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?