So I’m here.

I am at my first MeetUp.

I spent the morning looking at the sunrise with friends. Ducked home to collect my computer and drove to Redfern where a group of writers were going to get together and work on their projects.

Redfern is an inner suburb of Sydney. It used to be an impoverished area with a high crime rate. And there are still pockets of need. But like most inner city regions, it is rapidly becoming gentrified.

In the 1970s Redfern was the birthplace of Aboriginal activism. Australia’s first Aboriginal-run health, legal and children’s services were founded there during that decade. In 1972, the Aboriginal-run housing project, “The Block”, became the focus of the reconciliation movement.

I don’t know how I found out about the writing event in Redfern. It was probably through a social media feed sometime ago. I was curious to see what a “MeetUp” was and how it operated. I wanted to see who attended and if it would help me write.

I park the car and walk up the street to the meeting place. It’s a combination of a cafe and an art gallery with floor to ceiling windows that open up to the street. The cafe is closed, but there are colourful mugs on the wall we can borrow to get coffee from another store.

There are some friendly faces here. I chat to people for a while before I settle myself on a window ledge and open my laptop.

It’s a beautiful day and I have the sun on my back as I try to string words into sentences.

Launched in 2003, MeetUps are a digital way to connect people with like-minded interests. Whether it’s photography, dogs or a love of all things Japanese, it is a tool to organise strangers with common interests to get out and explore their interests together. Its aim is to get people offline and into the community.

Since its inception, the internet tells me the company has grown to 40 million members, with 320,000 MeetUp groups and around 12,000 MeetUps per day around the world.

This MeetUp is organised by The Writers Bloc — a small group of writers who have built a community where people can share stories and provide feedback. It all started with a website that was built to be a free resource for the emerging writer.

I am struggling to concentrate. Whether it’s nerves or the distraction of a new environment, it is hard to focus and write. I check my emails, social media posts, messages. It’s hard to relax enough to switch off my inner editor and move that blinking cursor on my screen.

A motorcycle drives by. Its roar silences the noise of small conversations occurring around me.

Strangely, it’s almost the circuit breaker I need to get over my self-consciousness and write. I push on, writing about my experience here.

It’s an odd exercise. Kind of like a writer’s version of participating in a silent disco. We’re together yet separate all at once. Each in our own world, trying to ignore the people around us. It reminds me writing is a solitary activity, no matter how many people you have around you.

Some people have given up and are chatting. Others are furiously tapping away. Before I know it, the hour is up and it’s time to pack up and go home.

I didn’t know what to expect when I signed up. I still don’t know what I just experienced. But I did manage to get a blog post from it.

Photo by Matthew LeJune on Unsplash

The post was written some time ago. When I still went on early morning walks with friends on the weekends!

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