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.
- 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)