Has Anyone Seen My Comfort Zone?

The road to SuccessI seem to have lost it…

I used to think of my comfort zone as a safe place. Every day, business as usual… the same old boring routine. I knew what to expect and how to handle it.

What I eventually realized is my comfort zone was a very dangerous place. I stayed inside, allowing it to restrict my personal growth and prevent me from reaching my true potential.

So, what makes me uncomfortable? Probably the same things that make you uncomfortable.

I’m a fairly quiet person, almost shy. Most writers are to some degree, I think. It’s easier to hide behind a keyboard and work through what I want to say and how to say it, than it is to actually talk to someone. Like, a real person… in person. Yeah, over the phone can be a little stressful too. I’ll inevitably say something wrong or embarrass myself, and that’s it… no backspace, delete, or undo buttons to save the day.

Of course I have a family and friends—I’m a fairly normal person, after all. We talk and do things together, but that’s different. And, even with them, I’m still more comfortable keeping most of my thoughts to myself.

You’re probably wondering why on earth someone like me would choose to write. Why would I put my deep-dark secrets, innermost thoughts, and personal creations out there for anyone and everyone to see… and to judge?

Wow, great question! When you put it that way, maybe I need to take a moment here and rethink things… nah, just kidding.

A year or two ago, I probably would have said you’d raised a valid point. I may have even used it as an excuse to hold myself back. So, how did I go from hiding in a corner to dreaming about best sellers and red carpets?

Writing is a great way to express myself and communicate with people from a safe distance. When I write, my fictional characters are telling their made-up stories and breaking all the rules; and I get to hide in the background. Stay in my comfort zone.

That’s liberating! Now this shy gal can speak up. Well, at least in written form… about fictional things.

Just like you, when I finally found something I loved doing, I wanted more. The more I wrote, the more I wanted to keep going. Before long, I started wondering if I could actually write a whole novel. And, while I’m being greedy, I wanted to publish it too.

But wait, that means I would actually have to tell people I’m a writer, and I’d have to let them read what I’ve written. That’s a terrible idea!

Maybe, but it was an idea that wouldn’t go away. I had to try. That created the first crack in the walls of my comfort zone.

I started this journey one year ago. With that anniversary looming, and my novel still not finished, I thought back, wondering what I had managed to accomplish in all that time. The answer surprised me.

In the process of learning how to write well and craft a good story, I’d learned how to push myself far beyond the boundaries of my old comfort zone. Those walls that had cracked, were now obliterated.

I’ve come clean with some friends about being a writer. I’ve shared my writing with other people. I’ve been criticized… and survived. I’ve learned to put myself out there as an author, on social media, my own blog, and by adding comments to other authors’ posts.

I’ve had extremely awkward conversations with fellow writers, all in the name of creating a good story, that I’ve managed to get through and learn to enjoy… behind the shield of my keyboard and a thousand miles, but it’s still progress.

I’ve even had to accept that no matter how much I hate pictures of myself, people want to see the person behind the words they’re reading. And yes, there is a photo on this website… finish reading the article first, then you can go find it.No Turning Back

All of these experiences have helped me grow as a person and as an author. I’ve wandered so far out of my comfort zone, I don’t think I could ever find my way back; and that’s a good thing, because I don’t want to go back. I’m more confident, more outspoken, and more likely to fight for what I want than I was a year ago.

I’ve learned that when I’m comfortable in what I’m doing, I’m not challenging myself enough. I’ve even learned to appreciate and welcome the queazy feeling that accompanies breaking down the walls of my comfort zone. I may need to breathe into a paper bag a few times to get through some of my personal barriers, but I’m ready.

What are you waiting for? Push those boundaries, tear down your walls. It’s up to you to become the person you want to be. —CJ

9 responses

  1. We writers are a shy bunch…

    Social media allowed me to catch up with a friend from high school after 10 years or so. It was like the time gap had never happened. She made a comment about writers typically being introverts and shy, and that she remembered me in school as being “shy in an outgoing way, if that made any sense.”

    She nailed it.

    If my wife gave me the choice of going to a party where I don’t know anybody or staying home and, oh say, mowing the lawn, I’d probably choose to stay home. In grade school and high school I didn’t want to be shy, so I did things to compensate. I was a server (altar boy) at Mass. I was in the school play or talent show (doing a stand-up comedy routine no less), I was in a rock band. I joined student council and gave speeches to the whole class in the gym.

