There’s a rollercoaster near-ish to me. It’s called the Millennium Force, and when it was first unveiled—all the way back in 2000—it was the tallest and fastest coaster in the world. It’s a ride that still typically appears on the lists of the world’s best roller coasters to this day.
As a 13-year old, I found it both terrifying and exhilarating.
I was only a year or two into my experience with rollercoasters, but I was in love with them. Yet for the biggest roller coasters, I still got this pit in my stomach while waiting in line. There was always a little part of me that thought I might not survive one of these rides.
And then the biggest, baddest, fastest roller coaster opened up right in my back yard, and I had to ride it.
Of course, you can imagine the nerves that plagued me as I waited in the two-and-a-half-hour line for this beast. There were several times when I considered turning back and blaming the length of the line for my disinterest in continuing on. Really, it was that first 300-foot drop, which loomed in front of my wide-eyes, that had me second guessing my decision to ride. But I stayed in line, partially out of the craving for that adrenaline-rush, partially out of my own tender, teenage pride.
When we got to the front of the line, I saw the cars for the first time. They were not at all what I was expecting. They looked tiny, and the lap restraints—because lap restraints were all there were—seemed inadequate. My pulse was pounding so hard in my ears that I barely took in the excited chatter of the people around me. I felt like I might actually faint.
That was the point at which I most thought I would turn back. Indeed, my body felt heavy and incapable of moving forward into the car. Yet still, I couldn’t bring myself to turn around and pass all the people still waiting in line. That, I think, is the teenage version of the walk of shame. So, I got in the car and strapped myself in.
Now, the ride begins by pulling you up the first hill slowly. The gears and chains of the track clank in your ears as you are pointed up toward the sky. It seems to go up forever. I was regretting my decision not to turn around as we climbed higher and higher into the air. There was nothing around us and it felt like being untethered from the earth. Still, despite my terror, I couldn’t help but admire the gorgeous sunset over Lake Erie to the side, and I reflected that this wasn’t all bad.
Then we went over the top of the hill and plummeted down an 80-degree drop, which felt more like a 110-degree drop, and I couldn’t quite believe that we wouldn’t simply fly off the track. I’d never screamed in earnest on a rollercoaster, except for this once, and I’ve never done so again. The shriek was ripped from my lungs involuntarily, but it was swallowed up by the wind which we sliced through at a blistering 93 miles an hour.
And you know what? It was the best rollercoaster ride of my life.
To this day Millennium Force is my absolute favorite coaster, though no repeat performance has ever given me quite the thrill of the first time when I had to do battle with my own fears in order to climb aboard.
I tell you this story, because this is how I often feel at the start of NaNoWriMo—or the start of any new first draft really. There’s always a part of me that is afraid to begin. I’m intimidated by the blank page that seems to loom just as large as that 300-ft hill at Cedar Point. My heart races, my stomach churns, and my brain tells me that there are much less strenuous activities I could be engaging in.
But much like with Millennium Force, I never regret getting on the ride anyway. Indeed, it’s when I push myself into uncomfortable territory, that I often find myself getting the most enjoyment and satisfaction out of life.
So, yes, it’s scary to start a new project. What if I fail? What if I burn out? What if I’m just a terrible writer who’s wasting my time? All real fears, but none of them a good excuse not to try.
I’ve only ever regretted turning away from the challenge rather than turning toward it.
So, on this first day of NaNoWriMo 2020, I hope that you will join me in facing the fear of failure and hopping on the ride anyway.
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Good luck on your first day of NaNo! And be sure to back up your work!