Finding Success Outside of Your Comfort Zone

“…comfort never leads to excellence. What it takes to become great at your craft is practice, but not just any kind of practice—the kind that hurts, that stretches and grows you.”

~ Jeff Goins, The Art of Work

My zany writer friends!
My zany writer friends!

As I sit here at my desk, I’m torn. I need to be working. After all, that’s what pays the bills. And the fact that I got commended the other by the team leader for exhibiting good leadership behaviors doesn’t help. That not But a story is stirring within me and I think maybe I should put my work aside for a while to let my heart spill forth. This is the hard part. It would be so much easier to get back to the work at hand—drawing house plans. I’ve been a residential designer for almost thirty years and know what to do when I sit down to work.

• Design a house that the client wants within their desired square footage
• Dimension and note the floor plan and add all of the door and window sizes
• Draw all four sides of the exterior of the house
• Send to client for approval

I don’t know how many times I’ve gone through this process, but it’s enough that it comes as second nature. Unfortunately, that’s not how writing works for me. I’ve never been gifted with the ability to pour forth perfect prose without stressing over it for hours or even days. So why do I do it?

Over four years ago I felt God leading me to write. I had no idea why, and sometimes the question still begs an answer, but I was obedient. God began opening doors that I never knew were there.

Me, Vonda and Celeste
Me, Vonda and Celeste Vaughan, who kept me from going home from my first conference

After a friend mentioned twice in one conversation that I should write a book, I confessed to her that I had felt God calling me to write, but had no idea where to start. She excitedly reminded me of a speaker who’d come to our church several years earlier, Vonda Skelton, and suggested I contact her through Facebook. I did and had a response from Vonda that same afternoon, inviting me to check out her local writers critique group.

Wow. God didn’t waste time opening that door.

Me and Marcia
Marcia Moston wearing a headdress at our last writers conference. She’s been a great mentor to me.

I began attending each month and tried my hand at writing. The critique they gave me was much kinder than I’m sure I deserved, but they were also faithful to show me little ways I could improve my writing. These little ways added up and my writing did improve greatly. The love and encouragement that emanated from that sweet group gave me the courage to continue.

We even got to have lunch with Todd Starnes of FOX national news
We even got to have lunch with Todd Starnes of FOX national news

That next spring I attended a large writers’ conference, having no idea why I’d spent so much money to attend something I knew nothing about. I felt like a lost child and almost went home within an hour of getting there. It was the first conference I’d gone to by myself and I was questioning my sanity. Was this really God’s will for me?

me with Jim Rubart
Me with Jim Rubart, a fantastic marketing teacher

But just as they’d done in my small writers’ group, the people at this conference introduced me to a whole new world I never knew existed; one where professional writers, editors, publishers and teachers willingly helped me learn the ropes of this mind-boggling industry. There wasn’t a sense of competition or hiding professional secrets. They were all there to help launch, teach and lead writers. I’d never experienced anything like it and gained enough courage to start a blog, enter contests and submit articles.

BRMCWC award
Receiving one of my awards at Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference

My second year at that conference God confirmed I was headed the right direction by having one of my devotions win third place in their contest. The next year my devotion won first place and my blog won second. I was reeling from the fact that someone of a professional stature thought my work was good enough for an award.

Guideposts article
My Guideposts article

Shortly after returning home from last year’s conference, I received a call from an editor of Guideposts magazine wanting to publish (and pay me for) an article I’d submitted. I was overwhelmed; hardly able to believe a portion of my story was going to become part of a magazine I’d loved since I was a teen.

God keeps stretching me and confirmations keep coming.

Just last month I received an e-mail from another editor from Guideposts asking if I’d like to submit an idea for a blog post to be featured in their online site. I did and, amazingly, it was published last week. 

Me and Celeste with Ann Voskamp
My friend, Celeste Vaughan, and I got to meet Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts!

I don’t say any of this to brag, but to let you know how faithful God is. He took my small step of obedience and even smaller seed of faith and brought confirmation from places I never expected. He surrounded me with new and precious writer friends who struggle with the same questions and lack of confidence I do. They lift me up and I’m privileged to do the same for them.

A couple of years ago I was frustrated because I felt the learning curve was too steep for me to conquer.

“I just want to draw houses. I know how to do that,” I complained to Vonda.”This is too hard. I’ll never get it!”

She wisely reminded me that I once didn’t know how to draw houses, either. But with practice and persistence it became easier for me.

She was right, of course. Nobody is born with a skill. It takes practice, and usually lots of it, to become good at anything.

Allume Conference
So much fun with my friends at the Allume Conference

If you feel God is leading you into an unknown territory, ask Him to bring you a mentor. As much as we hate to ask others for help, God knows we need someone to walk that unfamiliar path with us. There’s probably someone closer than you think who can open doors into a whole new world He’d like to introduce you to. Step out in faith. Remember, comfort never leads to excellence. And you’ll probably gain lots of new friends along the way!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to that story.

Has God ever called you into an unknown territory? I’d love to hear how He’s provided for you when you stepped out in faith.

10 thoughts on “Finding Success Outside of Your Comfort Zone”

  1. I loved reading your story. I was there. I saw God’s hand of blessing on you. I saw your humility and I knew…You were called! I am sitting in the bleachers, cheering you on! There’s more…so much more.So much more in your journey with Jesus. So much more that He will reveal to you and so much deeper He wants to draw you.
    I love you and am so proud of you!

    • Margie, I love that you’re “in the bleachers chewing me on”! It’s because of people like you that I have the courage to continue writing. Love you!

  2. Wow Carol
    This is such an orderly and inspirational piece. (I think you’ve gone far beyond any mentoring on my part!.) Such an encouragement to anyone on the journey of writing.

    • Marcia, I have definitely not gone past your ability to mentor. I can’t wait to hear what you are going to teach us at Blue Ridge 🙂 Your honesty about my writing may have made me wince a time or two, but you were always right!

  3. I’m so proud of you, Carol! Yea, God! You’re so right — we are called to follow where we sense God is leading and leave the results to Him who can move the mountains. I look forward to seeing how God will use you in the future. Can’t wait till Blue Ridge!!

    • Thanks so much, Cathy. I appreciate how welcoming you’ve always been to me in our group. Thanks for your encouragement 🙂 I can’t wait to see what God’s going to do at Blue Ridge this year!

    • Thanks Amy! You’ve been there with me from the beginning, so you know the journey I’ve made 🙂 I appreciate your willingness listen to my frustrations!

  4. You mentioned that: “I’ve never been gifted with the ability to pour forth perfect prose without stressing over it for hours or even days. So why do I do it?”

    I know exactly how you felt; In college (I started college in my early 50’s, and it was very hard), I had to write a copious amount of papers and it was the hardest thing to do to put my thoughts correctly in writing. I compared it with being pregnant; you carry the baby for nine months and then comes the excruciating labor pains! You have a certain amount of time to write your paper and by God’s grace you turn in the final product.

    I read you article in the Guideposts magazine; it was a blessing to me. That’s how I got introduced to your blog.
    God bless you and keep on writing!

    • Bravo to you, Anne! I admire anyone who has the courage to start college in mid-life. I’ll be 50 this year and sometimes feel like I’m getting too old to keep learning new things, but you’ve proved me wrong (thank goodness!).

      You’re right to compare writing to pregnancy and labor. The worst part is when someone criticizes your “baby”. But they’re usually right, so I’m getting better at taking criticism.

      Thanks for letting me know you found me through Guideposts. I’m so glad you dropped by to check out my blog! Your encouragement means so much. God bless!

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