Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Monday, September 10, 2007

On Worrying (Again)

It was about four years ago that I bumped into him for the first time—a mousy man with stooped shoulders and an ingratiating smile. Smelling faintly of cheese, he shuffled across the empty street corner and grabbed my shoulder with his soft accountant-like hands.

“It’s all there for the taking,” he whispered, his eyes gleaming with secret mirth.

“What’s all there for the taking?” I asked. “And have been eating Cheetos or something? You smell like a can full of Cheese-whizz”

“Money, fame, fortune,” he cackled, rubbing his hands across the front of his shirt and leaving orange stains on the white fabric. “It’s all here. All in these so-called “middle-grade” fantasy novels. Everything you could ever hope for.”

He slapped a book with the picture of a kid in an Atlanta Braves cap into my hands and scurried away.

Over the years I saw him more and more; terrifying random women on the street shouting something about somewhere in time, predicting a falcon would fly to the bowl, searching aimlessly for the nearest Waffle House. It wasn’t until last year that he apparently got medication and signed a contract with the successful publisher Shadow Mountain that I began having lunch with the man and realized he was actually a dang good writer and an even better friend.

Check out his website at and also his great blog at

(Coincidentally, I am in his hometown of Norcross, GA today and he has volunteered to guest blog. By the way. No matter what he says to the contrary, he copied his whole blog from Kerry because he couldn’t think of anything.)
By James “Cheeseman” Dashner

Jeffrey S. Savage (the “S” stands for Sacajawea) asked me to do something that is apparently called a “Guest Blog.” Being relatively new to the blogging craze, I didn’t feel worthy at first to do such a thing. But then I remembered that in all things I am better than Jeff, so I agreed to do it.

Then I was told that apparently I needed a “Topic.” I wasn’t in the mood to come up with a topic, and at first this troubled me. But then I remembered I could probably say the first 500 words that pop in my head, be it “frankincense” or “bunny” or “loquacious” or “chopstick” or, my all-time favorite, “poo”, and it would come out sounding more intelligent than Jeff. And he does this once a week. I’ll be okay.

So here we go. My topic is Gastrointestinal Discomfort.

But wait, before we get there, say the word “topic” ten times out loud. Seriously, do it. Then do it again. What a stupid word! Topic. Topic. Topic. Actually, it sounds like a gastrointestinal disease. (I know, the irony failed to escape me, too.)

Anyway, onto the topic at hand.

I have this weird problem lately. A few times a day, my stomach gets all tight and I feel like I can’t breathe very well. Sometimes it turns into needle pinprick pains, as if a small dwarf with very sharp nails is living in my stomach and wants to get out. I have an appointment scheduled to go see the doctor. But that’s not really the point.

The point is that I think I have this problem because of stress. I think maybe it’s an ulcer. (Well, that or it’s the small dwarf, but I don’t really believe in dwarves, especially the kind that live inside your stomach. I mean, how would he breathe for one thing? Plus, why would a dwarf want to live in my stomach? Talk about grossies. No, I definitely do NOT think it’s a dwarf.)

So why am I stressed? It’s not really my job, though the last month or so has been busy. It’s not my family, because I have a wonderful wife and 4 kids who never complain or do anything wrong. I’m exercising pretty well and although I eat terribly, I drink lots of juice which should balance things out. What’s wrong with me?

I’ll tell you what it is. It’s being an author.

It’s killing me! I love it with every cell in my body, but it stresses me out, man! I don’t get it, but being an author stresses me more than anything else I’ve ever experienced. I think about it constantly, and when I say “think” I actually mean “worry” and that’s not a good thing.

I worry about the next scene in my book. I worry about plotlines and plot holes. I worry about the cover art for my next book. What if it’s hideous? What if kids look at it and say, “Please, Mom, swear to me that you’ll never make me read that stupid, stupid book!” I worry about what other authors will think of my writing. I worry about sales. I worry about speaking events. I worry about annoying the people at my publisher.

I worry. Far too much. And it makes something that should be a wonderful thing a not-so-wonderful thing. And as Jeff would say, “Rigormortis tell a banking garden cop.” (Sorry, I told you most of what he says doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Let me translate: That’s not good.)

I know, you probably think I’m a psycho. And perhaps I am. I have potentially great things on the horizon in my writing career and I should be enjoying every single minute of it. But I worry too much. And it’s killing me.

