Your Comfort Zone Sucks.

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Put these on. We’re going for a walk. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And so does mine. That’s why we’re abandoning it.

Every writer has a comfort zone. It’s that place where you know what you’re doing and can be reasonably sure of doing it with a certain amount of skill and grace. Of not embarrassing yourself. Nothing ever upsets you there. It’s a comfy place. Hence the very obvious name.

But it’s boring as shit there. And that’s exactly the word I mean. Because how much do you remember about your last trip to the toilet?*

There are things about writing that will make you uncomfortable. It’ll be different for everyone. Some people might not like depicting violence, others might be uneasy about writing about a divorce. Or sex. Drug use. Religion. Nudity. Racism. Depression. Or, I don’t know, a plague of weasels.** There is something out there that makes you cringe a little inside when you think about writing it. And, because of me, you’re thinking about it right now. What is it?

Got it in mind? Okay.

Now go write it.

Hang on, hang on. Put down that big hammer and hear me out. Whatever came to mind is something that provokes a very visceral reaction from you. It makes you angry, or sick, or sad, or embarrassed. It upsets you. (Sorry about that.)

But you can use that.

Try writing a scene with that thing in it. Yeah, it’ll be weird and awkward and uncomfortable. I know. Go check out my experience writing a sex scene for the first time. But you can do it if you try, and put all that weirdness on the page.

And, once you get it done, you might like the scene. Or you might hate it. Either one is okay. You don’t have to let anyone else see it, ever. You don’t have to do anything with it, though I’d encourage you not to delete it. But once you know you can access that sort of feeling, and make it come out onto the page, you can use it. You want to make your audience upset? Use something that upsets you, and pass it on to them like an especially itchy STD. Make them feel it the way you do.

Funny thing is, the same applies to writing happy things. It’s hard to make an audience feel happy about something unless you can somehow connect it to your own happiness and share that with them. But you rarely have to push to write that stuff. It’s the dirty parts, the bloody parts, the parts that make you cringe that you have to make yourself write. But once you do, you’ll open up a whole new set of tools for your writing. And in this job, you need all the tools you can get.

*Krys, you’re excused from this question. I read the post.

**Sneaky little bastards.

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2 thoughts on “Your Comfort Zone Sucks.

  1. Gah. Do I have to? Okay, okay, there is this one story I wrote a while back where I ‘skipped’ the sex scene.. or totally dodged it. This could be the day when I woman-up and get down to it ** maybe…

    • I’d say the sex scene is somewhere in the top three awkward writing bits for most people. I’m a big fan of writing an initial scene quickly without editing, and then sitting down to go, “Right. Well, they wouldn’t do that.” Then figuring out what those characters would do instead. But it’s worth doing, and it won’t be as hard as you think. (obligatory ‘that’s what she said’ joke here.)
      So, yeah, get on that. Or under it. Your call. 🙂

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