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Cornered Office

with Mir Kamin

I'm a freelance writer and mother of two working from home, which theoretically means I can set my own schedule so as to best accommodate my family. In reality, "flexible hours" often equals "working too much." Yes, I'm my own boss; no, that doesn't mean life is easy. It's hard to leave the office when you live there. But I love what I do and feel very lucky. And not just because I get paid to work in my pajamas.

To learn more about Mir, check out her profile on Work It, Mom! or visit her blog at

What would it look like, without fear?

Categories: Deep thoughts, Like talking but with more typing


As I’ve mentioned here a few times, I joined up with a group of like-minded busy women to launch a group blog this year about getting fit and healthy and living more fully and all of that. I mean, we knew from the beginning that “all of that” would be part of it, but we launched with a challenge to lose ten pounds in ten weeks, and I figured that mostly we’d be getting healthier.

I lost the ten pounds (kicking and screaming most of the way, mind you) and felt really great. Then we did an organizing/decluttering challenge, and I tackled closets and kids’ rooms and piles and paper napkins (part of my challenge to myself was to get greener, and we have now switched to cloth napkins), and again, I felt good about what I accomplished. “This ‘being a better person’ thing is awesome,” I thought. “Piece of cake.”

Our current challenge is the reader-named “I dare you” challenge, and it’s about stepping outside of our comfort zones. I made the mistake, initially, of asking my husband what he thought I should think about trying.

“You should go join some sort of group where you have to BE WITH PEOPLE!” he said, immediately, as if I was some sort of house-bound vampire who would blink in horror at humans in the sunlight for a moment or two before going *poof* into the ether.

I couldn’t stop laughing. “Wait, WHAT? That’s your idea of a challenge, for me? Being with people? I don’t have a problem being with people! I just happen to work from home! But then I leave the house and am out with people and it’s fine. Sheesh. You must think I’m some sort of deranged hermit.”

His second suggestion was that I take music lessons and learn to play an instrument, something I haven’t done since high school. I scoffed at that as well, given that I feel no real urge in this direction, and it would take precious time that I feel like I simply don’t have.

But. Then I got started thinking—what would be a challenge for me in my writing? What would I do if money was no object, if fear wasn’t part of the equation?

I have carved myself a very cozy little freelancer’s niche; I have some work I do mostly just for fun, some I do mostly just for money, and (luckily) most of my work falls somewhere in the area inbetween. My work is enjoyable, and it also earns me a living. It is also, most of the time, predictable and safe.

Because I like predictability and safety.

I did not seek out a literary agent. Because there is risk involved in writing books. An agent sought me out and talked me into stepping out of my safe, cozy bubble and into the world of what-if. I wrote a book proposal, and part of a book. I agonized over it. My personal demons nibbled at my toes while I tried to figure out how to pour myself into a project while every fiber of my being screamed that failure was the likely outcome.

My agent shopped the proposal. It didn’t sell. I was not surprised that it didn’t sell, but I was surprised that I was sort of crushed, even though I’d known that was the likely outcome.

I went back to my cozy niche. I do the work I know and am good at and carries little risk.

I do not often dream of things being different. Reaching out in this way makes me fearful, because—despite being a freelancer (a job which is in some ways inherently risky)—I am not a risk taker. I like safety. I like predictability.

But it’s worth asking: What would I do if fear wasn’t part of the equation? Would I write another proposal? Write another book? Go after a client I view as my own personal unobtanium? Take a class? Teach a class?

How would I challenge myself in my career, if I could set aside all of the practical guidelines I unconsciously follow every day?

What would you do?

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4 comments so far...

  • I’ve always been a risk taker, but only with respect to some things. Socially, I have always been an introvert.

    I agree that stepping outside one’s comfort zone is healthy. However, I suggest that the purpose should not be to force oneself to do things that aren’t compatible with one’s personality, morals, or natural abilities. Rather, the purpose should be to get used to being “you” in those different environments. In a marketing meeting, you don’t have to pretend to be a marketer if that isn’t “you.” The room is full of enough natural marketers. The challenge is to get comfortable enough in the environment to think clearly about what you do have to offer to these people.

    We always say we value diversity, but if that is the case, why is it so hard to accept that we, ourselves, fit in wherever we go?

    (I spent most of my life wishing I could crawl into a hole in the wall or “beam up” to an unpopulated planet, so I do know how that feels.)

    SKL  |  April 13th, 2010 at 12:25 pm

  • This reminds me of a quote I love - ‘what would you do if you knew you could not fail?’ It was one one of those ‘inspirational’ cards someone gave me years back, and though it’s hokey, it can help get me un-stuck, since fear often masquerades as ‘efficiency’. “Oh, no, I’m not *afraid* to approach those new clients, I just don’t think it’s an effective use of my time” - ahh, justifications.

    Once my literal-minded self stops thinking things like ‘I’d become omnipotent!’, thinking of what I’d do if success were a given is a good way to realize that those things won’t ever happen if I don’t work towards them. Reaching out to new opportunities sucks, but it’ll rarely happen if I don’t do anything.

    Alice  |  April 13th, 2010 at 12:38 pm

  • I quite frankly don’t know. Sitting here at my computer at 6:15 am even THINKING about stepping outside of my comfort zone is giving me heart palpitations.

    I’m sorry the book didn’t sell (and I would feel just as crushed, despite trying to be as pessimistic as possible about the outcome). *I* still think you could just bundle up all your WouldaCoulda archives as is, and it would be awesome. :-)

    Brigitte  |  April 14th, 2010 at 4:52 am

  • My first response is “I don’t know” when the fact is that I am on the border of my comfort zone, just short of jumping in feet first. It’s one of those things that has been in process for so long that I’m used to it living on the back burner. I do a little bit about it, and then I get busy with a household project or one of my kids comes home for a visit or the weather turns nice. Yes, I have gone through the paces, but I haven’t yet totally committed the time and energy necessary to make a go of my idea. I’m not a risk taker. If fear wasn’t part of the equation, I’d make the necessary work a priority and schedule everything else around that. Not there yet, but I am thinking more about it, which is a step in the right direction.

    Sharon  |  April 17th, 2010 at 10:22 am