Guest Post—Jeanette Hanscome “A Writer’s Trip out of the Comfort Zone”
I was so blessed to feature Jeanette Hanscome on the faculty for this year’s SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference, which I direct. I hope you enjoy this lovely guest post from her as much as I did!
I’ve lost track of how many writers’ conference I’ve attended. But teaching at the SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference still felt like a head-first dive out of my comfort zone.
You read that correctly. One of the SoCal 2018 faculty members—the Welcome Coordinator, in fact—was freaking out!
I was a newbie to SoCal. I couldn’t wait to do my funny bit about a first-timer being invited to serve as Welcome Coordinator and lead the Meet & Greet. But what if registrants didn’t appreciate my humor, or the mixer I’d planned, or me in general?
To avoid a 12-hour+ train ride that cost more than my honorarium, I decided to fly to the conference. I’m not a fan of flying. By “not a fan” I mean I rallied the same level of prayer support that one might request before brain surgery. I’m visually impaired, so the idea of taking my first flight in sixteen years all by myself added to my terror.
The conference took place on a campus that was completely unfamiliar. One of my secrets to getting around so well when I’m classified as “legally blind” is sticking to locations that I know well. Maps do nothing for me except make me feel even more disoriented. I’d been promised a tour, but what if I still got lost? What if the entire conference turned into that dream where I’m back in high school and spend the entire first semester trying to find my first class? That would be bad, especially if getting lost prevented me from showing up to the Meet & Greet or the workshops I’d agreed to teach.
Which brings me to another fear—the one that keeps every workshop leader (except those who are lying) up at night: What if no one shows up to my workshop? I’ll have to record it in an empty room! Everyone who purchases the recording will know, because it will be missing all the exciting background noise of pre-workshop chatter, barely audible questions, and directing late arrivals to the handouts by the door. When people ask, “How did your workshop go?” I’ll have to say, “Okay, except for the part when no one showed up.” I’ll have to pretend to accept that as God’s will for me when I’m totally crushed and humiliated. I’ll never be invited to teach at this conference again!
The fact that I’m writing this post gives away that I survived my flights. I found it surprisingly empowering to face one of my biggest fears and live to write humorous blog posts about it. None of my pre-conference fears came true. I even weathered the unexpected storms of locking myself out of my dorm room and needing to request a reassignment when I finally admitted that the room smelled bad, which doubled as an exercise in conquering my fear of being high maintenance.
This year’s SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference taught me that:
The writing life requires stepping out of our comfort zone. It takes guts to attend your first conference. Then you need a different kind of guts to pitch to an agent, apply to be on faculty, and walk into a workshop location as the teacher not knowing how many people will show up. Sometimes it’s all we can do to talk to new people or walk onto an airplane. But if we want to see the dreams God gave us come true, we need to take those steps.
Courage pays off. I spent time with some wonderful people at SoCal, including my roommate, a woman I went to high school with. I reconnected with someone I’m now doing freelance work for again, met a woman who invited me to be on her podcast, and helped an author develop her visually impaired character. God often has exciting things waiting in the places that feel scary to us. We only get to experience them if we show up.
Being brave makes us braver. After I got home, I decided I felt brave enough to face another fear. The fear doesn’t have anything to do with writing, but I’ll write about it eventually. Once we trust God to get us through one step of courage (talking to an editor, for example), the next one feels a little easier (such as finally submitting that proposal).
Which next step of your writing journey requires stepping out of your comfort zone? Ask God to give you the courage to do it and let you experience the rewards of being brave.
Author Bio: Jeanette Hanscome is the author of five books, including Suddenly Single Mom: 52 Messages of Hope, Grace, and Promise.
She is also a speaker, writers’ workshop leader, and proud mom of a teenage son and an adult son. She recently joined the Intern Team for the Grit ’n’ Grace podcast, and last year she joined her first community chorus.
You can read Jeanette’s weekly blog posts at Jeanettehanscome.com