Posts

If You’re Not Constantly Pushing Your Comfort Zone, You’re Not Really Living

Let me ask you something… when was the last time you tried something new?

I’m talking out of your comfort zone, feeling a little anxious and scared and yet excited as hell to give it a shot. Something that you’ve wanted to do, but haven’t allowed yourself to do yet.

When was the last time?

If you had to think about it, then it’s been too long. It’s time for you to throw yourself off a cliff.

Metaphorically, of course. Don’t actually go jumping off any cliffs.

But unless you’re regularly trying new things and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and living life on your edge, you’re not really living.

I went to Austin over the weekend for a visit with my husband and one of our friends. We’ve been doing this every couple weeks since we got to Texas in June, just so we can start getting acquainted with the place and where everything is located, since we’re moving there in 25 days.

And while we were there, I realized something… I wanted a funkier hairstyle. I want to be the cooler version of me, the one I occasionally allow myself to be when I’m brave enough.

The cooler version of me has funky hair. I used to have blue hair. (You can see a pic here: https://www.facebook.com/jenniferblanchardwrites/photos/a.547695938609826.1073741828.135311329848291/959469290765820/?type=3&theater.)

But as much as I loved it–and I really, really loved it–the upkeep and mess was just such a pain in the ass and in opposition to the easy, breezy lifestyle I want (which includes a 5-10 minute hair and makeup routine, except for special occasions).

The day they invent a permanent blue that doesn’t bleed out on everything, I will dye my entire head again and keep it for life. I am meant to have blue hair. But I digress…

So since blue hair is out–for now, although I’m not opposed to highlights–I wanted to do a funky haircut. Something really different for me.

I wanted to push my comfort zone in a big way.

I started Googling and searching on Pinterest and I came across a singer named Frankie Sandford-Bridge who has the most amazing asymmetrical haircut ever. I HAD TO HAVE IT.

I spent an hour-plus Googling pictures of her and trying to find the right ones to bring to a salon with me, so I had an example of exactly what I wanted. I’ve had short hair several times before, so this is not something I’m unfamiliar with.

But I’ve never had a haircut where half of it is long and half is short. That was totally new to me. And pretty freaking scary!!

And yet, pretty freaking enticing.

I loved the idea of doing something totally new and different. So I took the pics I found to the salon on Monday and I got the cut.

Immediately after I almost panicked… like, what the hell am I doing??!! I’m gonna look like a weirdo! And, really, who has their hair half long and half short. I can’t wear it as well as she does.

But then I looked at it and realized that it felt totally like me. Like the current next-level version of me (as the next level is always shifting and transforming as I learn and grow). This is what Author Jennifer Blanchard 2.0 looks like.

I still need to grow the hair out in the front a bit more, so it can be more similar to hers. But the point is, I did it. And I’m doing it.

At first I was a little afraid to go out in public–in my mind everyone would be starring at me and think I look weird–but then I just pulled out the principle I always use when I’m trying something totally new that scares me… JUST ROCK IT!!

And what that means is, just own it. Go out there and claim that shit as yours and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks.

There is no other way.

The more you push your comfort zone, the more you’ll feel confident trying new things and pushing yourself further out–in your writing and in your life.

Right now I’m ghostwriting a novel for a client of mine and I’m scared out of my mind because I want to do a great job and I want him to be happy with it. It’s totally pushing my comfort zone in so many ways.

But I’m learning a lot from it, and it’s helping me to grow and become a better writer and better storyteller. For that I am immensely grateful.

That’s what pushing your comfort zone does. Which is why I push mine, often and from several angles all at once.

When was the last time you pushed yours? And what’s one way you can push it right now?

Answer those questions and then go do it. Universal magic and the life of your dreams lives on the other side of your comfort zone.

Dream life or bust,

 

 

 

#DreamLifeOrBust #DailyThinkDifferent

P.S. This month in BAM we’re watching 3 movies and deconstructing them together, so we can improve our grasp on craft. We’re always doing fun stuff like this in the BAM group because we’re a community of writers and authors who are serious about achieving our writing dreams and creating our dream writing lives, all on our terms.

Members also get access to all of my workshops and digital products that cost $100 or less, which includes previous workshops I’ve done: Manifest Your Writing Dreams to Life, The Writer’s Confidence Boost, Plan Your Damn Novel, and MORE!!!

Doors are re-opening to new members on Friday July 14. Stay tuned…

How To Move Out of Your Writing Comfort Zone

By Devon Ellington 

For years, many freelancers have bought into the myth of the need to have a “niche” and “branding.” And many of these same freelancers are struggling in the economy, because they’ve written themselves into boxes where opportunities have dried up.

You want to know how to make a living as a writer? Work at your craft so that you’re damned good; write whatever you’re passionate about, and market your butt off to find people to pay you for writing about your passions. It’s not easy. But it can be done.

You want easy money? Writing’s not for you.

If you’ve spent a lot of time writing in one particular area, how do you break out? How do you move out of writing something that’s comfortable into something else?

You treat it like on-the-job training. You avoid the content mills that pay crap at all costs, because if you get stuck in that hole, you won’t get out and you’ll be trapped in an even bleaker prison: The cheap labor prison.

