Wednesday, February 13

You Have to Take Chances

coming in to port in Honduras
We all have our little comfort zones - whether it's sitting on our couch watching old episodes of Seinfeld or taking walks along the same trails in our city parks. Those comfort zones are good. They're important. When I'm feeling down, nothing is better than an episode of Seinfeld and my comfy blanket to cheer back up. When I need to work out a plot problem, I can walk a trail in our park - even the rutted sections - without paying attention to the trail at all. And without breaking a leg in a gopher hole.

But sometimes, going outside those comfort zones is good, too.

At the end of January, our family went on a cruise - we visited Honduras, Belize and Cozumel. I'd been to Cozumel once before but both Honduras and Belize were completely new places for me. And I'll admit I was a lot nervous. I was nervous about being in the middle of an ocean with only a little life jacket to save my life (and RadioMan's and bebe's) if something went wrong. Nervous about not knowing the languages of the places we were visiting. Nervous about how bebe would react to the crowds, to the other kids, to the totally new places.

I like my schedules - taking bebe to school, writing in the mornings, critiquing with my CPs, emailing and playing games online. I like those things. Just under the nervousness, though, I was excited. Excited to see new places, meet new people and try new things.

Before the holidays I stepped outside my writing comfort zone. For the last few years I've been focused on contemporary romance - fun, light books about falling in love. Sure, there's some angst. Sure, there are problems to work through. But no characters have been (physically) harmed in the making of my books for a long time. I was happy. And then D'Ann kind of dared me to try something a little different. I started out writing romantic suspense years and years ago but left it behind as my writing changed.

Over the past couple of months I found that I liked weaving suspense into my stories. I liked putting my hero and heroine in danger (Shhhh...they think I'm trying to get them *out* of trouble) and I liked the added tension that resulted in the ... ummm... smexy scenes. And I realized that I'd been, eversoslightly, taking the slightly easier path by not going outside my contemporary comfort zone earlier.

A stormy night at sea
I'm not bagging on my contemporary books, not at all. I love those books, and they aren't easier to write. Just different. And because I'd been so focused, I'd gotten a little soft in some areas of my writing. By stepping outside that comfort zone I'm challenging myself - to build bigger internal conflicts. To develop stronger external conflicts.

So before the beginning of 2013 I stepped out of my writing comfort zone. And last month, I stepped out of my physical comfort zone by boarding a ship bound for the Caribbean.

What I've learned is that I like the danger of challenges. I like being out of my comfort zone.

What about you? When is the last time you exited your comfort zone?

35 comments:

  1. I'm outside mine now, but I'm like you in that I enjoy the challenges; however, I'm learning I have a rather ugly fear of failure...

    Great post, and your dancing outside the lines is going to be successful!

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    1. Thanks, Liz! I hope my venture outside the familiar is a success...if not, I'll find the silver lining. Eventually. And I soooo am with you on that fear of failure thing...

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  2. I exit my comfort zone every time I take one of those excursions on a cruise. The first time was in Belize. Tubing in a river? Really? I can't swim! But man, was that the most FUN I've ever had!

    I'll be exiting my comfort zone again this weekend when I'll be on my first writers panel. I'm trying to look at it as an adventure. If I can survive (and love) river tubing, this should be a breeze. Right?

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    1. Yes, Stacy, you can do it!!!! We swam with Dolphins in Cozumel - in about 20 feet of water. I'm a decent swimmer but open ocean? 20 feet of water? *shiver* Was so exhilirating though!

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  3. It's not hard to take me out of my comfort zone since I'm an introvert, lol! Put me in a room full of people I don't know and I'm waaay out! And that's why I've rejoined RWA and my local MMRWA chapter and am going to the meeting this weekend so I can reconnect with writers and get myself out of my writers cave and back into the world, lol.

    Your trip sounds wonderful, Kristina!!

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    1. it was amazing, Jennifer. So relaxing and yet so exciting. I have stories and stories and the people watching!!! OMG, there were some *things* that happened!

      Congrats on your writer's meeting - I love my RWA chapter...some of the most supportive writers and friends ever!

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  4. I love trying new things, and doing stuff I haven't done before. Though with this latest WIP, I've really steped out of my comfort zone. It's still a Regency, but set in the Caribbean, where I'm currently living, but the amount of research involved, has been tremendous.

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    1. Ella, you made me jealous at 'live in the Caribbean'...My husband and I were talking about how great it would be to move there. *sigh* I want to live in the Caribbean - such a rich culture, so much to see and do.

      Good luck with the research and the new book - a Regency in the Caribbean sounds like so much fun!!

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  5. I HATE trying new things. HATE it. SO much in fact that it will spin me into depression if I'm not careful. Go, you!

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    1. D'Ann, come over to my house some time. bebe will have you trying things you'd *never* thought of before!

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  6. Great post, Kristi! My sister and I were talking last week about comfort zones and how dangerous they could be, when you're ensconsed in one and then your life passes you by. I do try to get out of my comfort zone as often as I can without it ruining my life, because I like routine -- I get the words on paper that way. But out of the comfort zone inspires me. Doing something different, feeling something different, responding differently is all very cathartic to me and I love growing and changing thanks to it. (I'm rambling, aren't I...I apologise!)

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    1. Not at all, Cait, that's it exactly - we grow a little when we do different things or (intentionally) react differently.

