Widen Your Comfort Zone

There’s a special feeling when you’ve got a niche and you fill it so nicely. Everything’s in its place, because you know this place and it’s your place and you dictate where all the things go.

You’re in your comfort zone. Your little personal bubble. You’re hidden away safe and sound where you know all the dark corners and all the damp spaces and juuuust where to lay down on that mattress.

But sometimes you have to leave that comfort zone. And it causes you anxiety. You start to fidget nervously. You can’t get comfortable. You’re out in public, away from your safe space. You don’t know the steps to this dance. You don’t even know what dancing is. Who ever heard of such a grotesque thing?

But you go back to your comfort zone eventually. Everybody does. Your home is your sanctuary. But so too is your classroom. Your friend’s house. Your parents’ house. Your place of business. The coffee shop down the street with cold coffee that you nevertheless love.

But none of those things were in your comfort zone at some point. You had to leave your comfort zone, and then you spent enough time away from it that new places started becoming your comfort zone as well. Your zone widened because it had to and you’re a better person for it. A more complete, cosmopolitan person.

The same is true of writing. So you love reading a single genre. You want to write only that genre. And you figure out that, hey, you’re actually pretty good at writing in that genre, or in that particular way, or from that point of view.

But that’s limiting in its own ways. When you stop growing and changing as a person, you become a stereotype. A caricature. You lose a vital something that says “I’m alive and I’m going to keep learning” and it gets replaced with “Here’s me, if you don’t like me, tough, ’cause I’m not changing for anything”.

And that’s not even a bad thing all the time! There’s millions of people who are perfectly fine the way they are. They don’t hurt, abuse, steal, murder, rape, etc. They treat people fairly. They look after their own. They have opinions but they don’t shove those opinions down people’s throats.

But why stop there? Why limit yourself as a person? And by the same token, why limit yourself as a writer? Even if you never plan to publish that steamy viking romance, that furry erotica, that Harry Potter slashfic aboutĀ Professors Sprout and Trelawney, that Star Trek clone, that anime ripoff, that whatever the hell there is, you’ve written it. You’ve looked at something that wasn’t in your comfort zone–your wheelhouse if you like– and explored it. You maybe, hopefully learned something that you can take back with you to your comfort zone and strengthen your writing, just like you strengthen yourself when you step out of your protective bubble.

Or maybe, just maybe, you’ve expanded your little safe space a bit. You can stretch your legs now. You can finally scratch that itch on your back that you couldn’t get to before.

You can finally write the hell on.

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