What you do is approach it like taking a class or learning a language or taking up knitting. You put in the time and you learn from qualified people.

I’m going to give two examples of working out of one’s comfort zone.

First Example
Let’s say you wrote reports and newsletters while you were the administrative assistant in a big corporation, but you really want to write for non-profits.

  • Put together your portfolio, using samples of the work you did for the big corporation.
  • Look at non-profits and find one about whose mission you are passionate about.
  • Learn everything there is to learn about them.
  • Take the time and write one or two short pieces for your portfolio that are specific to their line of work.
  • Take them on as a pro-bono client.
  • Write up a contract, the same way you would if they were a paying client. In my experience, you often have to set firmer boundaries for a pro bono client than for a paying client.
  • Decide how long a period of time you are willing to work with them and what you’re willing to do for them.
  • Do it.

The clips you get from working with them, even as a pro-bono client, will give you the skills, the quality of clip, and the legitimacy to vault you into the paid arena.

In the meantime, while you work with them:

  • Attend every networking event and meet as many people in the non-profit world as possible.
  • Go to conferences and lectures.
  • Maybe even give a few talks yourself.
  • Network, network, network.
  • Find discussion groups and message boards and loops.
  • Start scouring the job listings for paying work—not a percentage of a grant “someday,” but paid work.
  • Use the pro-bono work you’ve done as part of your portfolio package.
  • Take on freelance assignments from a variety of non-profits—these paid—until you land the job you want.

What about your original pro-bono client? In the best of all possible worlds, a paid position will open in the organization and they’ll hire you.

Unfortunately, an organization who receives pro bono work from someone sometimes doesn’t see the person as a viable hire. If you develop a clear relationship, you should be able to communicate your wish to move into a paid position. After working with them for six months, you may be ready to move on for a variety of reasons.

Second example
You’ve published a handful of romance novels, but you have the hankering to be a sports writer. Maybe you’ll even write a mystery series set in the sports world.

  1. Pick your sport.
  2. If you don’t know about it, immerse yourself in it. Go to games. Write up articles about the games as an observer. Maybe even start a blog—but only if you’re willing to commit regular content.If you love a sport that happens to have a minor league team in your town, such as a minor league baseball team or a minor league hockey team, see if you can cover it for a local newspaper or community website. The money won’t be great, but it will be better than a content-mill site or a $1/post blog-mill site; and the clips, again, will be of a better quality and give you a legitimacy to gain better paid work.
  3. Talk to fans. There are some unique fans with unusual views of the world out there. They make great human interest stories.
  4. Attend charity events for the team. Better yet, work them.
  5. Attend press events. Ask questions.
  6. Get to know the staff of the team. Let them know you’d like to write about the team. If they like what you wrote for a local paper, you’ve already got a leg up if an internal marketing position opens up. Find a reason the team can’t live without you, and convince the staff.

I write both fiction and non-fiction about ice hockey. I spent a lot of time with several minor league teams a few years ago, and everyone was lovely. They were delighted to talk about the ins and outs of what they do.

They knew I wouldn’t burn them by misrepresenting them in my articles, they also knew if I disagreed with them about something I’d be upfront with them.

I’d been a hockey fan since I was a little kid, but it wasn’t until I started writing about it that I really learned the game intimately. I grew even more passionate about a sport I loved.

On the flip side of that, I pitched an idea to a publication for which I write regularly to cover the America’s Cup. I can’t even swim and knew nothing about sailing. I had two weeks to learn.

I tracked down some former racing yachts, got my hands on them, and learned the basics.

Part of my angle for the articles was the outsider perspective—an unusual sport, along with a sense of “come learn with me” communicated to the readers. The articles got a great response.

If you love it enough, you find a way to make it work.

My approach to freelance writing has always been to follow whatever interests me and convince someone to pay me for it. I’ve put in the work on my craft, so I’m a good writer. I’m also passionate about my interests. That communicates to both editors and readers, and helps land assignments.

If you move out of your comfort zone in a purely mercenary sense, chances are you’ll just build yourself another prison. You don’t want your work or your time disrespected.

Any dues paid without physical money changing hands has to be worth it for you—not something a content site will resell and make money from indefinitely. Pick your pro bono slots carefully and use them to work—quickly—into reasonably paid work.

If you move out of your comfort and into your passion, chances are the quality of the work will be superior, and, after the first one or two articles, so will the pay.

About the Author Devon Ellington publishes under a half a dozen names in both fiction and non-fiction. Her work appears in publications as varied as New Myths, Books for Monsters, Espresso Fiction, The Rose and Thorn, Femme Fan, The Crafty Traveler, Hampton Family Life, The Armchair Detective and ELLE. She writes “The Literary Athlete” for The Scruffy Dog Review. Her Jain Lazarus Adventures are published by FireDrakes Weyr Publishing and the YA horse racing mystery Dixie Dust Rumors will be published under the Jenny Storm name by eTreasures, summer 2008. Her plays are produced in New York, London, Edinburgh, and Australia. Visit her blog on the writing life, Ink in My Coffee, the site for the Jain Lazarus Adventures and her websites www.devonellingtonwork.com and www.fearlessink.com.