Thursday, January 31, 2008


When was the last time you intentionally stepped outside your comfort zone? To try a different way of doing something. To do something you hadn't done before. To grow and challenge yourself.

I'm not talking about being forced to change. I'm talking about saying, "I'm going to drive a different way to work just to get a fresh perspective." Or "I'm going to meet my word count goal BEFORE I check e-mails or play that addicting new game." Or perhaps "I don't like how the government operates, so I'm going run for the senate."

Yes, I confess, I have control freak tendencies. No big surprise to those of you who have known me for a while. Responsibilities or projects have to be pried out of my hands one dug-in fingernail at a time. Many, many years ago in my first job as a supervisor, my staff started teaching me this lesson. I guess I'm a slow learner in this area, because 20-some years later, I'm still learning to let go.

For me, this is one of those contradictory lessons. The more I learn to let go, the more control I have. I quit trying to force my writing career into the direction of being published by a big New York publisher and garnered contracts for three books with an e-book publisher -- where I am able to design my own covers, write my own back cover blurbs, etc., etc. Some would consider this more work, but I like the control it gives me with my book. :)

I'm discovering this in other areas of my life too. I recently resigned from a part-time job I loved and that gave me a cushion of financial security to set up a dog rescue/sanctuary, which some say will gobble up every penny I can find. Does this mean I've learned the lesson of letting go and that I did it without being forced to? Uh, not exactly.

This new venture is something I can't NOT do. I also know it's big enough to need the Energy of many, so I'm trusting the Universe to deliver in that area. In the meantime, I'm taking those sometimes small but stead steps toward my goal. I do sometimes drive a different way across town or coming home. And I am challenging myself to finish one project at a time without getting sidetracked by a dozen other tempting ideas.

How about you? Do you dive into a challenge without worrying whether or not it will succeed? Do you dive in after you have prepared as well as you can? Or do you snuggle at home with a good book and ignore the challenges knocking at your door?


Paty Jager said...

I'd love to snuggle up and hibernate- but unfortunately I'm a person that once I commit to something it's all or nothing. So I have been stepping outside my comfort zone a lot since becoming published. I've attended booksignings/readings- putting myself out there. I've signed up to do workshops and have presented myself to bookstore owners.

All for the sake of making my hobby (writing) become a career.

Interesting blog, Genene. And Yowzers! You are going to need help if you set up a dog sanctuary! See if you can tap into 4-H dog clubs to come help out. They re always looking for community service projects.

Paty Jager said...

Oh, and I do on occasion take a different route to town. ;)

Alice Sharpe said...

Interesting questions, Genene and Bow Wow (that's thanks in dog talk -- or so my Lab insists) for rising to the challenge of becoming involved.

I, personally,am an enigma to myself. On one hand, I can't stand repetition. Holidays, events, stories -- all of them get tedious to me when done over and over again. Drives me nuts. On the other hand, I don't like change. Go figure.

So, sometimes I push myself and sometimes I don't. I truly believe, however, that pushing yourself is a good thing and it's always on my to-do list of ways to improve myself.

(I love taking new roads.)

Lori Barber said...

Genene, good questions. As much as I like to stay inside my little box of comfort, I also recognize, when I peek my nose outside, that to grow in new areas of my life I must seek new paths and sometimes travel beyond my natural comfort zones. I believe we learn and grow best when we stretch beyond our borders and swallow our fears.

Sometimes the shortest distance to the right path includes some bumps, sharp turns and detours, but once I reach my destination the success of navigating the new challenges and conquering some fears bestows a great reward.

I too, on occasion take different routes to town. Imagine the missed scenery if we don't.

Elisabeth Naughton said...

I'm the odd woman out. I don't take different roads anywhere because usually I have 1-3 loud, screaming kids in my car and the shortest distance between two points (and which saves my sanity) is the straightest line possible. That said, on vacation or when the Gremlins aren't around, I love exploring different places.

