Bonnie Sparks Writes

…fiction and discusses editing, writing, mental illness, chronic conditions, bunnies, food, fitness, and geeky topics.

Socialising with NaNoWriMo


NaNoWriMo 2013In past years during NaNo I have attempted to participate in the social aspect of the event without much luck. Illness always held me back.

Every weekday morning I sit down at my desk with the intent of writing and editing either for my blogs or stories. Sometimes I become distracted by Winston, or my phone, or emails, or housework, but most of the time I’m able to follow my schedule, take my predetermined breaks, and get some ‘work’ done.

Yesterday began as no different then any other weekday, but then I got distracted in a major way. It took an hour and a half before I got any work done. I happily blame this all on NaNo’s social side.

2010 – My First NaNo Experience

I was much worse off health-wise, compared to now, for my first year with NaNo. In 2010 my symptoms were largely affected by all activity and weather. Hay fever was at an extreme most days, my sleep pattern was erratic, I wasn’t able to eat properly, I was in pain throughout my whole body, emotional lability ruled my moods, post-exertional malaise ruled my days, migraines were frequent, and my mental illnesses were well-developed.

2010 was when I began my negative utopian story. I completely pantsed it. I only vaguely had an idea of what I wanted to write thanks to playing a whole lot of Fallout leading up to November. It wasn’t until writing the very first paragraph when the story came to me.

Socially I tried to take part in the forums, but it didn’t work. I may have only done a couple of posts and that was it. I didn’t make any connections or online friends, but I was fine with that after I realised my body wouldn’t have coped. I just couldn’t do it. I had to scale back on everything. I stopped blogging, I cut back on the pitiful social life I had, I couldn’t read, and I basically spent most of my time writing or lying around unable to do anything.

It’s ok though because I committed myself to writing a novel and I wrote 50,000 words. I did that with ME/CFS. The majority of ME/CFS I’ve spent in the 5-10% ability scale. Writing a novel isn’t something you consider to be feasible when your health is that bad.

2012 – My Second NaNo Experience

I missed 2011, but came back again for last year when I wrote my semi-fictional horror story. I alerted everyone about NaNo beforehand. I purposely scaled back, scheduled posts for my blogs, and thought maybe I could still socialise during NaNo.

Within the first week of NaNo I adopted Fiver, my first bunny. A couple of months earlier I had moved from South Sydney to Western Sydney, away from my family, away from locations I was used to, and was battling loneliness. My mental illnesses were working their way up to their peak and I was slowly, literally, driving myself crazy.

I tried to be social on the forum, but it didn’t work out. I attempted to be part of write-ins, but I freaked out with some fantastic panic attacks and unrealistic thinking patterns. I made it into the city to attend one of the City Extra write-ins. I stood outside for a good while, but social phobia is a real bitch. I lost my shit and spent the day with my partner and housemates instead.

I made it to a local write-in, but almost didn’t. I’d never been to Mars Hill Cafe before then and meeting new people was terrifying for me. It was the fear of the unknown. I had never seen inside Mars Hill Cafe. The write-in was upstairs, further freaking me out. I was not only going into a new place full of people, but I then had to walk past the customers and find my way upstairs.

I made it. I went into the cafe. I got all the way upstairs, found the room, but it was packed with people. I then realised they weren’t writers. I left straight away. That was too much for my anxiety. I walked all the way to Gloria Jeans instead where I sat down and ordered a decaf coffee. I played on my Mac for a while, tried to calm myself down, and talked myself into going back.

After half an hour and messaging the others on the forum to find out where they were, I went back. They had been moved downstairs and I found them. I didn’t speak much, I was feeling sick by then too, but I stayed and I wrote. I even won a novelty pen.

That was the last local write-in for the year though, so I didn’t go back to one, but I think at that point I was too emotionally exhausted to consider it.

2013 – This NaNo Experience

This year NaNo is yet to begin, but I’ve already begun to socialise. It’s my challenge to myself and it does help to be medicated now. Apart from not going too fast too soon, I want to make the most of the whole NaNo experience. When the idea of a coffee crawl in the city to find a new venue arose, I was determined to go.

