Where’s your comfort zone?

Night Driving

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?

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  1. Connie Carroll on March 26, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    I would travel by myself to New England (from Louisiana).

  2. Kathy Penley on March 27, 2015 at 9:39 pm

    Funny you ask this question because on June 19th of this year I will be out of my comfort zone by participating in a Richard Petty Experience Rookie Program driving a stock car at high speed. Never in a million years would I imagine doing this but it is another path of healing for me in facing my fears from a car accident in 1997. With the support of my husband who has been waiting for this, we chose Charlotte Speedway to chase this fear. It will be a day to remember forever…..and I am ready for the challenge.

    • Colleen Patrick, on April 21, 2015 at 8:04 pm

      HI Barbara, I am stepping outside my box now by writing to you now. I love to read, I was given your book The Woman next Door. I am disabled, don’t go out much, can’t afford to buy books, so my Sister in law loves to read also, so she works still, her friends pass books with her. I think that’s great, she passes books to me, I hadn’t read any of your books until the one I mentioned. So i’m writing you to say I so Enjoyed reading your book, yes I didn’t want to put it down. So now I hope her friends pass your books to her more. I’d want to read all your books, I can tell they will be wonderful, I can’t wait to see if more of yours are there.It’s so great having books passed to you when you’re on a fixed income, then you can pass to others in the same boat. So I did the box, I am so happy I did with you, I look forward to another one of your books, thank you for writing such a great book. Colleen P.

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