Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

Sometimes I wonder if I don’t move forward in life because I’m too scared to.

I used to blog way back in the day when blogs first became a “thing.” Back then, you didn’t share your work online. People could steal it easily, and you were the idiot who gave them an opening for it.

Nowadays, though, there are some laws and protection around blogs. The ever-useful time stamp acts as basically an “I win” if it were to come down to a battle over a certain story.

I think that subconscious fear still resides heavily in my heart, though. I don’t like to share my stories with people. I want to, but I don’t like to.

A lot has happened in my life over the last few weeks. I had a job that I completely and utterly hated. Now that I don’t work there anymore, I suppose I can publicly state I worked at Chili’s. I’m not about to slander the company, because I don’t want to be “that employee,” but needless to say that place brought out the worst (but sometimes, rarely the best) in me.

Back in August, when I decided to start writing the Jensen Carpenter story, I was mortified. I had been trying to send some stories and my novel out for publication (See, Secluded Damnation and Leo) but I wasn’t getting much bait from magazines and publishers. It left me feeling a little down and discouraged, because they were stories I felt really showed how well I could write (now, in re-reading some of them, I see where I’ve gone wrong. But practice practice practice, right?) I had opened a website a few years ago that actually ended up getting a pretty decent following, but I switched computers and lost Dreamweaver and couldn’t really keep up with it anymore, so I removed it. After some self-motivation, I decided I couldn’t give up on writing.

I went home to my parents house and went through a lot of my old stuff from high school. Stories, journals, thoughts, ideas, scripts — everything. And I realized how much I had let my passion go. I let negative thinking about my work (i.e., lack of publication) get the better of me instead of letting it thicken my skin. I wanted so bad for everyone to like my work, and it was so easy for me to be discouraged that I allowed myself to let it be a distant thing. I didn’t want to write anymore because I felt like no one would ever hear what I really had to say, and instead of using their negativity as fuel to prove them wrong, I let it control me.

Well, the Jensen story opened up relatively well to the public. I don’t have 800,000 followers, but I have started to develop an underground following — and not all of them are my friends. One of my near and dear friends had given me some advice about two days before I started writing it. I had bought a journal that had ink blots all over the pages and looked really calligraphic, and I had bought Sharpie pens that could also be considered modern-day calligraphic (and if you know anything about me, I love calligraphy. Parchment and quill-dipped ink — yeah. I have a tattoo of it planned.) It’s my favorite time period, and what I generally like to write about. He said, “Instead of thinking of writing as a chore or a hobby, why don’t you start thinking about it as a job? And not necessarily a job you hate or you feel like you have to do — think of it as the job you’ve always wanted.”

Bam.

I don’t even know what hit me, but when I was falling asleep that night, the idea for Jensen popped into my head, and I just let the words flow. While I know the story isn’t perfect, obviously, I enjoy writing it, and there are a decent amount of people who, to my knowledge (unless they’re lying) enjoy reading it.

Back to the whole “stepping out of your comfort zone” thing. Writers have a tough job. If an actor does a bad job in a movie, they still get work. A lot of the time it’s blamed on the writing of the script. If a novelist sells a crappy novel — they’re done. Since the concept of reading and being artsy is slowly diminishing within schools, it’s becoming harder to keep hold of the general public’s interest. That terrified me. I wanted everyone to love me. I wanted my work to be appreciated, respected, and I was scared it never would.

Then I stepped out of my comfort zone. I told myself, “Who cares? If you put enough passion and love into your work, people will love it.” In a weird, twisted way, it’s kind of like dating. If you aren’t confident in yourself, if you’re constantly in doubt and negative, the relationship won’t last very long. If you don’t like your writing and you’re too scared to share it, who’s going to get the opportunity to love it? If you deny the world the chance, of course no one will like it — because no one will know about it.

My dad made a comment that also left a taste in my mouth. He told me to step away from the fantasy worlds that I write and try to write something else to see who I could get interested. That was how I opened up this blog. And the funny thing is — this blog, one that I was uncomfortable opening, mind you — has more likes, more comments, and more followers than Jensen, who I felt more confident in, and it made me realize how much I just enjoy writing and sharing my stuff with the world.

That’s where the tagline of this website originated from. “No one is required to like my work. As long as I’m enjoying what I do, I’m good.” My skin has thickened. I’ve left the job I hated at Chili’s. I work in a fine dining restaurant now. And while it may not seem like much to some, it was one of the biggest steps I’ve ever taken in my life. Spending two and a half years — most of my college life — in one job made me comfortable. I knew what I was doing. I knew my purpose. But I thirsted for more. I was scared that if I left and found another job I would either hate it more or I wouldn’t make enough money or I would be fired or blah blah blah.

But who cares?

Life’s about taking risks as much as it is about making mistakes. You’re never going to learn, experience, know, without trying. Letting “what if” factors take over your life is never going to get your anywhere.

Erase the negativity. Step out of your comfort zone. Thicken your skin. And throw the bird sign up to anyone who tries to stop, deny, or criticize you. As long as you’re enjoying what you’re doing, whatever it is, it’s worth something.

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