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Deadline: Thursday, October 21st

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.

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  1. Switch POV. Try writing a story in third person, even though you’ve always been most comfortable in first.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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

18 Comments

  1. Anita

    I was on a lovely mystery weekend, and decided to blog about great local trips in my area.

    Reply
  2. Wendy

    I went for a walk in the woods. Solitude is good for creativity!

    Reply
  3. Jay

    Great article! That picture makes me nervous.

    Reply
  4. Jonathan

    This has a lot of information. Thank you!

    Reply
  5. Chris

    I made a huge dinner for my family–way over the top. The converstion ended up inspiring my new story!

    Reply
  6. Bleuzette

    I posted on facebook that I had been writing like mad and working hard lately but that I had been craving cake as a result of it. Since my work is usually a bit dark and pensive a friend of mine suggested I write a light piece about cake. I took the suggestion and wrote the poem that day. When I saw my friends at the weekend we had a little poetry reading over breakfast and, lucky for me, they rewarded my new work with cake!

    Reply
    • Writers Relief Staff

      Bleuzette, we’re so happy to hear that you had such a positive response to leaving your comfort zone. We hope this will serve as motivation for others—if you step outside of your comfort zone you may end up with free cake!

      Reply
  7. Gail

    It’s good to switch things up, challenge ourselves. You’ve given some really good suggestions and I plan on trying a few. I’m an introvert by nature so the idea of posing as an unofficial greeter is both terrifying and thrilling. Just thinking about it makes my palms sweat! Ideas are popping already, though.

    Reply
    • Writers Relief Staff

      Gail, we’re excited to hear that you plan to try a few of our suggestions! We would love it if you’d come back and share the results with us!

      Reply
  8. Ronald P. Chavez

    How very true about getting out of our comfort zone. I mentor a charter school poetry club and a young lady. The strongest thing I recommend is they write fearlessly. I also stress passion. Both of these sugestions promote originality outside the box.

    Reply
  9. M. West

    I vote for Wendy. Nature that embraces you is a kick, be waves, powder snow, a canyon, or a forest.

    Reply
  10. Nayanna Chakrbarty

    Mall is the best way I find my characters. Unsual people pop out instantly and their bags and packages give me a fair idea what they have shopped. Next, I let my imagination take control.

    Reply
  11. Scott

    Because family is so important to me I don’t like to be too different from them (my comfort zone), so stepping out of that is as easy as picking a topic I’ve never heard them (or will ever hear them) discuss.

    Reply
  12. glynes

    I’ve found the opposite to also be true. My normal life is all outside my comfort zone. I navigate seemingly endless, pointless days, fearful that someone will see through the facade and discover that I’m scared to death all the time and have no idea what I’m doing. Struggling to survive and keep up appearances kills any creative process. However, this week I’ve been secluded in a tiny cabin in the woods (my true comfort zone, what should be my *real* life), and the flood gates have opened.
    For me, at least, the almost total lack of challenge has made room for stories and characters to step out and take center stage.

    Reply
  13. Violet Oldenski

    I took a creative writing class at a local community college where I was introduced to poetry and playwriting. It really opened up my writing! I continued with another semester of the advanced class at the request of the professor.

    Violet

    Reply
  14. Kami

    That picture at the top looks like it was taken at Crater Lake- oh how I love that place.

    Reply
  15. Jo. Tripodi

    What scares me about leaving my comfort zone when writing is that I will look the fool when trying to write about something I know very little about. being always told to ” write what you know ” has kept me in a place where I continue to produce the same product to where I find is a little repiticious but safe.

    Reply
  16. Grace Zimmerman

    I attended a conservation conference and now I’m planning, after I finish sending off my monthly article, to send the topics of the conference to metro newspaper to make people aware of what this group is doing.

    Reply

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