I went to the Brisbane Writers Festival this past weekend.
As someone who experiences anxiety with seemingly uneventful tasks, this was a big deal for me. I drove into Brisbane, paid over-the-odds for parking, managed to find the correct auditoriums and attended events. By myself.
It may seem small to many people, but I got over a massive personal hurdle by doing that.
It wasn’t all smooth and anxiety-free however.
When I arrived, I got myself a coffee and walked around the Brisbane State Library, seeing if I could locate the first event on my list by myself. When I couldn’t locate it on any of the screens, I asked someone at the information booth where this particular talk was being held. She then advised me it was on the other side of the river. I honestly just stopped hearing most of what she said, because I was too busy berating myself for coming to the State Library, rather than the Square Library.
For a split second – I thought about going home.
A few years ago, I probably would have. My anxiety tends to swallow me whole in these sorts of situations and I just think: “fuck it, I can’t do this” and that it’s safer to just remove myself from the situation and stay indoors. However in this instance, I managed to push the noise out of my head long enough to hear her say “you can walk there by either bridge” and so I pretended like I wasn’t having an internal meltdown and thanked her as I left.
A quick look on Google Maps proved that it was only a 12-minute walk away and as I had arrived early in case I got lost, this all worked out perfectly. I managed to relax and enjoy the walk across the bridge from Southbank, even if I did think a man was following me momentarily. I kept whipping my neck around to glare at him, but honestly upon reflection, I think I was just being paranoid.
Yes, I know. It’s a barrel of laughs in my mind.
When I finally made it to the right room, my stalker nowhere in sight, people were filing in and taking seats. I chose a seat on the aisle, but a bit back so as not to be too close to the front that I make eye contact with the authors that would be on stage. What if they asked people in the front row to do something? No thank you.
I looked around the room and realised there was such a mix of ages and personalities around me. Many seemed introverted (like me): heads down for most of the time, their cautious eyes flickering up now and then to scan the room for danger. Then there were the loud and chatty clumps of people. Friends and different groups that had decided to attend together, and as a result, were naturally louder and more at ease next to their friends.
I also noticed that several people were attending on their own like me, but instead of keeping to themselves, were approaching established groups, striking up conversations with ease. You know, those people who voluntarily try to make eye contact with people to start a conversation. Ugh.
I hate networking.
Aka making small talk with strangers. I just hate it. I know it can be a wonderful opportunity and a great way to expand your networks, but I absolutely hate it. Even though I know it’s something I should try and get over, and ultimately will have to get better at in the writing industry, on Saturday I had zero interest in the entire practice.
Thankfully, the networking folk died down once the panel started, and I’m pleased to report I took so much away from it. Everything about the day was a learning experience for me actually and I am still to go through all the notes I took about post-apocalyptic worlds and the agonies of young adult love.
The biggest takeaway from the event was a refreshing feeling of hope.
I haven’t officially said it aloud to anyone except maybe two people, but I am currently on a journey to write my first novel (I don’t blame you if you eye-rolled just then either). So many people aspire to be writers – just being at the festival on the weekend opened my eyes to how many people love to write and read – so I get that when people hear that they roll their eyes and think “yeah righto, don’t we all mate.” But attending the festival and listening to people who put in the hard yards and managed to get their books published … yeah, it just feels like hope to me.
I have written stories since I can remember, beginning in notebooks, to then constantly using my dad’s computer and then my own. My parents surprised me with my own computer one Christmas. Like to actually have in my own room. God I’ll never forget that moment. Stoked.
Even though writing brought me so much joy for so many years, I never took anything further than my room. In my early twenties I ended up shelving every idea I had. Inspiration slipped away from me and not until I started reading again on my recent holiday, did the fiction writer within me wake up.
It’s pretty exciting and scary and it’s going to be hard work.
But it feels like so much has clicked into place. Through the highs and lows, the late nights and early mornings, the tears, the frustration – there is hope, and drive and satisfaction – and I feel like right now, this is what I’m meant to be doing.
Thanks for reading this enormously self-absorbed post.
P.S. For those interested the below are the authors who inspired me in their own way over the weekend.
- A.J. Betts
- Lili Wilkinson
- Alison Evans
- Jenna Guillaume
- James Moloney