I’m very excited to be working on the new Laser Moose and Rabbit Boy book, Spidermania, but it also presents an unusual challenge for me. There are a lot of spiders in this book, and I have been afraid of spiders for as long as I can remember. I do not like being in the same room as a spider. I even get a little freaked out when I’m drawing a spider. So I knew this book would be challenging. But then I found a way to make it even more challenging…
More To Explore
Every Laser Moose and Rabbit Boy book ends with a “More to Explore” section at the end that briefly covers an educational topic related to the book. For Spidermania, I thought, “Because I need to confront my fear of spiders while creating this book, I should write about how to confront your fears.” But then I would actually need to confront my fear of spiders, which I’m not entirely comfortable doing. Could I even do it? It would be a terrible ending for the book if I don’t succeed!
What am I afraid of?
I’ve read a bit about systematic desensitization, the process that cognitive psychologists sometimes use to help people confront their fears. The first step is to list the things that I am afraid of, in order, from least scary to most scary. Then I could start gradually trying to work my way down the list, putting myself into more and more challenging spider-related situations.
Here’s my list of spider-related fears (listed from not-so-scary to auuugh-very-scary):
- Talking about spiders.
- Looking at pictures of spiders.
- Watching videos of spiders.
- Being in the same room as a spider.
- Being in the same room as a very fast spider.
- Losing sight of the spider.
- Having a spider drop in front of me (on a web, for example)
- Getting a spiderweb in the face while walking.
- Catching a spider.
- Releasing a captive spider onto the floor.
- Releasing a captive spider out the window.
- Accidentally releasing a captive spider.
- Having the spider get on me while I’m trying to release it.
- Being bitten by a spider.
- Holding a spider in my hand.
- Having a spider walk on my arm.
- Having a spider walk on my face.
After creating this list, I wondered, “How far could I go in confronting my spider fears?” Am I really considering getting a tarantula to walk on me? Are we doing this? It would be a perfect ending for the book, right? But not if I throw the tarantula into the air and run away screaming. That would be very bad. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
Doug’s Spider Journal
According to systematic desensitization, I need to gradually confront my fears, starting with the easy ones. I decided to start a spider journal, to document my spider-related feelings and experiences, and here it is. I’ll add to it as I continue to work on Spidermania, and you’ll be able to follow me on my spider-confronting journey….
May 13, 2023. Giant Yellow Sac Spider
Giant yellow spider on the wall of the bedroom. Janet and I went away to identify the spider on the internet. When we returned, it was gone. Grrrreeeat.
May 16. Return of Giant Yellow Sac Spider
Found the spider on the wall in the bedroom again. I put a mason jar over it and poked a file folder in between the jar and the wall until the spider hopped into the jar. Took it to the kitchen and put the folder-jar jail on the counter, where Janet took photos and identified the spider as a giant yellow sac spider. What a terrifyingly evocative name! I took it out of the apartment and released it in the far stairwell at the end of the hall. It didn’t immediately hop out of the jar, so I had a scary moment where I almost grabbed the spider when I thought it had already left the jar. Heart-racing!
May 28. You’ve Got Spiders
I checked the mail and there was no mail but there was a giant spider in the mailbox! Probably a wolf spider. I took photos and waited for the spider to crawl out of the mailbox and I lost sight of it when it ran across the lobby into the potted plants.
June 13. Brady Bunch in Hawaii
Jean, my editor at Andrews McMeel, mentioned a tarantula scene from the Brady Bunch episode where they go to Hawaii. I just watched it and wow now I’m wondering if I saw this as a kid and this is the source of my spider phobia!
June 27. Throw Me the Idol
Watched tarantula scenes at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Poor Alfred Molina had to have all of those spiders on his back! You can see in his face that he is NOT acting. That’s real fear!
July 12. Spiders for Kids
Got a kids book about spiders from the library, What It’s Like To Be A Spider, by Jinny Johnson and illustrated by Desiderio Sanzi. Not too scary, but introduced me to the wonderful world of spider eggs.
July 16. 1:30 AM. Night of the Mouse Spider
Janet wakes me when she discovers a thick black spider scurrying across the ceiling in the kitchen. It was a very fast spider, and didn’t seem particularly afraid of us. Janet went to go look up the spider on the internet, and I decided that I couldn’t go back to sleep knowing that this little monster was running around the apartment. So I got out a footstool and a jar and a greeting card. I put the jar up against the ceiling, trapping the spider under it, and then I poked the greeting card under the edge of the jar. The spider fell into the jar and I held the card over the jar to keep it in there. Found a lid for the jar and trapped the spider. Took a ton of pictures. My best guess is that it was a mouse spider, named for its velvety brown fur. Who names these things??
I was going to leave the jar on the kitchen counter and deal with it in the morning, but Janet suggested that the cats might knock it down, so I took the jar out to the stairwell and released the spider. Thankfully, it quickly hopped out of the jar and scurried away, and didn’t leave any threads attaching it to the jar. My heart was racing!
July 18. This Is Really Happening
I signed the contract for the new book. So, this is really happening. The finality of signing the contract makes me wonder if I should just forget the whole confronting-your-fears thing, just in case it doesn’t work out. But that’s probably just the fear talking…
That’s all for now! I’ll add more spider adventures to this journal as I continue to work on the book, and on my fear of spiders!