Literaleigh, Writing

In and Out of my Comfort Zone 3

literaleigh shorts orange (2)My third post of things I have done IN and OUT of comfort zone. The out is the important one as these are the things that have taken a little courage or effort to push beyond the everyday. It has been a while since I’ve written, Ins and Outs but I will try to be succinct, as this post is meant to fit into my shorts series of posts.


Nature nerding:nature collage 2_Page_1 (2) I’ve been busy bird-watching, spotted many mammals, observed incredible insects, sensational spiders and recently had a flurry of fungus fun.

Visits to the state forests of the Southern Highlands – Wingello, Belanglo and Penrose started me on my fungi fixation. The pine plantations are rich with mushrooms – both poisonous and edible. My husband says I now have fungi on the brain, well I guess that’s better than on my feet (I think). Blame the bored-doodle (previously named distractordog) we only travelled far afield to the state forests because we were catering for her boundless energy. Dogs are allowed off-leash in state forests but not at all in the National Parks or the Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Areas closer to home.

I’ve always appreciated flora and fauna but a few new book gifts, websites and naturalists on social media have further encouraged me. My next post in Natures Lovers Log will list those resources that have aided and abetted by obsession. My instagram and facebook followers may have wondered whether the mother and writer has been hijacked by the biology nerd.

webcap When I was young I always dreamed of a job as a park ranger, marine scientist, museum curator or biology researcher. But my nature hobby is the next best thing – maybe better, as I can go wherever my photos and feet take me with no expectation or restriction.


Out :

Scwbi collage
Some of my roving photography at the SCBWI conference.

Nervous conference attendee: In September last year I attended my first SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference, held in Sydney. To push myself way out of my comfort zone I dived in head first and signed up to be a roving reporter/photographer. I am not a natural networker and, as I suspected, I felt out of by depth in the company of esteemed authors and publishers. However, I didn’t regret signing up for the reporting job. Taking photos gave me something to do and an excuse to mingle. If you’re an introvert like me and have a mortal fear of looking like an impostor it’s helpful to go to conference with an activity in mind – whether to participate in a pitch session, or help the organisers or have plans to meet fellow participants – perhaps those you have only previously known online.  My favourite part of the conference was viewing the wonderful portfolios on display at the illustrator showcase. But I was also inspired by the varied panel discussions and always entertained by Susanne Gervay’s (Aust/NZ Regional Advisor) warm and funny MC-ing.


Muddling through a MOOC:MOCC iowa cert (3) I participated in a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) called ‘Storied Women’ (how to write women in fiction) conducted by the International Writing Program (IWP) at the University of Iowa, USA. I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for as this was my first adult literary course. The assignments tested me. The parameters set for the assignments were broad enough so that everybody (and there were 1000’s) could write a different story but focused enough to make you think about aspects of plot, character or form discussed in the lectures.  Being a free* course there is no real pressure to complete it but I was swept up in the challenge. I eagerly awaited each of the video lectures and readings and completed the five weekly assignments. These assignments are submitted online and are commented on by peers. The usefulness and number of the comments vary but at the end of the course I had five pieces that I wouldn’t have otherwise written. I’m a convert and intend to participate in selected future  IWP MOOCS.

*Note: the course is free but to get a certificate sent via email is US$50. You must accumulate enough points via submitting comments and assignments to gain this award. I saw this money as a donation but probably won’t purchase the certificate next time. The work I’d produced by the end of the course was the real reward.


In and Out of my Comfort Zone

IMG_3305In the past I have suffered from Graves disease which is a form of hyperthyroidism. I am fortunate that, for me, the drugs work and send the condition into remission. I have had 3 or 4 recurrences which just meant I had to go back on the anti-thyroid medication.

Before I was diagnosed and in the periods before the drugs could kick in, it could get pretty rough. The thyroid controls your metabolism which basically effects everything, your skin, your muscles, your heart, your temperature, your mind. One of the most disturbing effects was anxiety. Your body’s metabolism is in a state of flight ie heart pounding, sweating, shaking- your brain follows. My anxiousness didn’t so much take the form of panic attacks, more often a feeling of being inadequate and overwhelmed. Routine tasks became like climbing mountains. Driving, shopping even conversation became gargantuan tasks in my mind. I lacked any confidence in my abilities to extend myself beyond the most mundane.

In hindsight that experience has done me a favour. It has made me grateful for every opportunity I get to experience something new and challenging. I like to take on things outside my normal sphere, just to prove I can.

I’m not a risk taker but I do like to promise myself that at least once a month I can do something outside my comfort zone. I am a reasonably unfit introvert with perchance for procrastination so stepping outside my comfort zone may be other people’s norm. Some of the things I have done in the past few years to fulfil my promise to myself are:

-Sing solo in front of a group of people. (a WEA class – and it was voluntary!)

-Drive into the inner city of Sydney (So what! you say. I learnt to drive in regional areas so city traffic and parking freaks me out. I am yet to drive over or under the harbour)

-Take on ethics teaching to groups of primary children (I learnt so much but it was definitely out of my comfort zone for first 6 months)

-Go on long bushwalks (this is sort of in and out of my comfort zone as I love being in the bush but am reasonably unfit)

-Attend meetings and gatherings where I knew nobody.

-Got a puppy (I swore I would never own a dog as they are too much work and tie you down and I knew nothing about dogs. I was right.)

Of course there is other times when I like to indulge myself. A massage, a walk along the beach, reading a good book.

So hence becomes a new blog routine. Every month, apart from my other posts, I will do one called, In and Out of my Comfort Zone.

This month

IN: This is going to make be sound very spoilt – I got a new car. My previous car was over 10 years old so the difference in technology and comfort is mindboggling. Sometimes I just sit and imagine I’m in a luxury spaceship. I am thinking of moving my writing space out there. Comfort, privacy, music, 360’ view. What more could you want?

OUT: I signed up for my first NANOWRIMO. National Novel Writing Month. That is a challenge to write 50, 000 words in the month of November. Did I mention that I was a procrastinator and a slow writer? This is my worst nightmare and my most necessary kick up the backside. I have made myself accountable by joining up with some other local NaNo nuts for write-ins and progress meetings. I feel the pressure mounting. Sunday is N-day.

What are your INs and OUTs this month?