whom I was writing, asking for their changes and comments. It was a good release, I was sure of it. Well, not sure. Fairly sure. As sure as I ever am.
But then, half an hour or so passed, and the doubt started creeping in. I rarely hear back quickly; scientists are busy doing science, most of the time, and it often takes hours for them to be in a place where they're ready and able to review a document. But surely--my brain hissed at me--one time, the delay will mean more than that. One time, my brain said, it will be because they hate what you've written, think you're an idiot. One time, it will be because you got it all wrong, misunderstood the entire study. Who do you think you are, anyway? Like you couldn't get it wrong? Like you're so smart?
And just like that, the panic set in. It followed me on a walk to a restaurant to meet with a writer; it jabbed at me while we ate, then followed me back to my office. Where there were no emails in my inbox from the scientists in question. And so it jabbed away some more while I tried to do some other tasks...jab, jab, jab...until I finally gave in and contrived an excuse to email them again, asking if they'd received my initial mail, you know how these campus email servers are, just wanted to check, no pressure, no rush.
And received a response within an hour telling me what a great job I'd done on the release, how there were only a couple of very small changes, thanks for all your work.
So dumb. So unnecessary. So classic me.
Last night was the worst, though. I'd posted a press release online--a release already approved by several scientists, as well as gone over by some copy editors. It was after midnight--I'd needed to get it up on the site asap for reasons that are too boring and complicated to go into--and I was working on my laptop, in bed, ready to roll over and go to sleep once this task was done. All I did was copy, paste, fill in a form, and push a 'submit' button.
But as soon as that was done, the terror swooped in. As planned, I'd put the laptop on the night table, turned off the light, and slid under the covers. And then my heart started to pound. What if I'd pushed the wrong button, posted it in the wrong place? Surely, somewhere in that release was a mistake, a big mistake, a life-altering error, something I was bound to regret. In a release. A press release. About subduction zones. (No, it's not only you. The panic made no sense to me either. But, of course, that defines panic, that non sense.)
I timed it. It took more than 45 minutes for my heart to stop thudding, for my finger and cheeks to stop tingling, for my chest to loosen up. I was asleep within minutes, after that.
This is what I love doing, mind you. I love writing. I love learning about all sorts of really cool scientific findings and then telling other people why they're really cool. I'm good at it. I know it in my heart, my gut.
Now someone just needs to convince my brain.