Monday, December 15, 2008

Self-Inflicted Suffering: Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone

This past weekend I attended a workshop on book promotion. One of the things attendees had a choice to do was either 1) give a pitch to the group and have the facilitator review your performance, or 2) give a reading to the group and have an acting coach give you feedback on your performance. Despite what many of my friends might think (because I hide my introvert tendencies pretty well), both of these choices struck fear in me. However, I came to “play” and since Blackberry Banquet has been out for a few months and the Sylvan Dell publicist is a PR phenomenon, I forewent the pitch session and opted for the reading.

What on earth was I thinking? Really. Why didn’t someone just smack me upside the head with a snow shovel? I know me. I don’t regularly read Shrinking Violets Promotions because of their clever photo selections. It’s because I’m an introvert and I totally get what they say!

Okay, back to the workshop... I watched four other authors go before me and get tortured--I mean, scrutinized in such a way that could only be described as painful. But there I sat. Thinking about times when I’ve let my “introvertedness” kick in and I'd chicken out. I thought about that agent at a conference, who was just standing there, all alone, just waiting for someone to approach him to pitch a story, but I didn’t have the guts. I thought about when that editor and I were the only ones in the restroom washing our hands, and all I could garble out was, “That’s a pretty sweater.” So, I sat there, watching my fellow authors undergo their readings, continually being interrupted by the acting coach, mostly to hear all of the wrong things they were doing, then given suggestions for improvement, then trying again, then being interrupted again...like a news clip of a bad accident shown over and over again (mind you, I applaude their efforts and felt their pain).

But there I sat. Thinking about how a person grows from stepping outside of his/her comfort zone. And when the facilitator asked who would like to be next and all hands shot beneath the tables, I raised mine. Again, what was I thinking? Where was that snow shovel?

Now, I’d like to say that it wasn’t so bad. That I learned a lot. But honestly, I can’t. It was a blur. I was light-headed. I felt my face flushing to a color that would rival Santa’s suit. The acting coach tried giving me advice. And I’d fail. And she’d try again. And I’d fail. I just didn’t understand what she wanted. My head was spinning. She might as well have been speaking to me in Urdu. Perhaps partly because she wasn’t expressing herself clearly. Perhaps because I was not in any condition to follow.

What’s the point of all this? Well, it got me to thinking. I’m always telling my writer friends that you have to step outside your comfort zone. But I think I learned something this weekend. Stepping outside the comfort zone doesn’t necessarily mean taking off all your clothes and jumping into the Arctic Sea. If you really don’t like cold water but know you need to learn to like it, start with putting in your big toe. In other words, you have to use your head and do what you can manage. Yes, push yourself to go beyond what’s comfortable, but don’t go so far that you’re completely out of your element. That’s just no fun.

When I sat down after my reading, my mind reeling, the writer next to me asked me if I was okay. I said, “No. I need a cookie...and a shot of whiskey.” Luckily, I don’t drink. But the cookie was delicious (okay, I had two!) and I think I learned something. And isn't that what pushing yourself is all about?

4 comments:

Kelly said...

You certainly did step out of your comfort zone, bravo to you for doing just that!

Terry P. said...

Thanks, Kelly!

Terry

Candace Ryan said...

Hey Terry,

Those cookies were good, weren't they?

I can't imagine the pain you experienced, but if it's any consolation, it was extremely painful to watch.

I think it took tons of courage for all of you to stand there and receive direction. I had no idea the readings were going to be like that. It was quite intense.

Kudos again to you for pushing yourself, even if it meant getting bruised up a bit:)

Terry P. said...

Thanks, Candace. Yep, it was funny how even though as you say, it was painful to watch the others, yet I thought I could do it. But once she started, I didn't have a clue as to what she was wanting me to do. Oy!

Next time we do something like that, I'll suggest that Joan serves whiskey ;-).