    Plus, I was pretty friendly to everyone so they voted me to be on prom court my senior year. Oh, and I missed out on being elected my high school senior class president by just a few votes.

    In college joined a fraternity and eventually to elected vice president, and most of my part time jobs were coaching or lifeguard. Then of course I became a salesman doing cold calls and later was a manager guiding over 100 employees every day lots f getting up in front of large groups and stuff.

    Okay, okay, so what? Why the resume of achievements?

    Because I’d have rather mowed the lawn than do any of them. I still would. But just like I had to eat my vegetables as a kid and force myself to eat them as an adult, those experiences made me grow big and strong as a person. They were ALL valuable life lessons, even the failures. And for the most part I look back on all of them fondly. Each preciously difficult “yes” lead to another adventure that opened my eyes to other opportunities I’d have never found on my lawn mower.

    Going outside my comfort zone allowed me to lead hundreds of interesting people, to better the lives a lot of employees and friends, to enjoy success in business, and to marry the woman of my dreams (after taking a lot of test drives with other women first, a different adventure that also required overcoming shyness in a big way).

    It also created some odd things I can write about first hand that a lot of other people can’t.

    Because I was in a rock band in high school, I got shot at, up close and personal, with the gun just inches from my face. Long story.

    I also got shot at while doing one of those test drives I just mentioned. Long story there, too.

    They all are.

    Ever get chased by a pack of pit bull guard dogs? I have.

    What about giving a presentation, on the spur of the moment because the presenter called out sick, to 350 people who knew the topic better than you?

    Met a President? And Terry Bradshaw, Carmen Electra and a few other celebrities. (Carmen’s really tiny in person. Terry’s hands are like shaking hands with a baseball glove. Huge.)

    Gone to President’s Circle for a Fortune 500 company, which allowed me to go to Aruba, and since my job paid well I was able to vacation in lots of foreign countries.

    I took up scuba diving. I came face to face with an 8’ bull shark, and had a big nurse shark swim right between my legs.

    Right between my legs.

    RIGHT BETWEEN MY LEGS.

    I bought a boat and took it to Key West, with only a basic green screen GPS to guide me – which, after the fact, a LOT of people said was crazy.

    I’m not trying to brag, and I’m definitely not some adventurous type. I wanna stay home and mow the lawn, remember? I’ve been having an interesting life but it still pales by comparison to some other people. I’m not jumping out of an airplane to skydive any time soon (talk about crazy!) but the experiences I’ve had have given me reams of first hand material to write about.

    And it’s opened my eyes to other things I may want to write about.

    And that may make me a better writer.

    Because it’s different when you’ve watched on TV and seen a shotgun going off versus when you’ve actually held the heavy, cold barrel out and pulled the trigger and felt the kickback in your shoulder and the ringing in your ears and the smell of gunpowder afterwards (it smells like fireworks). That difference might make your character just a little more real, or a little more vulnerable, or a little more memorable.

    It’s all there for you. There’s just one thing holding you back.

    You.

    Give yourself permission to taste life and savor it, whatever the goal is. You deserve it, and your stories will be better for it.

    So will you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for linking your blog to post on my page today. That was a nice surprise!

      Sounds to me like you’ve mastered pushing the limits of your comfort zone, and you’ve been rewarded with some awesome adventures. (minus the guns… and a pit bulls… probably the sharks too) We could all learn a lesson from you.

      I need to step up my game!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Jack Cameron Books | Reply

    CJ, may I be evil and send ghosts for Dan to shoot in my blog today (on his page, of course). Hugs, Jack Cameron Books?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dan and I have been working together on a few projects, so we like to help each other out. I’m glad his link led you to me. It’s great to have a new follower! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. […] Amazing author who opened my eyes to romance (stories) and editor of my new book, CJ Andrews […]

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I enjoyed being a ‘closet’ writer for many years. Hiding behind my keyboard was safe, and I got a lot of writing in that way. But I teach creative writing classes, where I encourage my adult students to put themselves ‘out’ there. Well, I had to show them how to do that! In short order I began a blog, I published two books, and then I began to talk to book clubs and joined a business networking group, where I expose myself weekly, promoting my writing, my books, my classes. Wow. I am darn uncomfortable with all this – but it’s GREAT! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing your story! You’ve come a long way from being a closet writer. It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we test (and push) our limits. You’re right–being uncomfortable is a GREAT thing! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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