Getting Comfortable

I’ve shared thoughts before about the importance of being true to ourselves in our writing, so perhaps I won’t be saying anything new in this post. The idea, however, is an important one, and I believe it bears repeating. We can’t be someone we’re not, and we can’t write something we don’t enjoy.

Comfort ZoneI think each of us has a “comfort zone” in writing, and personally, I consider that a good thing. If I browse around on the internet a bit, though, I find constant references to the need to get out of our comfort zones.

The magic, it’s said, can’t happen until we step away from the comfortable, until we’re willing to take risks.

Nope. I don’t agree. That may well be true in many fields of endeavor, but writing is an exception, at least, in my ever-so-humble opinion.

On more than one occasion, I’ve started a new story only to find myself uncomfortable with the writing. When that happens, I don’t enjoy the time I spend writing. I don’t look forward to sitting down and getting busy with the story. I soon realize I don’t care all that much for my characters. Quite simply, writing becomes a chore. A job. A task.

That’s not how I want to approach my stories. For me, writing needs to be enjoyable. If it’s not, I don’t want to do it.  There are enough obligations and “things I must do” in my life. Writing shouldn’t be one of them. Writing is what I love.

Whenever I find myself dreading the writing process, it’s because I’ve strayed away from who I truly am as I writer. I’ve left my “comfort zone” — which, for me, is another way of saying “who I am.”  I quickly change course and head back to where I belong, back to my comfort zone.

I’ll be honest. I sometimes look at authors who’ve published dozens of books in a variety of genres, and I question the authenticity of their stories.  As a reader, I’m skeptical. I’m not sure I trust authors who attempt too many different things.  I want to read stories written by authors who love what they write. I want to read mysteries by story-tellers who thrive on who-dun-its, and fantasies by imaginative authors who would never be “at home” in the mundane world. I want to read love stories by writers who would never want to write anything but love stories.

A couple old adages come to mind.

  • Stay with what works.
  • If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

You might disagree. Probably a lot of you will tell me I’m wrong, I’m crazy, or I’m stuck in a rut. That’s fine. My rut feels good, and I’m happily writing stories I love.

There’s a lot to be said for comfort. We crave “comfort foods”, and we’re always looking for those “creature comforts” that make life more enjoyable.

Sure, there are times when it’s probably good to shake things up and venture away from our comfort zones in life, but when it comes to writing, I’m going to make myself comfortable and tell stories that make me feel good.  If I do that, and do it well, my readers will probably feel good, too.

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7 thoughts on “Getting Comfortable

  1. Hm, interesting one…
    Mostly, I agree with you. I want to feel comfortable with what I do because only then my ‘essence’ shines through in what I write and the story is really ‘mine’.
    On the other hand, I’m for trying out new things, thinking out of the box and yes, sometimes leaving your comfort zone. Either you will find out that you’re good at what you had feared or it will reassure you that you’re better at something else. Of course, there’s a limit to how the leap should be and how much you have to bend yourself to fit…

    • I appreciate the comments. Yes, it can be good to try new things in our writing. We have to stretch our minds and our creative muscles. When it comes time to sit down and tell a story, though, I know I won’t really be happy if I’m too far from writing what I love — which is historical romance. I just don’t get the same sense of satisfaction — which is part of that “essence” you spoke of, I think — from writing anything else.

  2. I’m not sure I look at it the same way as you when I hear step out of your comfort zone as a writer- it doesn’t mean just genre- it means try something in your writing you wouldn’t normally- there is nothing to truly lose if you do.
    Take ‘what if’ for example we writers gamble with what if- what if my character has died and comes back alive?
    What if my character is cursed to never orgasm.
    What if my character has to kill the person he loves?

    asking these are stepping outside a comfort zone. They are pushing the boundaries of your characters and therefore you.
    I think the whole getting out of your comfort zone is the idea that it’s boring to do the same thing over and over in your writing with your characters.
    Many writers use the same structures they have always used and don’t add much ‘new’ to the idea of their stories. I think that ‘new’ is the stepping outside of a comfort zone.
    ~Summer

    • You’ve made excellent points. You’re right, of course. We do need to try different things. Even as I say that, I’m still holding on to a “core” concept of who I am as a writer. I know, for example, that I don’t want to write heavy, serious, somber stories. That’s not me. Whatever I write will always have a light touch about it. I can find ways of trying new things and pushing boundaries — without losing the quintessential “me” in the story. That’s how I see it, at least. I knew I’d have a lot of differing opinions on this post, and that’s also a way of stepping out of a comfort zone, I guess. It’s always good to share opinions, listen to what others have to say, and hopefully expand our own thinking in the process. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

  3. Hi, Christina! Right now, I am working on edits with my editor (fun to say!) and I’m terribly uncomfortable because I worry about the edits being so formal and losing my light and breezy style. I feel I am fighting a lot and maybe it’s in my head.

    • Another excellent point! Here’s where I say — again — that comfort zones have value. We can’t speak with any voice but our own…at least, we shouldn’t, in my opinion. Being true to who we are is one of the most important aspects of being a writer. We write to express ourselves, don’t we? Writing to express someone we’re not…well, what would be the point in that? Work with your editor, yes, but don’t lose sight of who you are, and don’t let your voice get lost in the editing process.

  4. I’m with you Christina. I have to feel comfortable that my characters are behaving as they should. I write so out of the box, I often can’t even find a box. I create characters and they do what they want. What this means is they can do many disturbing things, but as long as they are being themselves, I am totally comfortable with their actions. Now, I did write the death of a beloved character in my fav series. Then I went into mourning for two months. I would have probably mourned longer, but I finally realized he didn’t have to die…I could rewrite the ending and end all my characters pain. I had a say in this. So instead of dying, I had him nearly die, but live. Still he was getting worse until my main character stopped being a coward (she felt she was at fault) and intervened into his care. She literally bullies him to live. I have never regretted rewriting that ending, nor do I think it was a cheat, because it lead to a new book. My characters were all agreeable to the change. I never argue with my characters.

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