Who Does Lauren Oliver Think She Is? : On Fear, Writing, and ROOMS

Today, my first-ever adult novel, ROOMS hits the shelves. In some ways, it’s the closest thing I’ve had to a true debut since, well, my debut in 2010. Arguably, although I’ve done both middle grade (Liesl & Po, the Spindlers) and young adult (Before I Fall, the Delirium trilogy, Panic), the transition between those markets is less pronounced. If ROOMS is going to work, I have to not only satisfy at least a large portion of my old fans but attract a whole new kind of readership, people who have never heard of me, people who don’t care what else I’ve written, people who might even look down on the novels I’ve written in the past.

And I’m completely flipping terrified.

Fear is a funny thing. It’s both constructive—i.e., it serves a positive or useful purpose—and destructive. Fear is indicative. It gives us valuable information about situations or people to avoid (“not gonna get in the car with that stranger”; “probably shouldn’t go skiing drunk”). It’s basically emotional shorthand, allowing us to assess or intuit dangerous situations in a fraction of a second.

But it’s also prohibitive. The same bottom-of-the-belly, sweaty-palm, gnawing anxiety that kicks on when we consider doing something dumb also gets jump-started in other situations, often ones where we merely confront the unknown, unproven, and new. Fear can prevent us from starting new projects, launching new businesses, following our dreams, even straight-up just talking to the cutie at the bar.

So like I said, yeah, I’m terrified. And I’m also glad. To me, this is a sign that I’m still growing, still struggling, still trying to push myself and expand my own boundaries.

One of my all-time favorite negative Goodreads reviews once tore into me for attempting to write in so many different genres and for different age groups. The line that has stuck with me most clearly was: Who does Lauren Oliver think she is? Well, the answer to that is that I don’t know. I don’t know precisely who I am or what I’m capable of—I hope I’m constantly trying to answer those two questions, with greater and greater clarity, until the day I die.

So that’s where I’m at. I hope some of you read and love Rooms. I’m proud of this book and grateful for the opportunity not just to publish it, but to keep trying new things—things that absolutely scare the living crap out of me. :)

In a sort of panic he pushed the palms of his hands into his eyes and tried to bring up a picture of the waters lapping on Sherry Island and the moonlit veranda, and gingham on the golf-links and the dry sun and the gold color of her neck’s soft down. And her mouth damp to his kisses and her eyes plaintive with melancholy and her freshness like new fine linen in the morning.
—  F. Scott Fitzgerald, Winter Dreams

I’d like to invite you to create an anxiety management plan.

I’ve compiled a list of things in each topic that I’ve found particularly helpful. If you have additions, feel free to contribute via reblog or reply.

Something to touch:

  • Fleece blanket
  • Keys 
  • Necklace chain

Something to See:

  • Picture books
  • Photo Album
  • Digital folder of calming/comforting pictures
  • Puzzles

Something to Hear:

Something to Smell (if applicable):

  • Scented candles
  • Lotions
  • Certain objects in room (i.e. pillow, blanket, etc)

Something to Taste:

  • Mints
  • Hard Candies
  • Oral sensory objects

Calming Techniques and Other Stuff

  • Rocking - allows brain to re-hydrate; so-called “Instinctual” soothing method
  • Feel-Your-Seat - Quite literally. What are you sitting on? What does it feel like? How is your body responding to you sitting?
  • Belly-Breathing - Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. Take slow, deep breaths focusing on making sure your belly hand raises higher when you breathe in. Do this for seven counts.

Anyone have any more?