I had a heart-to-heart once with the guy who does my hair. He’d been doing it for a long time, but we were increasingly at odds about style, cut, and color, with him urging me in one direction and my urging him in another. Finally, seeming exasperated, he said, “Barbara, you need to get out of your comfort zone.” I went home and thought about that – and realized that I had been asking him to do my hair differently for months, so that, in fact, he was the one who needed to get out of his comfort zone.
That got me to thinking about comfort zones in general. Work-wise, I’ve often had to operate outside my comfort zone. Blueprints, for instance, is about a home construction company whose women star in a TV reality show. I don’t watch reality TV. It makes me squirm. And the show in Blueprints isn’t of the DWTS ilk. I actually took inspiration for my story from “This Old House,” which is as tame as reality TV goes. But still, I had to leave my comfort zone to watch it, week after week, to understand what it was about.
The same goes for doing research in general. Every book of mine has at least one element in it that I initially know nothing about. Each time I call on a stranger for information, I’m pushing myself. Does that surprise you? I’m an independent, self-sufficient person who has trouble asking for help! But for the sake of my books’ credibility, I have to make those calls, comfort zone or not.
But then, why shouldn’t I push myself? I push my characters, don’t I? Take Blueprints. Avoiding spoilers here, I’ll simply say that Caroline, the 56-year-old mom of my story, steps out of her comfort zone with regard to both sex and work, while Jamie, her 29-year-old daughter, does it with regard to motherhood and true love. Both women grow in the process, and growing is what my books are about.
Growing is what life is about, which means that trying new things, even sometimes taking a risk, is important.
I feel this so strongly that I recently vowed to do one thing, every week, that in some way, shape, or form takes me out of my comfort zone. This could entail my driving on unfamiliar roads at night. Or watching “Homeland.” Or eating octopus salad. Or biting the bullet and banking online.
How about you? If you were to step out of your comfort zone, where would you go?