Breaking the comfort zone, and GISHWHES

by Laura Anne Gilman

Last year, in a fit of what I thought was temporary insanity, I decided to join GISHWHES, also known as the Greatest Internet Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen, an event founded by actor Misha Collins.  It’s a seven-day-long group event that asks you to abandon shame, modesty, and common sense in the frantic goal to complete a list of increasingly insane tasks, some simple, some immensely complicated, all of them asking you to be ridiculously creative and utterly fearless, from getting hugs from strangers, to volunteering – in full costume – for a community event, to making a pool party in a [clean] dumpster, to creating a work of animal art out of ‘feminine products’ (no, really!) and more….


Although I was traveling to support HEART OF BRIAR that week last year, so my attention was inevitably divided, I had a blast.  And decided, immediately after, that I would do it again the next year.  Some people take off the entire week from work to focus on this – that’s not possible for most of us, but at least this year I’d be home, within reach of familiar tools, and backup….

I’m not alone, of course.  The whole point of GISHWHES is that you do it in a team.  Sometimes people you knew beforehand…and sometimes people you didn’t (but will know pretty damn well by the time you’re done!)

My team’s called “Inevitable Innuendo,” and we cover six states and two countries, a mix of three-peats, two-timers, and newbies.  We have old friends and new Internet-made friends, one mother-daughter pair, several besties,  and one brand-new Tumblr-friendship to bind us.  Plus a willing, if slightly anxious, desire to see exactly how loose we can shake it in the name of creativity, fun and sheer whythehellnot!

GISHWHES started yesterday, with the ‘drop’ of the list of things we need to accomplish. And, as the “welcome” letter said… welcome to what is sure to be one of the most memorable weeks of your life. If you’re not emotionally and artistically traumatized in the best way possible, we’re not doing our job.

I won’t be able to discuss the actual things we’re doing, or show photos until after it’s all submitted and judged, but already I’m (re)discovering that there are three kinds of people.

1.  Crazy, comfort-zone-breaking stuff?  Cool, I’m in!

2.  Oh I want to but I can’t for [valid reason].

3. *backing away slowly, staring in disgust*

I’m really, amazingly pleased to find that I’m – however hesitantly, however nervously – in the first group.  Because writing is a thing we do in private for the most part, inevitably distanced from our eventual readership.  We’re plotters and planners, observers and chroniclers.  But with GISHWHES, you can’t step back, you can’t observe.  You have to dive in, immerse yourself, give everything you’ve got….

I’m not going to lie: it’s kind of terrifying.  It’s also amazing.  And I can’t recommend it highly enough.  Especially if you never thought you could.  Because you can.

GISHcollage2(not all team members pictured here)


About Laura Anne Gilman

Laura Anne is a recovering editor-turned-novelist, with an Endeavor Award, a Nebula nomination, another Endeavor award nomination and a Washington State Book Award nomination under her belt. Her most recent series is the award-winning "Devil's West" trilogy, starting with SILVER ON THE ROAD, and her same-universe story collection, WEST WINDS' FOOL, AND OTHER STORIES OF THE DEVIL'S WEST. The novella GABRIEL'S ROAD was published by Book View Cafe on April 30th, 2019. Her Patreon, featuring original fiction, writing advice, and original Rants, is at Learn more at, where you can sign up for her quarterly newsletter.


Breaking the comfort zone, and GISHWHES — 2 Comments

  1. I am doing this. I am frankly terrified. I read the List of Things and fell very firmly somewhere between people-kinds #2 and #3.
    And then I re-read the List with less panic and more thought, and realised that actually I can do quite a lot. Especially if I’m prepared to stretch myself and TRY.
    So I’m now aiming to be in group #1.
    And it will be FUN.

  2. With a woman with a live dog on her head, a ferret whisperer, a meerkat, and a redhead in a cookie monster costume (or so I suspect…) you can’t lose.

    Good luck!