Be bold and step outside your creative comfort zone
It’s nice to be comfortable. Habits and routines surround you like a warm blanket and it’s tempting to stay there, wrapped in the familiar.
Many creatives find themselves working within their comfort zones. It’s convenient to stick to a standard set of methods, approaches, genres and styles.
They seem to work so why change them?
When you step outside a comfortable space and push through the initial discomfort, new inspiration, ideas, and creative surprises often spark.
Are you in your comfort zone?
One of the most common signs that your comfort zone may have become a comfort trap is when you find yourself following similar patterns over and over.
Familiarity has its place. Within a book series, for example, you would expect a thread of similarity intermingled with the plot twists, action, or romance.
When you have been writing for a long time, you will also have discovered ways that work for you and using these can help you write at your best. But, if you find yourself feeling unsettled, tired, bored or stale it could be time for some variation.
Other signs you may need to escape your creative comfort zone include:
- Comparisonitus – you begin comparing yourself to other authors.
- Writer’s block – call it procrastination, boredom, or blockages – can impact inspiration and motivation.
- Self-doubt – perhaps your usual levels of self-doubt are amplified at the moment, and you can’t explain it.
- Detachment – are you fully invested in your story and characters? Are your words exciting you?
Losing interest in your story as a writer warns you that you’re potentially writing something that readers will find hard to engage with.
Audiences are savvy. They know when your heart isn’t in it.
Rediscover your creative spark
Stepping outside your writing comfort zone may seem scary, but it’s the perfect opportunity to challenge yourself as a writer. You may also stumble upon surprises.
There are lots of ways to shake up your writing:
- Write at a different time or in a different place.
- Experiment with another creative activity such as painting, music or dance.
- Try walking before you write, going along a different path than usual.
- Write a section of your piece on something you wouldn’t normally. For example, if you write on a computer, switch to a notebook. If you write in a notebook, try writing on pieces of coloured paper instead.
- Throw the occasional writing prompt into your routine.
- If you never enter competitions, try giving it a go.
How about switching genres?
Most writers have comfort genres, styles and forms. You may spend all your time on poetry, novels or nonfiction. Maybe your favourite genre is romance, thrillers or young adult. Third person may be your thing or you may prefer first.
What happens when you make a change?
You’re likely to find fresh inspiration and be more experimental as you’ll be operating outside of what you know. You’ll certainly learn something about yourself and your writing while you stretch your creative muscles.
To experiment with another genre, you don’t have to commit to a massive project. A short fling may be all you need to get bold with your writing.
Try this exercise
Choose a prompt from the list below, but make sure it’s something you wouldn’t usually write about. Have a go at writing a 100-word piece:
- Write about a girl who goes missing but then calls her parents ten years later – twist: the parents killed the girl ten years ago. (Horror)
- Write a story about school sweethearts meeting again after many years. (Romance)
- Aliens land on Earth but they are all females – do they abduct the men and kill the human females, or do they kill the men and rule with the females? (Sci-Fi)
- Write about someone with a superpower. (Fantasy)
- Write about being behind enemy lines in a historical war. (Historical Fiction)
Using a new method, point of view, genre, or writing style is a wonderful way of inspiring new ideas. It’ll keep you motivated to write and should keep readers engaged too.
Experiment regularly. It could lead to something special.