I'm all for taking on challenges that put or push me outside my comfort zone. It has been my experience that when I do this, I am able to tackle and finish projects that have me stuck or stumped at the moment. I've also found that taking a risk and doing something totally out of character builds confidence.
Writing is one such challenge. Once I finished the first draft of my novel, I had no idea how much out of my comfort zone I'd go. Writing a book is one long, lonely road which requires strength of character, persistence and patience of which I didn't have a lot of when I began. I was absent the day God handed out extra patience.
I believe that putting ourselves out there in new situations can help us in ways that we never expected or dreamed of. For example, I wrote my first novel, A Decent Woman, in six months. The first draft came quickly to me and then, years of rewriting and editing as I was new at writing novels. I learned as I went along, read books on writing and storytelling and always kept reading books by favorite and new authors. I didn't always really know what I was doing, but I plugged along and soon I had a copy of my manuscript I was happy with. I was in a great rhythm and very pleased with myself. I was proud of finishing a book!
Soon, it came time to query agents. Now, I was in a world I knew nothing about. I hemmed and hawed, read through books on the subjects of marketing and publishing books, but still I couldn't see the next concrete step. That was when I lost a bit of self-confidence. Now what? Was I stuck? Was I blocked or was it a case of never seeing my book in print? I couldn't let that happen. I had too many books to write to just lay down the manuscript and forget about it.
Right about that time, a friend called to invite me to her theatrical performance of The Vagina Monologues. I invited ten friends who were doing The Artist's Way with me at the time and we had a wonderful time. After the performance, we hung around to congratulate our friend who'd done a monologue theater piece the year before. She told me that her theater group was holding auditions for a comedy to be performed in the fall and she urged me to audition. Me? No way. I'd performed in high school and had a bit part in a college production, but I was a writer and an artist, not an actor.
My friend bugged me until I accepted the challenge. I was scared to death. As I stood there among veteran actors, I just knew I was in the wrong place. What had I been thinking? This was a joke. I had a fear of speaking in public. I'd given talks on subjects I knew a lot about in school, but this was entirely out of my comfort zone. So, I pushed past my fear and since I was already in the theater and would have looked like a baby if I walked out, I went through with the audition process. Well, the audition was a blast. We read lines in funny voices and foreign accents and at the end, my sides hurt from laughing so much. I made new friends and although I didn't get one of three parts for women, I had a great time and learned a lot about myself--I can do comedy.
I came home that night with renewed strength, pride and new-found courage. Things always look worse and harder until we actually do them. The unknown is sometimes scary, but looking back, we realize that the things we feared weren't all that bad. I began querying agents the next morning.
So, say yes to new challenges, you just might surprise yourself.
Peace and love,