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My very good friend L has been away, over the pond visiting her family in New Zealand. Given everything that’s really, really sucked recently, it wasn’t great timing from my perspective (though, I wish she’d had a better time there, too – argh, families!)

Commenting recently on Michele’s PTSD blog, I found myself trying to describe just how brilliant L is. She’s had her own dalliance with depression in the past, and knows the territory.

L is gracious. She cares about me but gives me the space I need to work stuff out. Still, she checks in to see how I’m doing regularly. And despite me dropping off the face of the earth from time to time (as I’m prone to)… she makes plans for us to do stuff anyway. I love her to death and I tell her so often.

She doesn’t compromise her own needs, but purposefully includes me in her life. And encourages me to acknowledge positive things about myself, from the way I look, to various small triumphs of life.

Today, I have much more to thank her for than usual.

Lately, she’s been (very gently) trying to get me to go out and meet more people, knowing it’s something I want for myself. Yet, she also knows I lack the confidence to do just that…

So, recently she sent me to a website listing a range of meetup type groups. This is gonna be kinda naff, I told myself and did nothing… And still, L sent me a list of groups she thought I might like. Then I had a proper look and immediately, I noticed a writer’s meetup.

And guess what? Their next meetup date was today (Sunday), which I told L about over dinner on Friday (our favourite Mexican place – the molé was as gooooood as ever!).

However, this morning I awoke to howling demon winds that could lift even the sternest of hemlines, and angular rain falling in frequent dumps, extreme enough to render umbrellas useless. I quivered, and pretty much convinced myself I wouldn’t go after all (too wet and cold to go across town on public transport!!).

But around 10.30am there’s a text message… Have fun at your meetup and let me know how it goes! L xo

Damn! Such a sweet message, it couldn’t be considered as pushy. More a gentle nudge.

You know, given the weather, I think I might just stay inside…

Thought about it for a bit and decided that was ridiculous. So, I started sorta getting ready… printing out pieces of my writing, making sure I had the address… and L calls.

Don’t use the weather as an excuse! You’re the one who said you want to meet more people, so what are you waiting for?

Damn! Okay already! I’m going!!

And despite my misgivings and general anxiety, the tram perfectly times itself, arriving just as I get to the stop (when do trams ever do that?). The connecting tram from the city is prompt, too (what is Connex doing being reliable all the sudden?). Strangely for me I arrive on time, despite my usual disorganisation.

And there I was, sitting in the back room of a cafe on artsy Gertrude Street, with a grab bag of eight people. A mix of novice writers, published authors and those in the midst of writing their first novel.

It was great to discuss common frustrations, insecurities and issues we all face as writers, how we edit our work, and the sometimes debilitating self-doubt that wracks the soul of many writers.

Then it was down to readings… the thing we all came for the most.

Such a diverse range of topics, both fiction and non-fiction… and the best thing was feeling really supported by positive and clearly talented writers, really willing to provide a constructive critique.

I’d brought a few pieces, but decided to read Signs of love… something not too personal, though it skims over a number of sensitive topics.

What a different experience it is, reading your work out to a group of people you’re in the same room with! I’d always thought of that piece of writing as very lightweight, but was amazed to find myself feeling so emotional while reading, probably speaking a little faster than I normally do when reading aloud.

Happily, I received some fantastic feedback – they liked my writing! There were suggestions of turning it into a short story, or something bigger if I felt like it. That perhaps I could slow the pace of some sections and flesh out topics I kinda glossed over.

While the weather raged outside, we ate lunch, drank tea, wine and revelled in discussing words, words, words... everyone was really lovely, so I’ll definitely go again when the next one is on.

I came away from the group feeling more like an actual writer than I ever have. Felt as though I’d purged something in that cafe, strangely my belly felt empty and… pleasantly warm. Weird but good!

So once again I have to thank my dearest L, who takes her time to think of all her friends (not just me) and creatively does what she can to be supportive.

Warm hugs for L, everyone!