(Disclaimer: In this article, I talk about the importance of stepping outside of your comfort zones. However, this is quite different from stepping over personal boundaries. One is to get over hang-ups so that you can grow, the other violates convictions and values. I advocate stepping outside of comfort zones, but I do not believe one should compromise convictions. These are two separate things.)
They’re nice and cozy. They’re relaxing and, well, safe. I for one happen to like my comfort zone. When feeling sad, or nervous, I like to retreat deep inside of it. Sometimes it’s just to relax, and other times it’s to hide from society, or to run from things that make me feel unsure or afraid.
Comfort zones are also very individual. My comfort zone allows me to get up in front of hundreds of people and perform. No problem. Easy peasy.
It’s not so enthusiastic about letting me ask a grocery store employee where the restrooms are.
Doesn’t make much sense, does it? But there it is.
You’ve probably heard a lot of people talk about comfort zones. At the very least, you’ve seen FaceBook memes floating around, encouraging people to step outside of them.
Some people dive right in and challenge their own comfort zones. Others shrink from it, sometimes saying things like ‘that’s just how I am.’
But while comfort zones are safe, and warm, and cozy and, well – comfortable, they’re also one other thing.
They’re very limiting.
I could go into more depth about the merits and demerits of comfort zones, but this is not a self-help blog. This is a writing blog.
So how do comfort zones limit our writing?
I am currently in the process of writing a novella, and in it one of my major characters is missing her head.
It was an interesting idea, one I had been toying with. Write a character that was missing her head. But I almost wrote that aspect of her character out of the story, because I got to thinking about what exactly that would take.
It would be rather difficult to pull off a character that was lacking a head. I wasn’t sure I could do it. It was outside of my comfort zone.
Another one of my novels deals with a very different, solar and eco-based form of technology. Writing science fiction is already daunting enough, but writing a novel that centers around technology I’m not as familiar with is even more so.
Comfort zones in creative areas keep us from taking risks, or coming up with something unique and daring. It might keep you from falling on your face, but it will also keep you from soaring.
It might keep you from creating anything truly awful, but it will also keep you from creating anything groundbreaking.
It will keep you from growing.
In order to stretch our abilities as writers, we must learn to be okay with writing things that make us uncomfortable, or afraid.
Your creative comfort zones are probably quite different from mine. Take some time to figure out what they are, and how you might be limiting you as a writer.
The possibility of failure always exists, but that’s okay. Failure isn’t the end of the world. We won’t grow if we don’t fail.
You can’t fly until you jump.
So, what about you? What have you done in your writing that was outside your comfort zone? What did you learn from that experience?