My second NaNoWriMo has come and gone. I have to admit I’m feeling a little bit of a let down. There was always something to do, someone to talk to or meet up with, daily goals on the line. I find myself having to rein in my enthusiasm and not barrage my writing group with random thoughts and observations. Everyone has a life to get back to, especially as we drive straight into the mouth of the holiday season. We’ve set aside family time and other obligations for a month and we all need to return to a sense of normalcy – if any of us remember what that looks like.

This was a different experience for me than last year. My first NaNo in 2017 consisted of forcing myself to attend events, to actually talk to people, to not give up on trying to reach that 50,000-word pinnacle. The local writing group I joined is made up of people who have been participating for more than a decade and who have a considerable shared history. That was a little daunting, and even more so for someone who faces a bit of social anxiety. Last year I challenged myself not only to write 50,000 words in 30 days, but to attend events and engage with people I didn’t know and who didn’t know me.

Is it too much to say that was a life-changing decision?

Sounds dramatic, I will readily admit. But I can’t deny that I haveĀ changed. A little background: I am very good at avoidance. Making plans with people I genuinely enjoy and then panicking at the last second and canceling said plans is almost an Olympic sport for me. It’s not intentional. As the reality of personal interaction and imagined judgement loom on the horizon, I become filled with dread. So throw in something intensely intimate like writing and that anxiety goes nuclear.

I talked myself into showing up at write-ins and attending informational meetings throughout the following year. Then a strange thing began to happen: I didn’t have to force myself anymore and I started instigating meet-ups. I led two month-long Camp NaNo groups, holding online and in-person writing events, spouting annoying encouraging platitudes throughout each Camp.

Honestly, I don’t know how the participants were able to stomach me.

From there, I started looking at writing as more than a little hobby to keep me busy and started thinking my writing might have worth outside of my own mind. Confidence doesn’t come easily to me. I am firmly entrenched in the “fake it ’til you make it” school of self-esteem. But I found that the more I wrote and the more I spent time with like-minded creatives, the more I valued what I – what WE – have to offer.

NaNoWriMo 2018 was a fantastic experience for me. I now have a group of people I consider friends that I hope to continue to meet up with for writing – or just for fun. In 2017 I scraped across the finish line with barely over 52,000 words. It took me from November through the end of July just to finish writing that project. This year? I hit 50,000 on the 14th, ended the month with a decent word count of 91,065, and “The End” is on the horizon within the next week or two.

What a difference a year makes.

Putting yourself out there and taking chances can be pretty terrifying. But there are also some astounding rewards to be gained from taking a chance. I highly recommend it.

What goals do you want to reach but have been too scared to attempt? Have you pushed yourself out of your comfort zone recently with surprising results? Share your story below!