As November rolls around in it’s pumpkin spice scented, thick scarf-wearing glory, we come to the climax of the year. No, not Halloween, no, not Christmas, but National Novel Writing Month. A stupendous smorgasbord of author-interaction, NaNoWriMo offers opportunities few see the rest of the year (CampNano withstanding). From the immense support of the community, to the open forums that allow for even the most odd question to be answered, to the dreaded and oft loved IRL meetups.
For those of you, like me, who are addicted to the intrawebs, these meatspace meet ups can be a little… daunting. However, every year, I doll myself up Halloween, and attend at least ONE of the meetups in my area. Why? Solidarity. There are people like me, who are jumping at this crazy chance to do something few take the opportunity to do. These people are there to spend hours hunched over a laptop, pounding out words and giving the world a new story to tell.
The only issue is, for those of you like myself, anxiety. Now, when I attended the meeting on the night of Halloween, I expected glee, to be filled with ridiculous amounts of candy, and to have all of that camaraderie boost me to unwavering heights! What I did not expect was a massive panic attack that I only soothed by moving into a secluded corner when my laptop’s battery died.
I’ve never been the type to have panic attacks based on the amount of people in an area. To be honest, I’ve only had panic attacks when I felt pressure to perform. And I was certainly feeling it. These people were SERIOUS about this, and they were not letting anything get to them, and here I was, my chest tight, my breathing panicked, and my whole body locking up. I couldn’t think of words, I could only continually realize that time was ticking by while I was sitting there in a panic.
Now, normally, to calm down, I would remove myself from the situation. But I’d come here, to this expensive restaurant, to sit with these people and be an AUTHOR goddamn it! I wasn’t about to waste this opportunity! But, in the end, my anxiety won. And there is a lesson here.
Sometimes, anxieties do win out. Sometimes, people just CANNOT perform when there are others watching them. Like the girl in Rumpelstiltskin, perhaps these miracles of straw into gold cannot be shown in the light of day, without revealing some ugly dwarfish truth about ourselves. And that’s alright. I learned the lesson that night that my writing process can only be shared with those that I am absolutely close to. The anonymity of a restaurant has to be offset either with loud music played in headphones, or with a couple of good friends who share a dinner with me while I type feverishly.
Luckily, I have found my nakama, and they do not mind my eccentricities. I doubt I will be joining for another write-in that isn’t virtual, not because of anything to do with those at the meetup, heavens no! But because, to me, the anxiety is not worth the loss of word count, and the loss of my sense of self to that overwhelming panic.