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  7. Great post, Kristi. I hate routine and love to get out of my comfort zone as long as it's not going to severely injure or kill me. I took my first cruise three years ago, but my biggest leap out of my comfort zone came a few years ago when I took my first ride on a roller coaster. I am terrified of heights, so let's just say I did it, don't ever want to do it again :).

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    1. Love roller coasters, Margery. The more twisty and high and skeery, the better. I squeal and close my eyes and I want it to be over...and then I want to get right back on!

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  8. I find that sometimes I can leave my comfort zone and never leave my house. I close my eyes and imagine a very uncomfortable and sometimes even scary situation. Like walking down a dirt country road that is seldom traveled and becoming seriously injured by a twist of fate (I’ll leave the details up to you). I have no phone, no communication, what will I do now? I let it play out in my head all the while trying to tap into every emotion possible for that situation. It can be an emotional but wonderful ride of writing exploration. Jerry

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  9. I used to dread stepping out of my comfort zone. Now I do it with confidence. However, I'm not a good traveler. Not that I don't like visiting new places because I do but I have food issues so for that reason it can be more stressful than fun.

    One thing I have never really enjoyed is going to RWA National Conference. All those people and I've never felt more alone. The last time I went was San Francisco and I was snubbed by someone I thought didn't find me repellant (a multi-published award-winning Historical Regency author--I wanted her to ask if she would mind signing two of her books that I brought with me--she held up her index finger, then stepped on an elevator and was gone--she didn't even speak to me) and by a group of Harlequin authors who acted like they smelled something bad and turned their backs to me when they discovered I was e-published. Terrible, terrible conference. I haven't been since and don't plan to go in the near future.

    Great blog today!

    Cher

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    1. I'm so sorry you had a bad experience, Cher! I've only been to 1 RWA conference and my experience was the opposite of yours...so I'm counting myself lucky!!

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    2. I'm so glad to hear that you had an enriching, positive experience. :)That's what it's all about! Or supposed to be anyway. :)

      Cher

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  10. I don't like being outside my comfort zone. Like Jennifer, I'm an introvert. I don't like being in a crowd of strangers I'm supposed to comminicate with. It makes me uncomfortable.

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    1. The crowds of people are the worst for me, too, Shawn...I can deal for a little while but what helps the most is having just 1 person with me who is a friend...

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  11. I am such a creature of habit and I don't like stepping out of my comfort zone. I write paranormal romances and I enjoy the genre a lot. After the series I'm currently writing, I may step out of my writing comfort zone and try writing a YA horror.

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    1. YA Horror? Sounds like fun Brenda, have fun outside the comfort zone!

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  12. I absolutely loved reading this post on comfort zones. I just recently took a brief workshop on writing flash fiction. I stepped out of my comfort zone to write short shorts that were paranormal and historical fiction. Loved it!

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    1. That sounds like fun, thanks for visiting Arsoleen - glad you liked the post!

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  13. I used to be an introvert--and if you put me in a room (reunion) with the people I went to school with, I'd probably revert--but being in retail has helped me get over it. And now, having a daughter with Asperger's has made me start stepping out of my comfort zone to force her out of hers--if that makes any sense. And the times I do step out of my comfort zone usually prove to be memorable, invigorating, and exhilarating.

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    1. that makes perfect sense, Margie. Those outside-the-norm moments make the best memories, don't they? I have a whole other post on swimming with dolphins and bebe's reaction...

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  14. Great post. I adore cruising. Would you do it again?
    I'm a creature of habit too. Routine is comforting, but I think it is important to give yourself a jolt now and then. Sometimes I'll take a day trip or a class in my region. Last week I went to a cheese making class. It was lots of fun and gave me ideas for a heroine occupation and a murder :)

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    1. I would definitely cruise again, Shelley - it's like the best part of an adventure vacation: comfy rooms that you rarely see, people who pick up after you and cook for you...and new ports and adventures every day.

      Good luck with your cheese-making heroine and the murder she may solve! :D

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  15. Great post! I'm going to link to it in my blog, Once Written, Twice Shy (it's all about stepping out of our comfort zones).

    I step out of mine almost every day at work. I'm an introvert and shy at heart, but I teach fitness classes. I have to give myself a pep talk everytime I step into that room.

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    1. Oh, Rebecca, I feel your pain. I teach a water aerobics and a deep water run class at our Y. When the regulars are there - wonderful! When new people show up, I get so nervous! Thanks for visiting today!

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  16. I agree Kristi..it's great to step out of your comfort zone from time to time. It truly helps your grow and expand your knowledge and to reach another level of confidence.

    Truthfully, I think I step out of my comfort zone frequently..maybe not so much in my writing (at least as much as I should), but definitely everyday life when I might buy an article of clothing or a pair of shoes I wouldn't normally wear, or at work when I'll attempt a new function to help out a co-worker who might be behind, or at home trying out a new recipe. But I'd love to try writing a new genre....maybe I'll have to take that plunge like you did..hmmm

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    1. It's eye opening, Christine, for sure. And kudos to you for 'stepping out' regularly!!

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  17. I love to travel and I hate routine. But sometimes getting me out of my comfort zone is a bit like pulling teeth. Not fun for my husband who has no comfort zone. He's up for anything (within reason).

    Kristi, I've been on three cruises and OMG how much fun they are! I've been snorkeling but refuse to go diving. Nuh uh. No way. I'm jealous of your trip. And I want to hear the stories. Pretty please....

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    1. I'll be sharing (probably a little toooo much!) over the next few weeks, Sharon. And I'm already jonesing for another cruise... Next time, I may try diving. Maybe.

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