It’s weird because I usually feel like I’ve got things under control for the most part. Even when I’m stressed, at least I know what I have to do and feel confident in getting it all done. I’m usually nervous on the first day of class, which I have come to expect and I’m used to. That’s normal.
But lately the nerves have been out of control. More of a constant than an expected peak when circumstances arise. So, being the perpetual processer that I am, I’ve been trying to understand what’s going on with the nerves. Why do I have more nerves than usual? What, exactly, is making me nervous?
Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
Nerves mean you care. If I weren’t nervous about Under the Gum Tree, then I probably wouldn’t care about it as much as I do. I want it to be successful so badly that I worry about how people will react when they see it — will they like it enough to buy a copy? To subscribe? Will writers like it enough to want to submit for a chance to be included in a future issue?
Most of the time I brush these worries off as superficial attempts at trying to fit in. But the answer to those questions determine how successful the magazine will be. If people don’t like it, they won’t subscribe, and it won’t be self-sustaining. Not only that, but also it won’t impact anyone — and that’s the thing I really care about.
Nerves force excellence. If I weren’t nervous about Under the Gum Tree, I wouldn’t painstakingly look for stories and photographers and editors and designers to help make the magazine as best as it possibly can be. I wouldn’t hunt the web for the best possible solution to print-on-demand technology or write guest posts to promote it and spread the word about what the project is all about.
The nerves force me to double and triple check my work. My editors and I read each issue of the magazine a combined total of 10 times or more. It’s tiring. By the end of it my eyes hurt and my brain is mush. But I’m too nervous to not check the work two or three times, too nervous to try to skate by doing everything myself.
Nerves signal the the right path. If I weren’t nervous about the job I recently applied for, then what’s the point in applying? The nerves signal that maybe it is something worth considering. Maybe this opportunity is actually a big deal — and the nerves are the thing that tell me that.
I didn’t get the job. But you better believe I should have been nervous, because I was one of the top five candidates out of 150 applicants. And even though I didn’t get the job, the fact that I made it as far as I did validated so much of my work. It means that I’m doing right by my career with the projects that I choose to work on. It means that even though I haven’t had a job-job for five years, I’m still a viable candidate for a high-profile position in my field.
So when you’re nervous, think about the why. Nerves may mean some discomfort, but they’re usually there for a reason. And if you pay attention to them, they can help. Nerves just might be a good thing.
What about you? When was the last time you were really nervous about something? Can you see how maybe the nerves were actually a good thing?