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As creative writers, sometimes we need to stretch our muscles, step outside our stuffy little comfort zones, and try something new. Comfort zones are called just that because they are comfortable and safe. And while it’s scary to do new things and take risks, it’s the only way we grow.
We jump out of airplanes, talk to strangers at parties, and visit new countries when we want to face our fears and grow as people. But what can writers do to step out of their comfort zones and try something new? Here are a few ways to get started.
- Switch POV. Try writing a story in third person, even though you’ve always been most comfortable in first.
- Switch poetic forms. If you write narrative poetry, try a ballad, a palindrome, or a visual form of poetry. Or try your hand at romance if you normally write humor. Is there a writing style or form that has caused you problems in the past? Try it again and overcome your weakness.
- Take something ordinary and make it unusual. Write a story about something terribly boring but with a twist—your toaster oven comes to life, or something incredible happens when you open your mail.
- Try writing about something awkward, upsetting, embarrassing, or controversial. Tackle subjects like incest, religion, and STDs, or reveal your deepest, darkest secret in story form.
- Switch story settings and put yourself in unfamiliar situations. Attend an evangelical church if you’re normally part of a super-sedate congregation—gain a new perspective on religion and how people worship. Or spend a few hours in an area of town you normally avoid and see it from a different view.
- Make a fool of yourself. Step onto a crowded elevator and stand facing the others rather than the door—really experience the feeling of awkwardness. What reactions do you get? Or plant yourself outside a large store and be an unofficial greeter—observe how people respond to you.
- Face a fear—and then write about it. Terrified of spiders? Visit the zoo and spend some hands-on time with some creepy crawlies. Or shut yourself in a closet and really tap into your claustrophobia.
Everyone feels more comfortable with what they know, and writers can easily fall into a habit of sticking to their comfort zones when it comes to literary form, genre, and theme. But these habits can block new and creative ideas. When a writer steps out of that comfort zone, either physically or in writing, there’s no telling what will emerge!
QUESTION: What was the last thing you did that inspired a new idea?
Photo by santheo