But let me end on a positive note. I committed recently to change this. I committed to enjoy the ride and be thankful, every day, for what I have been blessed with. I committed to enjoy the journey. And I’m doing much, much better.

This applies to all of us, to all things. When you go to bed tonight, close your eyes and list all the gifts you should be thankful for. Take a deep breath in between each one. Pull a “It’s a Wonderful Life” and try to imagine life without each of those things on your list.

Breathe deeply. Be thankful. Enjoy the ride.

I promise to do so. Will you?


At 9/10/2007 5:22 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Loved the blog, no matter what Jeff and Rob say about it.

It's so true that we writers always find something to worry about. I need to print out your advice to be grateful and enjoy the ride and hang it on my fridge. Or tape it to my computer.

At 9/10/2007 5:42 PM, Blogger Heather B. Moore said...

What kind of juice? Cranberry juice might be a cause. (It's on the warning list for nursing mothers . . . not that you're a nursing mother, but it can transfer to babies and create colic.) I had a friend who drank maybe a gallon of OJ a day. He became quite ill after a time. His doctor said he was OD-ing on Vitamin C.

At 9/10/2007 6:22 PM, Blogger Jon said...

And then, of course, there's IBS - stress can induce it.

(Little did he know that Jeff was telling his students all sorts of things about him in class.)

At 9/10/2007 7:33 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

Yeah, orange juice can wreck your kidneys if you get too much.

Or it could be your gallbladder.

Or it could be your pancreas.

But I wouldn't worry about all that . . .

At 9/10/2007 7:44 PM, Blogger Marsha Ward said...

Poor James!

Or that could be pour James, if you're overdoing it on the juice.

In any case, great blog. Thanks for the reminder to be grateful.

At 9/10/2007 10:55 PM, Blogger Josi said...

I think it's a tumor.

I'm never sure what to think when authors more successful than myself admit to feeling like I do--though mine just might be a dwarf, there was something funny in that batch of potato salad at Chuck-a-Rama--but I'm never sure whether I should be releaved that someone else feels this way, or be scared to death because I have no hope of it getting better. Than again, maybe I should take your advice and stop worrying about it completely. I've never tried that one.

At 9/11/2007 9:13 AM, Anonymous marlene said...

Have you thought that it might be some kind of neuropathy? I mean your brain can trick your body into thinking you're feeling pain anywhere it wants to...

Strange that this should come up again. I had my own kind of break through yesterday when, after a couple of months of working on marketing,starting to set up a site and checking DB at least five times daily, I finally got back to actually writing. It was great! It was slow; I had to use the theasarus every other word and I'd even lost a couple of pages having changed computers twice just before the marketing episodes, but writing just erased a lot of the clutter and worry, and I only looked at DB twice. Thus I learned that for me if I find the triggers to the anxiety I can do away with a lot of it quite easily.

I also make sure I read somebody else's book before I try to sleep. I'll try thinking of the good gifts too.

Thanks for the blog and the ideas

At 9/11/2007 10:33 AM, Blogger James Dashner said...

It was an honor to blog, even if only once, on the greatest blog with the word "frog" in it since 1963.

You guys are great. Josi, if it really is a tumor, man oh man you're gonna feel bad. Can't wait to rub it in. Wait a minute, scratch that.

If anyone noticed, my own blog had technical difficulties yesterday. It's back and restored. Let's just say someone accidentally deleted it . . . . .

Heather, I wouldn't drink cranberry juice if it were offered after a three day hike in the Sahara. Yucky. I was kinda being facetious about the juice thing anyway. I just need to eat better.

Thanks for letting me blog!

At 9/11/2007 1:06 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

You know it's actually much more amusing to say gastrointestinal discomfort ten times fast.

BTW, way to hit the big time of frog blogs just when your entire blog goes down. I really wanted evryone to see how I made you list of favorite people. Oh wait . . .

At 9/11/2007 1:28 PM, Blogger James Dashner said...

Hey, I didn't say everyone who was on the list. You'll just have to be left to wonder.

Needless to say, I freaked out yesterday when the entire blog was deleted. And no, it wasn't me. Luckily my sister saved the day.

At 9/15/2007 1:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good luck! And I happen to love cranberry juice.


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