For the past few of years I have been involved with a lovely state-wide non-profit writing organization here in West Virginia called West Virginia Writers, Inc. whose members work hard to support writers of all levels. They aren't even picky about where you may live. If you want to be a part of our group, we are happy to include you. It's nice. I began as a member, then held a seat on the board, and then moved into a position as regional representative for 4 counties. Trust me, this is not me tooting my own horn. I just wanted to give you a little background so you can get a good feel for today's subject. You should also know that I tend to be a bit reclusive when left to my own devices and didn't learn to control my shy side until my last two years of high school (Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Coia!). I tend to stick my foot in my mouth with great regularity and am awesome at forgetting people's names. I get butterflies when calling people I don't know well. I babble when I'm nervous and groups make me nervous - especially when I have to speak in front of them. I am "alternatively organized" and my desk occasionally gets lost under "stuff" making planning things interesting. So, you might ask what I do in my position. Well, do you see all of those things that I just mentioned as personal challenges? Yep, I do those. Talk about a Personal Growth Experience!
The last several months has been filled with the details of a big upcoming event. West Virginia Writers, Inc. (my region) will be working with Alderson Main Street to pull off one heck of a reader centered authors' event complete with evening entertainment. (Lions and Authors and Books... Oh My!) Before this, the biggest thing I ever planned was a birthday party that included under 10 guests. Thankfully, I have a lot of help and support during this process. I would simply be unable to do it without the enthusiasm I continually encounter from participants, my helpers, and the community in general. Even so, I am typically a bag of nerves *laughing*.
Why am I telling you this? That's easy. It's because I think you should find your equivalent activity and go do it. Don't TRY to do it. Don't half-halfheartedly do it. Really throw yourself into the process and amaze yourself by accomplishing something that isn't really in your routine. Important things are not learned when you are overly comfortable. They are learned when you are challenged. The trick is to find something that is challenging in a positive way. Being miserable is easy and should be avoided whenever possible. Your goal is to find something just outside of your comfort zone, preferably with activities that make you a bi bit nervous, and then take that step into the activity.
You will learn all sorts of things. Some of them will be about yourself. For instance, I learned that I am pretty good at conveying the mood I am striving for when I explain the day to interested parties. I also learned that while I may never be actually comfortable talking to a crowd, I can do so with confidence provided I believe in what I am saying. I also learned that I am probably never going to like asking for favors or soliciting help, but doing so with honest intentions and a well defined idea of what is needed will not make me shrivel up or look incapable. I also learned that I can organize well... when I want to. I've learned that I simply love offering support to others and cheering them on. Most importantly, I have learned that I am capable of exactly what I put my mind to and that is invaluable.
As a parent, I hope that I have always encouraged these challenges with my own children. I hope that they look for good opportunities to step outside their bubble and explore their capabilities. I hope you encourage your children to do the same. If we raise ourselves and our offspring to constantly be reaching for the next level of ability and positive effort, this world will have no choice but to improve.
Will there be failures? Well, yes. There will. That is a growing time too. Learning to pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and get back to the process is outside of just about everyone's comfort zone. Look at being human as the ultimate experiment. Sometimes the product is beautiful. Sometimes you need to duck and cover. Everyone once in a while there is even an unexpected moment of amazing. If you don't risk the bad, you will never achieve the great.
As I get back to mixing this concoction of events and writers in the hopes of a day that is just a little bit magical, I hope that you will begin a search for your own challenge. I also hope you will pass the practice on to your children and your friends. Let's all take a nice big step out of our comfort zones and into our own potential. We may just amaze ourselves.
Being a homeschooling parent for 13 years and an independent author/illustrator makes a person learn quite a bit about a lot of things. Now it's time to pass it on!