My husband has been reading The Book. Every time he laughs it feels like a hundred bees are trying to escape out of the corners of my mouth (in a good way!), but in between laughs, the brain weasels burrow their way in and set up shop in my head to dispense fears like gumballs:
What if it’s so bad he throws up a tiny bit?
What if it’s so bad he has to do that thing where he grits his teeth and tells me he really likes the font I used because that’s the only good thing about the book?
What if it’s so bad he falls asleep while reading it? (This fear is not unfounded; when we were first dating he asked me to read aloud the book I wrote for my senior thesis, but every time I started, he fell asleep.)
What if it’s so bad he has to rip up every sheet of paper and eat each individual piece to ensure a physical copy of it will no longer exist in the world? And then what if he discovers he’s developed a taste for paper and it becomes like a whole paper-eating thing?
What if it’s so bad he divorces me?
What if it’s not funny?
What if it’s not funny? This one’s on here twice because that’s how strongly the fear permeates every part of my being. My dumb brain tells me that if I can’t make people laugh, then I have nothing to offer.
What if it’s too funny, at the expense of plot?
What if it’s so bad he straight-up dies?
What if the pacing’s bad, the hook uninteresting, the diction uninspired, the plot confusing, the characters two-dimensional, the theme trite, the tone self-indulgent, the whole thing such an insult to the written word that the universe itself conspires to exorcise itself of this monstrosity by whisking the entire house away in a tornado that carries it 1,088 miles southeast to the Bermuda Triangle and none of us is ever heard from again? WHAT THEN?
What if he’s lying and doesn’t actually like the font I used? It’s Book Antiqua! I just prefer it to Times New Roman! I can change it! I’ll change it right now! I’m so sorry!
I try to remind the weasels that this is very low stakes. Bill is legally required to like everything I write (and to offer me a bite of whatever he’s eating—unless it’s a banana, the devil’s fruit. It’s in our post-nup [that’s what I call the slightly rumpled paper towel to which I periodically add stipulations, such as “Bill agrees to give Carrie all the leftover Sour Patch Kids from Halloween.” I cannot overstate how poorly it would hold up in court. It’s not even signed. It’s just a list of demands from a crazy person]).
But the brain weasels are persistent, and ubiquitous. And so I would like to humbly offer a few suggestions you can use to quiet your own weasels, if only for a brief moment:
Have you tried just not having self-doubt? You should try it sometime; it really helps.
Recite an encouraging mantra to yourself, for instance: I AM A PERSON. WHO IS PRETTY GOOD AT SEVERAL THINGS. AND EVEN IF I AM NOT SUPER-GREAT AT ANY ONE THING, I AM STILL. A PERSON. WHO DESERVES…THINGS. You know. Something like that. Keep it light and snappy.
Turn some music up so loud you can’t hear the brain weasels anymore. Then just scream and scream and scream.
Try burning a weasel in effigy. Not a real one, of course—think of the smell! And the various animal cruelty, environmental, and public health violations!
Embrace the weasel within. Get yourself one of these weasel onesies (unless you already own one), practice your weasel squeaks and trills and barks and hisses, then dig yourself a nice, cozy burrow where you can spend the whole winter warm and safe from those terrible, fearsome owls. The brain weasels will never think to look for you there.