Words on a Page Writings about writing

Breaking free of your comfort zone

A woman pushing a very large boulder

Falling into a nice little rut. Getting complacent. Finding a comfortable groove. Wrapping yourself in a cloak of familiarity.

Call it what you will, but most of us fall into the comfort of a routine now and then. Yes, the oft-talked-about comfort zone.

There’s nothing wrong with that. But I find that inhabiting the comfort zone for too long can get boring. Actually, worse than boring. You’ve probably felt the same way. When you’re in your comfort zone, the work is easy to do and feels more like typing than actual writing. Or, you feel the need to move into areas other than just your writing niche.

Lately, I’ve once again been feeling that I’ve ensconced too snugly in my own comfort zone. As part of the New Cruelty, I’ve been experimenting with ways of bursting free of my comfort zone.

You can burst out of yours too. And doing that just might refresh you, your writing, and your career.

Curious? Then read on.

Proceeding with a plan

Moving out of your comfort zone is difficult. It takes a conscious effort. To do it effectively, you need a plan.

Your plan doesn’t need to be elaborate or detailed. It can be, though. Just think about what you want to do and then start with small steps down that road.

Like what? For example, maybe you primarily work on user documentation for enterprise applications. To move outside that comfort zone, you might consider writing articles or reviews around commercial products. Start small. Write short pieces using language that’s more casual than what you’d use with your usual audience. Then move on to writing longer pieces.

Or consider starting your own blog. As you blog, you might wind up feeling a bit less jaded about what you do and even learn a thing or two.

Get into the rhythm of what you want to write, then build up.

Moving off on a tangent

As I look to the future, I’m seriously considering moving into a couple of areas that are really outside my comfort zone. They involve writing to a degree, but also skills that I don’t currently have. This is where the New Cruelty comes in: trying to pick up those skills.

(If you want the details, you’ll need to wait a little while. I don’t talk about plans that I’m currently formulating. Nothing personal …)

As I wrote a couple of paragraphs ago, I’m planning on doing one or two things that interest me but which outside of my usual sphere. It’s not going to be easy, but I sure am going to try.

You can, too. Maybe you want to add photography or illustration or writing feature articles to your set of skills. The only way to do that is to learn. And practice. And practice some more. It will definitely take effort. And it could be expensive. The potential rewards, though, are definitely worth it.

Expect to fail

I can tell you from experience that not everything you try will work out. In fact, failure is a distinct option.

And that’s fine. Don’t let failure get you down.

Failure is useful. Failure is instructive. Failure helps you grow.

Breaking out of your comfort zone isn’t just something you should try. Sometimes, it’s something that you need to do. It will make you a better, more rounded person and writer.

Thoughts? Let's start a conversation on Twitter.