Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Comfort Zone

Things have been pretty quiet around here this week, mostly due to the fact that John and I have the nasty cold Jack had last week (I sort of understand all the screaming and flailing now).  John was awake from some time around 3 a.m. to 4 a.m. until he finally gave up trying to sleep and went downstairs to get ready for his race.  This morning, while John slogs his way through 50 miles of mud, I was at an Easter brunch with Jack.  Seems sort of unfair, until I remind myself that he volunteered for this. 

On the writing front, the week started out rather abysmally, with two rejections early on.  But things ended on a much better note, with a request for a full on Thursday and a request for the first half of my manuscript from another agent on Friday.  Both of these agents required excerpts in the querying phase, so one agent had already read the first three chapters, and the other had read the first chapter and a complete synopsis.  For those of you who don't know anything about querying, it's basically a letter you send to a literary agent telling them what your novel is about and what writing experience you have, if any.  The reason querying takes so much time (I'd say an average of an hour per query letter, for me) is that you have to first find an agent who is taking on clients and looking for books in your genre (they may or may not have a website, blog, or twitter account, and it behooves a writer to check all of them, because each might contain helpful information about the agent in question), then tailor a query letter to their specifications (fortunately, most agents take e-queries now; it's very expensive, and time consuming, to send snail mail queries, and I have avoided it for this novel entirely), potentially including any of the following: the first chapter, the first five pages, the first ten pages, the first three chapters, a one page synopsis, a five page synopsis, a three page synopsis, and/or an author bio - any of which could be embedded in the email or attached as a .doc or .pdf, depending on the agent's preference.  So, when an agent has already seen some of your material and likes it enough to request more, that's a good sign.  I now have four agents looking at my manuscript, and I'm just praying one of them loves it enough to want to represent me!

Anyhow, the title of this post has to do with something that happened to me yesterday.  I was supposed to meet John for lunch at 12:30, so of course when I got into the Volvo at 12:10, the battery was dead (this is due to a glitch in our air conditioner/fan, which runs after the car is turned off - sometimes; John was supposed to get it fixed, but due to his ridiculously busy schedule, and the fact that he rarely drives, he hasn't done it yet).  I called John and told him I wouldn't be able to meet him for lunch.  "Can't you jump it?" he asked.
"Um, hell to the no," I responded sweetly.
It should be noted that I've never actually tried to jump start a car before, mainly because I'm afraid (and this fear is justified, given my incompetence with anything mechanical) that I'll kill myself. But clearly John doesn't share this same fear.
"But I invited all my coworkers.  They're waiting for us."
John, cunning creature that he is, went right for my Achilles heel: I'm much more inclined to blow off lunch with my husband than a group of people I barely know (John already knows what I'm like; there's still a chance for me to make a good impression on near-strangers).
Begrudgingly, I allowed John to walk me through the process, all the while cursing the rain and trying to keep Jack from losing his mind.  To John's credit, he did a crackerjack job of teaching me how to jump start a car over the phone.  And, within ten minutes, I was on my way to lunch.

I have to admit, jump starting a car really wasn't a big deal at all.  I had built it up in my mind to the point where I seriously thought I was going to electrocute myself.  But after I did it, I was kind of proud of myself.  It probably seems like a small thing to a lot of people, but we all have our limits of what we're comfortable with.  (My limits generally involve anything with moving parts or an electric current.)
The whole thing got me thinking about how the times in my life when I've really grown as a person have been the times I've been forced out of my comfort zone.
For example, during John's second deployment, when I lived by myself for the first time ever: I have always had a fear of being alone, but it wasn't until I actually did it that I realized it wasn't as scary as I thought.  I even learned to enjoy being alone sometimes (and these days, I'd kill for fifteen minutes of alone time!).
Or joining my mom's group and my book club: I've had social anxiety for as long as I can remember (side note: yes, you can be afraid of being alone AND have social anxiety; I blame it on the fact that I'm a triplet, and therefore never spent time alone as a child and rarely had to interact with strangers), and it's always been difficult for me to attend a group event with a bunch of people I've never met.  But I'm so glad I made myself do it, because I have met many of my best friends that way.
The Foreign Service will probably be the ultimate challenge for me.  There is a part of me that just wants to settle down in one place, have my group of friends and my own house, and not have to start over again (as we've done so many times already).  But everywhere we've lived I've met so many great people and tried so many new things, and I know that I would have missed out on all of that if I hadn't been forced to start over.

My biggest hope is that Jack will grow up knowing that he has no limits to what he can do or be, that he'll never be afraid to step out of his comfort zone and take risks.  To break out of his shell, if you will.

Fortunately, he's got a pretty good role model already, one who's currently up to his ankles in mud, somewhere around mile 45.


Erin Kent said...

Go Mara! So excited that you have 4 agents interested in your writing!
I know what you mean about the comfort zone, and I am uber impressed about your jump start!

Mara Rae said...

Thanks Erin! I have three whole followers now :) Great seeing you at Book Club today! Hope you have a wonderful week.

Shauna said...

I've never jumpstarted a car by myself for that same fear of eletrocution! Good job Mara! And good news on the book front, fingers crossed!!! xoxo