Anxiety dreams and other perils of Deadlines

This morning, on the book of faces, one of my author friends shared that she had had a horrifying nightmare: she had arrived at conference with only the clothes she was standing up in. No frock for the dinner, no change of undies and worst of all, no costume for the cocktail party!

I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a writing conference with several hundred other women, but this is definitely nightmare material!  Not so much for me, admittedly. I am a big fan of finding an outfit that works and buying it in several colours and I’m a bit crap at costumes, but some of the girls go all out, especially on the costumes.

But of course, this nightmare was not really about clothes, but about deadlines – and those nightmares I understand all too well.


Debspoons created this pic for
(click for link). She’s a bit blonde to be me and I have a dog,
not a cat, but the expression fits!

See, I am one of those people who need deadlines.  I’d love not to be.  I’d love to be the kind of person who works steadily every day, come rain, hail or shine and who is never distracted by the internet, shiny things, books or lunch.

But I’m not.  I am a world-class avoider of that which is hard and scary and writing is both, so the whip-crack of an imminent deadline is a necessary spur to my creative endeavour.

Lately, I’ve had several.  Deadlines, that is (which is also partly why the blog was neglected; mea culpa and sorry!).  I had to rewrite a book (thoroughly, including many thousands of completely new words), edit the same book and I am currently running to try to finish another before I go to the RWA annual conference in… no, sorry, not calculating the number of days.  Too soon, put it that way!  A dread lurgy took two full weeks out of an already tight schedule, so I’m really under the lash now.

With the result that I’m also deep into anxiety dream territory.  Being a deadline-addict, a perfectionist and a closet worry-wort, I have built quite the repertoire of these, over the years and in the interests of sharing (and possibly making you feel less of an idiot, if you have them too), I thought I’d share some of my favourites.


This little girl (who looks quite startingly similar to me at that age)
is a stock image from the wondrous resource that is Click on the pic for a link.

Let’s begin with an old faithful, the ‘I’ve missed my exam’ dream.  This stems from my years of study and is experienced as much in the waking as the sleeping.  This is the one you have when you have a plane to catch, or a call to make that must be done by a particular time.  It is characterised by sudden waking, drenched in sweat, with heart racing and utter, utter conviction that you have overslept, missed your morning exam and therefore failed some desperately important subject.  The horror of this is so deeply ingrained that I sometimes fall back on it, even now, and it has been many, many years since I was in any formal education.  I have, on occasion, been so horrified by this dream that I have needed to get up and go and check my calendar to remind myself that I am NOT ACTUALLY STUDYING ANYTHING to bring my heart rate back to normal.

Then there are the occasion-specific ones, like in the days leading up to my wedding, when I dreamed that I was in the back of the church, with the guests all seated and I was still in my dressing gown.  Or that I discovered, two days before the wedding, that my husband-to-be was married with four children.  This one is a particular nod to my perfectionism, as what worried me in this dream was not the existence of the wife and kids so much as that, because no-one had told me, I hadn’t been able to organise a way around it.  (Are we scenting some control-freak issues here?)

My most common one in recent years, though, has been the ‘caught naked’ dream.  I don’t think you need a PhD in psychology to work out what this is about.  It’s fear of both deadlines and the work not being good enough.  Both of those are big enough fears to feature in my conscious mind – it’s hardly any wonder that they crop up in my dreams.  But I am sometimes a little concerned by both the number of times and the variety of ways I manage to be naked in public, in my dreams.

Take last night’s: in the middle of an otherwise ordinary dream, I found myself walking down a dark street in a rough neighbourhood wearing nothing but a baby-doll nightie.  The last time I owned a baby-doll nightie I was approximately 8 years old and I’m pretty sure that I have never ventured onto the street at night without shoes, much less without knickers.  Yet there I was, prancing down the street in an outfit that barely covered my naked bottom.  I’m sure there’s something here about covering one’s arse, but I prefer not to think about it too hard.  It may lead to taking a good hard look at my work practices and I’m not sure I’m ready for that. 😉

So, what about you?  Do you go in for anxiety dreams?  What do YOU end up leaving the house without?  Do tell – I need some company out here in bare-arsed land!