I didn’t become anxious or negative until the night before, which surprised me. My irrational thought patterns were behaving themselves and almost got the best of me. On the way, on the train, I woulds switch between saying I wanted to go and not wanting to go. I still went though. You can’t let these things control you. Plenty of people have mental illnesses and they function. They struggle, but they function. This is one thing I tell myself when I struggle. Someone else is struggling too and you never know who you will meet. You don’t know someone else’s history until you speak to them.

I also like to fallback on what I used to tell myself in my teens when I was struggling with depression and social phobia; you can leave. Try, always try, but if a situations becomes too uncomfortable you can leave. You’re not trapped there. Giving myself permission with that makes a huge difference. Now that’s coupled with wanting to avoid regret and avoiding my illnesses taking control of me once again.

I went into the city, it was the first time I went all the way into the city by myself since 2005 as well, and found the cafe I had never been to before. I went inside, I ordered, and I began to freak out. There were groups of people spread out inside and several of them were typing and writing. Instead of losing my shit, I went back to the counter, ordered a pistachio macaroon (I love green food and pistachios and macaroons), and I messaged the ML. From there everything was fine.

I spent a good chunk of time with several people I did not know. They were all writers, they were all really nice, and I plan on going to more events now. I feel calmer about it all and I can’t wait for NaNo to begin. There’s so much to look forward to. I love having new experiences now and I’m really looking forward to writing and socialising.

I’m also socialising on the forum, which is what distracted me yesterday morning. I’m not sure how active I will be once NaNo comes, but for now I’m happy with how things are going.


Author: Bonnie

Between a blogging addiction, hosting reading challenges, reviewing, writing novels, and overcoming a neuro-immune disease, Bonnie attempts to do as many awesome things as she can and has a good dose of daily bunny cuddles. She resides in Western Sydney with her rabbit, Winston.

5 thoughts on “Socialising with NaNoWriMo

  1. I absolutely hate being forced to be social, and had a minor freakout at a social event at the start of the month when I felt like all of the attention in the room was on me in a negative way, and it also triggered some strong memories of being an outcast during childhood. I don’t know why, but I can mostly approach it differently when it comes to NaNoWriMo. The whole having-to-be-social aspect is why I neglected to apply for the ML position in 2010 when it first became available (as well as some uncertainty in my day-to-day life at the time), but always find that as I’m confident in my writing despite not being so in myself, I’m more able to talk to other writers. NaNo ones anyway.

    There were a few times on saturday (and again last night at the planning session), where I was aware of when I was being quiet, and had the mildly worrying thought of “they’re going to realise I’m a fraud and barely talk at all!”, and in some ways I think doing the ML thing is bad for that, because I’m even more worried that people will think I’m just making up my ideas about writing and don’t really have any career or education in literature to show, and thereby base it all on.

    It’s also good, because I have to instead think about making everyone else settled and comfortable, so can’t spend as much time thinking about what impression I’m making, as there’s more important things at stake.

    It was fantastic that you came on saturday, and I’d say as a result of the day, I feel more confident in this year being a case of meeting future-friends instead of strangers than any other year has.

  2. A Sarah Louise from the NaNo forums here – reading this was just like reading my last couple of years trying to manage my anxiety.

    On your meh days, you need to come back to this post and remind yourself that you’ve actually achieved quite a bit over the years on the anxiety front. We may not function properly all the time, but we *can* function, and that’s the most important thing! 🙂

  3. I am a NaNoWriMo rookie and have been over whelmed with the social aspect of NaNo as displayed on WordPress. There are a lot of NaNo participants on WordPress and it has been fun getting to know them. If you plan on blogging your NaNo adventure in November stop by my blog and let me know, I am building a list to help everyone stay in tough with others doing the same thing,

  4. Pingback: NaNoWriMo: Over and Out for 2013 Part I | Bonnie Sparks Writes

  5. Pingback: NaNoWriMo: Over and Out for 2013 Part II | Bonnie Sparks Writes

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