The worst thing about anxiety is the way it holds you back from what you really want to do. Like, nails in your arms, heels dug in, growling in your ear that you’re not good enough or that you’re too weird holds you back. Like, cancelling plans at the last minute because the fear of unknowns is greater than the excitement of could-bes. Because even when something sounds incredible, even when it’s totally up your alley, even when it’s all that you want, anxiety says no.
For me, one of those things was public write-ins.
Specifically, I wanted to go to a local NaNoWriMo meet-up.
The closest I’d ever gotten was participating in my high school’s creative writing club, or heading to Barnes & Noble with a friend, and both of those involved writing alongside people I knew well in places I was already familiar with. Compared, the unknowns of writing with total strangers in a new place in a town I rarely visit and a store I never go to stacked up pretty damn high. And so, whenever November rolled around and my regional forum started to pile up with plans to meet here and there and write together, I would always post that I would try to make it and then ghost at the last second.
But I made a promise to myself at the start of 2017. A New Year’s Resolution, if you will.
DO MORE THINGS THAT SCARE YOU.
That promise was important to me. It was supposed to grow into a list of accomplishments I could rub in anxiety’s face the next time it reared its ugly head. So, I honored it. I may have had to psyche myself up all day, talked myself out of backing out as I got ready, and had a minor anxiety attack in the car outside Panera Bread, but I honored my promise.
And you know what? I’m sure as hell going to do it again.
There were a lot of fears circling my head- what if I can’t them? what if I’m too old, or too young, to fit into the group? what if there’s nowhere for me to sit? will they judge me because I’m came late? will they feel like I’m intruding?
Fear number one was shut down the minute I pulled up. I got a spot right in front of the restaurant’s floor-to-ceiling window and saw a woman in a NaNoWriMo tee handing out papers to a group with laptops and notebooks spread across a long table. Ducks in Viking helmets and a huge NaNoWriMo poster board were perched behind them like billboards announcing who they were.
So, I’d found them. No turning back.
The group was mixed, people of all different ages crowded into one corner of the restaurant; a visual reminder of NaNoWriMo’s far reach. When I walked up and asked, “NaNoWriMo?”, they all chorused a cheerful, “YES!” and offered me a seat. They were welcoming, included me in conversations already brewing, asked me about my novel and were just as excited to tell me about theirs.
We were a hodge-podge mix of librarians and yoga instructors, software engineers and retirees, students and office administrators. We were animal lovers with goats and dogs and cats at home all gathered under one roof to share a love of something so wild and crazy and weird and fun that, in that one Panera Bread on Long Island, no one understood but us. I felt part of the group the moment they said hello.
Also, I got a TON of words out. In between conversations of what makes YA, YA and who was a NaNo Rebel, I banged out 3,375 words in one sitting.
I’ve already started checking my calendar to figure out when I make another write-in. It was a really wonderful experience, and I’m so glad I didn’t let my anxiety keep me home this year, because I met some really wonderful people on Saturday, and I’m so glad I get to write alongside for the rest of the month.
Write with me this November! Add me as a NaNoWriMo Writing Buddy: xdivinerose.