I’m an introvert by both nature and preference. If you gave me a choice between sitting at home, alone, reading a book or going to a party filled with people…it really isn’t much of a choice. I’ll take 300 pages of Stephen King over 300 people crammed into an enclosed area any day.
When I was in college, one of the very last courses I had to take was SPCH-S 121 Public Speaking. If I hadn’t needed it to graduate, I wouldn’t have taken one step inside that classroom. Now, don’t get me wrong, if I have to talk in front of a large group of people, I’ll do it. I don’t get so nervous that I have a panic attack. It’s just something I’d prefer not to do.
When I first started working at The Pilot News as a staff writer (just about seven years ago), I had to interview a musician after he gave a performance. Now, as someone that didn’t major in journalism (English), I spent most of my college education learning how to write…not how to talk to people. The people I was used to dealing with were people inside my own head. And even then, I didn’t have to interact with them, I just told them what to do.
The music ended, the audience began to disperse, and I waited until the performer started packing up. It was at that moment where I thought, “I could just leave with the rest of the audience. I can’t do this. This job isn’t my thing. I should just go back into food service.”
I could’ve listened to the lies my brain was telling me. It would’ve been simple to walk out of the room and quit the job I just started. Food service was easy. It was comfortable. I’d worked as a retail manager for my college’s dining service for 10 years. I knew they would take me back.
There are moments in your life when you’ll be your own worst enemy. You’re going to be both the hero and the villain in your own story.
You can either listen to the lies that your heart is telling you, or you can step out of your comfort zone. It should be pretty obvious that I didn’t listen to those lies. Mainly, I just didn’t want to admit defeat. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with working in food service.
Now, you might be asking why I’m retelling this pivotal moment in my life. As a writer, you’re going to face similar choices. Promoting yourself, promoting others, trying to understand marketing, tackling tedious obstacles like meta data, building a website, actually writing your book.
There’s a lot that goes into being a writer besides the actual writing part. If you’re truly committed to publishing your book, you’re going to have to leave that comfort zone behind sometimes.
That’s why I said yes when I was invited to two author fairs in the upcoming months. The first will be at Plymouth Public Library on Saturday, May 21. I’ll have a chance to sell some books, network with other authors, and meet potential readers. There’s also going to be a question-and-answer section. Meaning, I’ll have to leave the comfort zone at home and do some public speaking. In June, I’ll be over at Culver-Union Township Public Library at another author fair.
I’m going to be heavily anxious during the days leading up to those two events, but I’m not going to regret the experience. Fail or succeed, it’s a learning experience. And learning experiences fuel a writer’s work.
“In order to write about life first you must live it,” – Ernest Hemingway.
I remember a writer friend in college told me he had twenty finished books that were just sitting around his house collecting dust. I asked him why he hadn’t submitted them to publishers, and he told me that he had a few times, but after they were all rejected, he simply stopped. He couldn’t bear the possible failure.
Some people feel content in their zone of comfort. Maybe they tried to break out at first, but eventually they started feeling like they were safer inside that comfort zone. After a while, they refused to leave because they were afraid of the consequences of leaving. If they did leave, they might sabotage themselves (lie to themselves) to create an excuse to retreat back to that comfort zone.
Sounds a lot like Brooks Hatlen from the Stephen King book and adapted film The Shawshank Redemption. Don’t be a Brooks, be an Andy. Grab a spoon and dig yourselves out of that comfort zone.
Until next time, keep calm and write on.
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