A couple of weeks ago I was traveling, and a client asked if I would be interested in doing some work while I was in that particular city. Turning down work is something I'm still afraid to do, plus I was offered a bonus, so I agreed.
Now, this work was very different from anything I've done over the past five years. It involved interviewing local business owners in person, in a taxi, riding around a city I'm unfamiliar with. The last time I had been in a taxi was in 2005, and it was in London, and someone else was taking care of the hailing, communicating, and fare. Before that the last time I had been in a cab was in 1988 in Baltimore.
I have interviewed people for work over the past five years, but always by phone or email. I hadn't interviewed anyone in person since my newspaper days about a decade ago. Honestly, I was terrified, but I felt like I needed to push myself to do it. Living and working in your comfort zone 24/7 is nice and cozy, but it gives you a very limited view of the world, even with the internet always there. I knew that conducting the interviews I had been assigned was going to be a classic "fake it till you make it" situation.
I made sure the voice recorder on my phone worked, put on my most comfortable sweater and jeans, and took several deep breaths before we picked up my first interviewee.
And it all went fine.
The taxi drivers were very nice (and I tipped accordingly), and the interviewees were great. All of them had created businesses or nonprofits from scratch, just like me, and they had as many reasons to want things to go well as I did. I don't think I exhaled that day until I paid my final fare and waved goodbye to the driver. But it felt really good to have done something that was so different from what I normally do.
Writing up the interviews was hard work too. Transcribing from audio is tough, and I now have a new-found respect for court reporters and anyone else who has to do it regularly. That was another "out of my comfort zone" experience, even though I accomplished it in my home office with my dog next to my desk as usual. My hope is that once the interviews are published they'll be well-received and I can look back with a feeling of pride in my work, and that my client will be happy.
I will admit that most of the time it takes a crowbar and a threat to get me to do something out of the ordinary. But I'll also admit that the times I've gone with it, it's been worthwhile. Getting out of your comfort zone, if only for a little while so it can air out, is something we all need to do periodically. And if you're a writer who has spent years typing away in your hidden lair, you probably need to do this more than most. I'm only speaking from experience here. ;)
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