Ah, comfort zones. I'm stepping out of mine more and more. Volunteering for the presidency of our chapter was way out of my comfort zone. Working with my agent - whom I love - is also out of my comfort zone. The new wip - which is not in my normal genre - is out of my comfort zone. Even the book I'm revising is somewhat out of my comfort zone as its challenging me day and night in ways no other book has. I think we grow as writers and as people when we step out of our everyday routines and comforts, so while I don't consciously think about it each day, I'm doing it because it's getting me to my goal.

Great post!

Karen Duvall said...

Very interesting question, Genene. I love, love, LOVE a challenge, however, I'm not so keen on taking risks. How's that for contradiction? But really, I'll try new things all the time, break out of routines constantly (which doesn't make them much of a routine now, does it?), and explore the unexplored, as long as it doesn't put me in danger of losing something important. Like money. Or my life. You know, the usual stuff.

It's why I ride a unicycle, make spur of the moment travel decisions, and cross country ski across the golf course to go to my mother-in-law's house while thumbing my nose at those pesky "no trespassing" signs. I mean hey, who's going to be golfing in a foot of snow, anyway?

There's always that question of "Why not?" And if I can't come up with a good answer, well, hell, I'm going to do whatever it is.

Regarding different roads, I like to explore alternate short cuts.

Alice Sharpe said...

I've been thinking about your questions, Genene as I attempt to scratch and claw my way through the current WIP and since reading Eli's response.

While I write Intrigues one after the other, each book is an exercise in stress. I laugh when people mention formula books. I struggle with each book. Every single one. Back when I wrote strictly romance tinged heavily with humor, the puzzles within the stories were easier for me to figure out and writing was actually fun and easy. Mysteries or RS are very difficult for me, something I rarely sit back and contemplate or even like to admit. When my daughter asks me how's it going and I fill her head with my angst, she invariably says, "Damn, I wish I'd written this down from last time. I think this is stage four, 'This book sucks and will never work,' or maybe it's stage five, which goes along the lines of, 'Why couldn't my editor see that the very concept of this mess is fatally flawed?'" My husband just looks at me with glazed eyes, but I can see he's really wondering how soon it would be safe for him to escape to the nice, quiet shop.

So, I guess in that way, I step out of my comfort zone each time I sit down at the computer. And perhaps that is why other routines are comforting.

Danita Cahill said...

I like a good challenge, and new scenery to look at.

Paty Jager said...

I guess I should say I stepped outside my comfort zone when I wrote the contemporary and now I've got another one brewing in my head. Just not sure how to pitch it or who to. Maybe I'll know better after the retreat and some of my buddies helped me pin down a few thing.

Genene said...

Hey, Paty!

I thought of you when I wrote this blog, because you have been doing so much promotion and PR. What a great role model you are for trying something new!

Thanks also for the tip about 4-H clubs. I hadn't thought of them.

Alice, I'm sure your Lab is right! My dogs give me very good advice -- I just need to pay attention! Interesting that you don't like repetition or change. That could make a good blog topic, couldn't it? Contradictory emotions we recognize in ourselves!

I was also going to ask what item had been on our "to do" lists the longest (if you keep such a list). I think mine would have to be some of my house projects since I've been in this house over 20 years. LOL!

I think you're definitely right, Lori, about growing best when swallowing our fears. For me, that is the lesson in itself--just move beyond that fear.

LOL, Eli! Guess we can tell who has small children by those who take different routes. I'm glad you stepped out of your comfort zone to become president of our chapter!

Very interesting that most of your writing is moving you in new directions. Sounds like that road is indeed filled with bumps, sharp turns and detours as Lori said.

Ah, Karen, another perspective. Breaking out within certain parameters -- but that's wise, isn't it? Watch out for snow golfers, though!

Alice, I find it very interesting that each Intrigue you write is an exercise in stress, because they all turn out so well. I want to think about that some more.

I like your attitude of facing challenges with enthusiasm, Danita. That's a good perspective for me to remember.

Paty, I really like your example of stepping out of your comfort zone by writing a contemporary. And it was very well received, wasn't it? So "stepping out" can also open new doors.

Thanks, ladies, for sharing your wisdom and perspectives. And keep taking those different routes (except Eli when she has the little ones with her!).