A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.
95. Breaking out of your comfort zone
Humans are creatures of habit, by nature. We like to stick with what we know, what’s comfortable and easy. That’s why it’s so hard for us to do things like move away from home, take on a new diet or exercise routine, or otherwise break out of our “comfort zone”.
For writers this can be particularly detrimental. While you want to write what you know, what you’re good at, you don’t want to dig yourself into a rut. You don’t want to stagnate. You can’t stick with the exact same formula for your entire career; if you do, your writing will become predictable and boring. Imagine for a moment that a reader is picking up your latest book at a storm and skimming over the cover. Now imagine that reader making a face, thinking, “Why bother spending the money on something that’s going to be the exact same as the last one he/she wrote?” and putting the book back on the shelf. Now imagine reader after reader all doing the exact same thing, no one ever taking the leap to actually purchase the book. How does that feel? I’m going to wager not very good. Even if you’re someone who takes criticism extremely well, you can’t deny the fact that not selling your book is a bad thing. A very bad thing.
So how do we break out of our comfort zones and keep producing books that our readers will want to read? By buckling down, gritting our teeth, and forcing ourselves to do the opposite of what we would normally do. Are all of your main characters always female? Force yourself to write from a male perspective. Do all of your stories feature a romance subplot? Try a subplot about how much two characters can’t stand each other. Do you only write stories for adults? Try writing one for kids. Doing any of these things will probably be difficult, likely it will even be unpleasant, but it will force you to break your mental boundaries, and you never know…you just might discover that you enjoy it.
For myself, I have a few bad habits writing in my “comfort zone” that I’m actively tying to break. All of the examples above were taken from my own experience. I always write from the perspective of female main characters – not because I don’t think I can write from a male perspective, but because it’s easier to write from a female one. I always have a romance subplot in my stories because I enjoy writing about people falling for each other, even under unusual circumstances (*cough*zombie apocalypse*cough*). And I always write for adults – not because I don’t think I could write books for kids, but because I enjoy writing sex and violence, and it’s usually preferable that those things stay away from kids. I’ve been trying to break some of these habits lately, and yes it’s difficult, and sometimes it definitely sucks, but I do believe that I’m learning from the experience.
Never stop learning, no matter what you’re doing or how good you might think you already are. It would be the biggest mistake you’d ever make.