Can*Con 2018 After Action Report

This isn’t so much a detailed account of last week’s Can*Con, but more a meditation on resetting yourself mentally and physically, as a creative person.

Most people wouldn’t know this (which was deliberate on my part) but I was dealing with some heavy family stuff a week before Can*Con. Once everything around that was sorted, I jetted back to Ottawa to play catch-up on teaching work and the hundred or so little things that needed to be done before the con opened – like preparing to interview a GoH, and for my other panels, and worrying about details because obviously I want the weekend to go off as smoothly as possible, so everyone has a good time. Since Evan May and I took an even larger role on Programming this year, there was an extra level of concern about panels being well-received, etc, and somehow one-upping the excellent programming our team put together last year.

The weird thing, though, was the calm that settled over me during Can*Con. The event didn’t run perfectly (obviously – no event does) but whenever something came up that needed to be dealt with, it was a simple matter to give direction to one of our volunteers or accept that it was something out of my hands (like a presenter not showing up, for example). A large part of that is knowing we had a team put together to deal with anything that might happen – our co-chairs were on top of certain things, Evan and I could handle certain things, and our volunteers dealt with everything else. A friend of mine even commented on how much calmer I seemed compared to 2017, and for a moment I was worried that maybe I was too calm. But no – I was too frenetic in the past, and this year I reached my equilibrium.

(Which was helped by the fact that Can*Con 2018 was fucking awesome. Our GoHs were a blast, my panels were a lot of fun, and I got to chat and geek out with a ton of colleagues and old friends who I don’t get to see as often as I’d like. I could go on and on, but like I said, that’s not really the point of this post.)

That said, I crashed pretty hard after Can*Con, and have been fighting off con crud since Tuesday. And obviously I couldn’t take any time off to properly relax, since I sort of teach and stuff. If I’m honest, the important thing this week was less playing catch-up on teaching work, and more wrapping my head around what’s next for me as a writer – every Can*Con results in new projects, and holy shit is there some super-secret levelling up going on in my career right now (*cough* vaguebooking *cough*). I mean, part of attending cons (and helping organize one) is to advance my career, but you don’t actually expect anything to happen, if you’re realistic. So when it does, you need to recalibrate, and try not to freak out.

Which explains why the other night, when I sat down at my laptop to finally get some writing done after three weeks of not, I froze. And then I wrote a couple lines over and over, hating every try, until I gave up and went to bed. Which almost never happens to me. Maybe it was fatigue, maybe I’d spent too long away from my writing and needed to get back to it slowly. Or maybe I freaked myself out a bit.

The worst thing to do in that moment, I think, is to force it. So I spent Saturday doing some more teacher catch-up, which helped my brain relax a bit more because I don’t like to be behind. Then I played some Pillars of Eternity, continued my rewatch of The Good Wife, made a solid dinner, puttered about my apartment, and listened to music. And let myself really relax, which I realized I hadn’t done since Can*Con, despite being sick.

And then this morning I went to my local to write with a couple friends, as per usual. We chatted a bit about things related to my maybe freaking out, and then we all got to work. I spent the time revising a comic script I’m working on for an anthology, while I blasted Eagles through my headphones, and sent it off for critique. And for whatever reason, that seemed to fix my headspace. I don’t know if it was relaxing yesterday that did it, or just getting back into the routine of my usual Sunday writing, but I imagine it’s a combination of letting my brain and body reset. I push myself a little too hard sometimes, and so I’m learning to pay closer attention when either brain or body telling me, Slow the hells down, dude.

Events like Can*Con are huge when they go well, offering a healthy dose of creative energy by being surrounded and inspired by your peeps. But it’s easy to get spun around by the sheer awesomeness of it all, too, and forget to decompress.  We joke that getting back to the grind after a con sucks, but I think we need the grind to keep us level.

Or maybe I’m still spinning and none of this blog post makes any sense. Either way, I wrote some things today and my con crud is almost gone, and I’m not scrambling to get work done for tomorrow’s classes. So let’s call this an extended win from Can*Con 2018, and go relax a little more 🙂

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