I’m studying at the moment, and yes, I’m probably old enough that this automatically qualifies me as a life-long learner. It’s true that I love learning (although I confess assessment tasks are not my favourite) and I expect to be learning stuff until I die.
Like a lot of writers, I lean towards the introverted end of the scale. I don’t think that’s too surprising; writing is something you have to do by yourself, so unless you’re OK with spending large chunks of time on your own, you aren’t going to get much writing done.
However, much of our professional lives depend on successfully interacting with other people. This is just as true whether you’re a writer, a tech entrepreneur, a bank teller, a Fortune500 CEO or a student of digital communications.
I’ll do anything, just don’t make me do that
I doubt it’s news to anyone that interacting with people can be a challenge for introverts, but the truth is that networking is a daunting proposition for a lot of people, regardless of where you sit on the introvert - extravert spectrum.
Networking is of course only one thing that has generally lived outside my comfort zone. Other items on this list include:
As a communications professional I now do – or will need to do in the future – all the things on my list and more. Well not cliff diving; there’s no job I want that much.
As a digital media communications professional much of the work you do is behind the scenes but this is not the case when you are a digital media communications student. Now that I am studying communications, some of the items on the list that would have been optional for a comms professional (like making a video of myself) have become ‘must-dos’.
Don’t get ‘out’ of the comfort zone: stretch it to fit
While writing is not always easy for me, it’s something that does sit mostly within my comfort zone, because I’ve done it enough to be used to it. Even when it’s difficult, it’s at least familiar. I say mostly in the comfort zone, because writing can be an enormous source of stress for a working writer – but that’s an entirely different blog post right there.
I learned something really valuable in the last twelve months, but I didn’t learn it from writing. I discovered it while developing networking skills in my corporate job, and I applied it successfully recently when I decided I needed to do more videoing of myself to prepare for a video assignment.
This is: the best way to get used to something is to do it. By doing something – and not worrying about anything beyond the act of doing, i.e. no comparisons or quality checks – you can get more comfortable doing that thing even if you’ll never love it.
I believe that being comfortable doing something is a wonderful foundation (and a critical first step) for doing it successfully.
I can now go into a room of complete strangers, approach a group and begin a conversation. I don’t love it, I’m not even completely comfortable doing it, but I can network successfully and I’m meeting some amazing people. I’m able to pay enough attention to the conversation to enjoy meeting these people, because I’m not so uptight about worrying about how to talk to them.
We hear a lot about ‘practice makes perfect’ but that has always stressed me out. I am a perfectionist (yeah, there’s a shock confession) so that kind of advice just doesn’t help me. Worrying about how well I’m doing something has always been a major stumbling block in most of the things I’ve done, including training horses in dressage, writing fiction, studying, and my corporate career.
Being comfortable can be a good thing
I needed to network to be able to perform satisfactorily in my job. It was expected of me. Much like the shift from being a comms professional to a comms student, when I accepted this job, networking had moved from the optional list to the compulsory one. And a funny thing happened: networking became another one of those unpleasant-to-think-about-tasks like registering the car or cleaning the gutters. Unlike these annual events, I had to network frequently. So I learned that by doing something repeatedly, I can get used to it.
The first step is not to practice something to get better at it. That comes later.
It’s to do it to get used to it.
My advice for fellow students who are still at the total freak-out stage about recording themselves on audio or video is to find somewhere you can sit down with your video camera or your phone and get started. Don’t think about how good it is or if you’ll need to let anyone else see it; don’t think about anything beyond doing it. Make the video. Record your voice.
Do it, learn something from the results and do it again. And again.
I’m going to keep applying this to my own audio-visual (mis)adventures, and I’m also keen to apply this in other areas of my life where a fear is stopping me from doing.
Anyone know of a suitable cliff?
This is a blog post about a story, Game On.
If you want to skip the waffle and go straight to the story, you can read it here.
Game On is the tidied up version of a short story I had to write for a course using the Hero’s Journey archetypal story structure as a basis. Not on my top ten list of favourite assignments.
I’d had this idea for a story about some teens who run into big trouble in a virtual world while gaming. Game On is not that story, although I do hope to write it one day.
I know almost nothing about online gaming (which will be quickly apparent to any gamers who read the story; I beg your forgiveness and maybe you should get the tissues ready for any tears that accompany your howls of laughter) and I struggle to apply the Hero Journey structure, so I decided to combine the two for the purpose of the exercise.
There was a 2000 word maximum – anyone who’s familiar with any epic fantasy would know that’s not usually how quickly a Hero‘s Journey story unfolds. It was, shall we say, a bit of a challenge.
This isn’t a very good story but it got me through the final subject I needed for my diploma. There’s also a lot I actually like about it; it definitely stretched me to come up with the concept, structure it using the Hero’s Journey and keep within the word count. I understood even at the time that I was learning a lot by writing something so different to what I’d usually write.
I tend to have themes emerge in my fiction and this story is no different in that respect. I’m also a sponge and I absorb what’s happening around me. You can see some of that if you read at that deeper level and I’d definitely love to have a conversation with anyone who is interested in discussing any themes they find here.
Above all, though, as this is the semester and the place for me to develop and explore, I’m sharing the story here.
Happy reading. Or not. No, seriously, you can stop at any time.
I think it’s probably safe to say that most of us mere mortals aren’t exactly comfortable being filmed, or at least not when we first try it. Especially if it consists of you talking direct to camera, acutely self-conscious, worried about how you sound, how you look (does my head look big in this?) and basically feeling like an utter fool.
I recently dipped a toe into the waters of video making – actually, it was probably more like diving in head first – but in that endeavour I had the very good company of a fellow student, which made it not only easier to give it a go but much more enjoyable. Now, I’m looking down the barrel of a video assignment that is worth a major whack of my marks for the subject. And in every way that counts, I have to go it alone. To say I am daunted by this task is an understatement; this is so far out of my comfort zone we may as well be in outer space.
Now words, words are my thing and I’m comfy there. Words don’t always come easily to me (another blog post in itself) but they do eventually and the process of wrestling the slippery little buggers into shape is familiar. So it's a logical place for me to start, to take to a blog post to work my way through this with words. But of course, I know that words alone are not going to get me through this task. A script is a good start, and part of the excellent advice we’ve been given on how best to proceed in our podcast; equally applicable to video.
So I’ve made a start. This week I got my phone and found myself a spot (bit of trivia: sitting on the floor behind our front door, actually) to video myself doing something I thought would be a fairly simple place to start: Five things about me you won’t find out from my “About.Me” page.
Only, it wasn’t that simple. I flubbed my lines, repeatedly. I delivered them with all the panache of a reanimated lightning-struck tree-stump. I closed my eyes at absurdly random moments and for really looong periods. I wriggled. I pulled weird faces.
But I learned something with every take. I learned that I was doing all those odd distracting things, which I was completely unaware I was doing. I learned how hard it is to remember a list of five things you already know about yourself when you are also talking to a camera – at that stage I was such a newbie I couldn’t even figure out exactly where I should look – as well as trying to be engaging, entertaining and avoid showing just how far out of your comfort zone you truly are.
So in this, part 1 of my video misadventures, I’m going to share with you the footage of the most important thing I discovered.
And maybe next time I’ll let you know if I ever did manage to string together 5 things about me you won’t find out from my About.Me page.
I'm a writer. I love words and story. I'm also rather fond of my husband and my dog.