It's 9:30 PM on Halloween night and I'm at Denny's. NaNoWriMo* begins at midnight and the regional NaNo group has gathered to socialize, play games, and then get down to business on their next epic masterpiece. I'll be gone before then, of course. There's church in the morning and my poor wife is at home sick from an illness I gave her. It can wait until a more reasonable hour.
The woman at my table is twice my age. She wears a leopard print shirt with a thickly knit scarf wrapped around her neck. Giant pumpkin shaped bells dangle from her ears. She says she's done this four times before and that she writes "historical fantasy." When asked to share an interesting fact about her, she tells us her house is haunted. And when it comes out that I'm a Mormon she promises not to make any Mormon jokes. I like her.
The head of the NaNoWriMo group is dressed in Hogwarts Robes and her curly hair is tinted purple where it falls on her shoulders. She's pacing between the tables and booths, chatting to the dozen or so NaNos like she's an extrovert. I find myself admiring her enthusiasm and positive attitude, and each time she offers me a chocolate from the giant candy dish, I feel I have no choice but to comply.
Some of these people are dressed in Halloween costumes, though I can't be certain it's not their everyday atire. It's an interesting group and as strange as I feel admitting I'm here among these huge nerds, I think it's about time I grow up and embrase the crowd. As I peer around the room I feel the need to stand up and apologize for my insulting and condencending perception of them. Instead, I'll keep my mouth shut and focus on the things we have in common. For one, we're all at Denny's on Halloween night, super stoked to get started on a story we'll likely never publish. Maybe they're writing super nerdy stuff about dragons and magic but I'm the big tool writing about mermaids. Who's the loser now, Ben? Who's the loser NOW?
I am a writer. These people are writers. All of us dream of emulating our heros and someday becoming real** writers. I am no different than them.
It's now 11:30 pm and I'm heading home. Everyone has their laptops out and are typing away at a writing prompt. When I tell them I'm leaving they pause everything to take a group photo. They want to make sure I'm included. I guess that makes me a part of the team now.
The majority of them will be there until 2 or 3 AM, surviving and persevering on cheap Denny's coffee and passion. One thing I honestly admire about them is that they all take this way more seriously than I do. And that's my problem. They're working hard at chasing their dream, but I can't help but feel like I'm still just dreaming.
It's time to get started.
*NaNoWriMo is a terribly unfortunate acronym for National Novel Writing Month. The idea is for aspiring to gain experience by committing to writing a 50,000 word novel in one month. For those who don't write full time, it's a huge committment.