By: Amanda Winstead
What is a Comfort Zone?
“Comfort zone” refers to situations or habits you fall back into instead of exploring something new. When a difficult or unfamiliar circumstance comes about, many of us go to great lengths to avoid anxiety.
Comfort zones help us feel safe. Engaging in anything outside of our preferred tribe, activities, and thought patterns will have an unknown outcome, which the primitive part of our brain interprets as danger. Back in the day, this mindset came in handy. Nowadays, it holds us back from activities that feel like death but are actually harmless — like public speaking or writing about something other than Frankenstein.
It’s crucial to remember growth only occurs outside comfort zones. Embracing change can feel soul-crushing, but once the primitive brain sees us come out the other side, the protective fears will slowly melt away.
Writing Outside Your Comfort Zone
Whether you’re a staff writer for the New York Times or just published a book of poems, you most likely have a writing comfort zone. A writing comfort zone forms when you find a genre and style that you excel at and stick within those boundaries.
Maybe you’ve been writing horror short stories for several years now. Your Frankenstein fantasies have reached the farthest corners of the internet, and within those circles, you’re famous. While you know you write another similar story, you don’t want to rest on your laurels. Furthermore, your characters feel repetitive, and the environment seems stale.
It might be time to switch it up and write more than what you know. Once you’ve followed the steps below and stretched beyond your writing comfort zone, you can return to the Frankenstein shorts with a new and improved perspective. Or you may find you like writing about a different topic even more.
Step by Step Process to Break Through Your Writing Confines
1. Read Outside Your Comfort Zone
Pay attention to the words used on cereal boxes, scientific journals, or screenplays; every word is a source of inspiration. This is especially important if you have no idea how something besides Frankenstein could captivate your imagination. Even if you have a clue for your next journey, observing other styles, voices, genres, characters, and more will inevitably strengthen your writing skills and overall creativity.
2. Start Journaling
Whether you keep your notebook at your desk or carry it with you to jot down ideas sporadically, journaling is a valuable tool. As far as journaling styles go, Julia Cameron suggests practicing Morning Pages every day upon waking in her book The Artist’s Way.
Morning Pages is a three-page, handwritten stream of consciousness. This exercise helps writers turn off the inner sensor so repressed beliefs, feelings, and ideas can surface. Morning Pages are for you only. Do not share. Often, they’re dark, and that’s okay. Get it on the page instead of taking it out on an innocent bystander.
When you make Morning Pages a daily practice, you’ll inevitably discover sparks of genius amongst the wreckage. It’s incredible what can happen when you write freely, throwing grammar correctness and outside validation to the curb.
3. Pick a New Genre, Tone, or Style
So, you’ve been reading those science journals and romance novels and doing your Morning Pages consistently. It’s time to pick a genre and style outside your comfort zone. If you always write fiction pieces, try non-fiction. If you’ve only written short stories, maybe it’s time to write a screenplay.
4. Repurpose Old Content
Maybe you’re not ready to embrace a new genre, or you’re busy like many writers confess to being. But you do see Frankenstein living somewhere outside your Reddit feed. An option would be to take your favorite short story and transform it into a short film. By incorporating the same content in a different medium, you still must think outside the box and strengthen the dormant parts of your brain.
5. Keep It to Yourself
You finished the first ten pages of your screenplay. You’ve never written in this style before, and you’re wondering if it’s any good. You decide to let your best friend – who hasn’t written anything since his fourth-grade book report – give it a read. STOP RIGHT THERE.
First off, do not show your new work to anyone until you have typed THE END. And when you do finish, only show your creation to fully actualized humans who will give you love, support, and constructive advice. Even the slightest dig from someone who has no tact, no writing experience, or doesn’t have your best interests in mind could stop you in your tracks. And yes, the goal for most people is to have their work published and enjoyed by the masses.
But remember, you are new to this game. Have patience. You’ll know when you’re ready to present your work for reasons other than external validation or self-sabotage.
6. Make Moves
Okay, so you typed THE END. You let your friend and a fellow writer read it. You made the suggested edits that felt right in your heart. What now? Well, you can leave it on your desktop forever and view it as a completed assignment. Maybe you have everything you need for your next Frankenstein fantasy.
Or you can explore ways to get your new work out there. Whether you choose to submit your article to publications, read your poems at an open mic, find a writing agent for your novel, or develop your script into a film, the possibilities are endless!
Other Reasons to Step Outside Your Writing Comfort Zone
Stepping outside any comfort zone, whether it’s dressing differently or quitting a job you hate, will improve your mental health. Facing adverse situations head-on is the only proper way to gain confidence and grow as a person. It’s also important to remember most of our fears appear much more significant in our heads than in reality.
Speaking of fears, let’s discuss the interview process. Whether writing is your hobby or primary source of income, you’ll probably interview at some point. Writing outside your comfort zone is a great way to transform an oppressive interrogation into a genuine connection.
Remember, having interests is what makes you interesting.
As someone who writes outside their comfort zone, your curiosities span far and wide. So, when you hear the challenging question “what makes you unique?” you won’t have to bring up winning Employee of the Month three years ago at a department store.
Instead, you can talk about how you just started writing for a local environmental publication. That’s far more interesting, and it shows you can meet deadlines, research topics efficiently, and motivate yourself to complete an assignment.
Confront the Discomfort
“Confront your discomfort and your fear to see and experience your potential. Reach beyond. Don’t limit yourself.”―
If you want to be a dynamic writer who never gets bored with your work, you must step outside your comfort zone. It will be scary at first, but soon you’ll become motivated by challenges instead of disgruntled. Before you know it, you’ll see new doors open in all areas of your life. Take a risk, write in a new genre, create a poem, or write a guest post and submit it.
Bio: Amanda Winstead
Amanda Winstead is a writer from the Portland area with a background in communications and a passion for telling stories. Along with writing she enjoys traveling, reading, working out, and going to concerts.
If you want to follow her writing journey, or even just say hi you can find her on Twitter.
Other posts by Amanda Winstead
Two Drops of Ink: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing
Are you ready to step outside of your comfort zone and send a guest submission to Two Drops of Ink? We are accepting poetry, prose, and problem-solving articles for the writer and blogger. Here are the guest submission guidelines.
What do you get outside of your comfort zone with a submission?
Here are a few of the benefits of a guest post:
- Your poetry, prose, or problem-solving post gains you a new audience
- Another published post to share with potential clients if you’re a freelance writer
- Shows your expertise in a writing topic
- Builds relationships with other writing site’s editors
- Links in your bio provide opportunities for additional traffic to your books, blogs, and other writing