Conventional Confessions

A few personal thoughts about conventions and anxiety

It’s only a few weeks until the second TFNation convention and, as usual, I’m swinging between being super excited and super terrified.

Conventions like TFNation (and its predecessor of sorts, Auto Assembly) can be, and are, so, so much fun. But they’re also the perfect opportunity for an over-thinking brain like mine to trigger a lot of anxious thoughts.

It’s a battle. And if you let your anxiety get the better of you, and you convince yourself to not go if you’ve been planning to, you will lose out on a lot more than you realise.

Last year’s TFNation was such a fantastic weekend. I very nearly didn’t go. I very nearly missed out on such a fun time. But I was determined to not let my anxious thoughts get the better of me. It was a battle I’m glad I won.

But, saying all that, I have a few confessions. I want to share with you a few times I let my anxious thoughts get the better of me when it came to the convention experience.

Conventional Confessions:

  • I didn’t go to Auto Assembly 2015 (the final one) because I let my anxiety get the better of me
  • I didn’t go to Auto Assembly 2014 because I let my anxiety get the better of me
  • I didn’t go to the London Film and Comic Con in 2014, despite really, really wanting to finally meet Bob Budiansky because I let my anxiety get the better of me
  • I didn’t go to Auto Assembly 2012 because I let my anxiety get the better of me. And this was an expensive one, as I’d already pre-booked/paid for my ticket and hotel
  • I did go to Auto Assembly 2013 but I didn’t go up to speak to guest Stephen Baskerville (who had illustrated a brilliant commission for me previously and was kind enough to colour it for me at no extra charge) and I felt terrible for not even thanking him in person because I let my anxiety get the better of me
  • Also at Auto Assembly 2013 (my first one at the Hilton Metropole) I skipped the hotel breakfast each morning and walked to the Starbucks on the other side of the NEC to eat alone because I let my anxiety get the better of me
  • At Auto Assembly 2008 I had to ask a friend to go up to Guido Guidi to ask for a couple of sketches because I let my anxiety get the better of me
  • At TFNation 2016 I turned down an invitation to go for an evening meal because I let my anxiety get the better of me

I could go on, but I won’t.

I really don’t know what was different about TFNation in 2016, but I really didn’t want to add to the long list of convention regrets in my mind. I was determined to go, just as I am determined to go this year. (Bob Budiansky is a guest… I thought he’d never get the opportunity to return to the UK after 2014.)

I wanted to put these “confessions” out there because I know from my interactions on Twitter that anxiety can put off a lot of people either going to conventions or making the best of them.

Don’t let your anxious thoughts get the better of you, like I have done on so many occasions.

From my own experience last year, TFNation is an excellent convention. It’s smoothly run. The organisers and volunteers are all approachable. It’s a safe and relaxed and inclusive environment. Yes, it’s busy, and cliques and groups of friends chatting do tend to form but I am sure nobody at all would mind if you said hello.

The guests are usually brilliant; happy to chat and answer (sensible) questions about their work on Transformers.

Anxiety is a barrier at conventions and while it can be difficult or even near impossible to break it down, it is very much worth it.

Start small. Ask a question (How was your journey here? Which toys are you looking for? Which guest are you most excited to meet?) and you’ll soon find yourself on the other side of that barrier and, hopefully, enjoying yourself!

I will be at TFNation for the entire weekend this year. If you see me (and you want to), come up and say hi. I can’t promise it won’t be awkward or excruciating as utter gibberish falls out of my mouth but, hey, it’ll be fun. Probably!

I’ll be handing out some free Inky Bauds bookmarks and postcards to anyone who would like them. That’s gonna be my way to break through the barrier, my ice breaker if you will.

See you there!

May your luster never dull, and your wires never cross.

— Graham (@inkybauds)

8 Thoughts

  1. What a great post!
    I never went to AA at all, because none of my friends were into TFs and I was far too scared to go alone. I always said “Someday” and then there was no more AA and I was just disgusted with myself. When I heard about TFN it was like getting a second chance. I booked my ticket, hotel and flights in about twenty minutes, trying my best not to think about what I was doing. I sat back in my chair afterward, thinking “Well… I guess I’m going to Birmingham…”
    Two weeks before TFN, I was at Dublin Comic Con with my brother when I spotted James Roberts. I actually froze to the spot and my brother had to lift me from the ground and haul me over there. “How are you going to handle all the people at TFN,” he said, “If you can’t speak to one here on your home turf?” James was lovely, of course. I was grateful not to have passed out in front of him.
    I tried my best at TFN. On the Thursday evening, I went to see Suicide Squad (a movie I didn’t really want to see in the first place) because I thought a group might be less intimidating than trying to strike up a one-on-one conversation. Those guys were all so lovely, it really made me less worried about the rest of the weekend. They were very welcoming and warm right from the start.
    I did chicken out of approaching a few people I recognized because they were with friends and I didn’t want to intrude. But I’ll try harder this year!
    I just hope no one is put off approaching me because my default expression is a slight frown. I’m not annoyed about anything, I’m just thinking!
    Sorry for the long comment and thanks for posting this. I really hope I’ll get to meet you this year!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent post, as ever, Graham.
    I started going to AA in 2013. Having been to TransForce in days gone by, I was tempted but always thought Birmingham was too far/expensive to go on my own (a conceit – I didn’t have the guts to just do it) and didn’t have friends in the community I could share the journey/accommodation with – I know I missed out, and I regret it.
    You were one of the first faces I saw back in 2013, and although I couldn’t recall your name I knew that we had the old TransMasters group in common (while others of you created, I lurked, I think I only ever posted once!). I saw you again last year, and, as is typical for me, we made eye contact, exchanged nods and then carried on doing what we had been doing.
    Despite my having read much of your TransMasters fiction, subscribed to your Hubris and Polaris ‘zines (iss.5-20!) and having chatted by e-mail, briefly, I still could not bring myself to ‘interrupt’ you, nor have I ‘imposed’ upon you for a postcard.
    A few years ago I started to regularly listen to some of the transformers related podcasts out there, this enlightened me to the community ‘out-there’, and enticed me to make that first trip to AA.
    Although I detest the sound of my recorded voice (do I really sound like that? yuck!), I have now made a few brief ‘appearances’ and annotate a weekly show, and consider many of those voices I heard ‘back-then’ to be friends and many others to be friendly acquaintances (the differentiation being another conceit, to satisfy the demons of social awkwardness).
    At TFN last year I re-connected with these friends, having made the effort to actually meet some of them the year before, but in a disappointingly withdrawn way – another regret.
    This year WILL be different, I will have my teenage nephew around for much of the weekend and I cannot inflict my insecurity on another generation.
    Sorry, that’s so long, but your words inspired, see you in 3 weeks.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This just goes to show that you never know what’s happening under the bonnet. You’re such a bright feature of my Twitter feed that I assumed that … well, you know … that your head looked up to you the way I do.

    I think I’m double-booked for the weekend of TFNation but i intend to go on the Friday with two nephews and I would love for you to keep us company. Why don’t we meet up on the Friday? You can go off and do what you want, but you can also take us to meet those artists that you want to say hi to. And if the anxiety decides to make life hard for you, leave me to make the introductions 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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