Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Writer's Wednesday - Out Of The Comfort Zone

Brigid Coady explores writing out of the comfort zone

I am a creature of habit. I have my routine every morning when I get up and woe betide anyone who messes it up. I wish I was more of a creature of habit about my writing but that is another post which would cover among other things my internet addiction and TV watching habits.

No the habit I’m talking about is in my creativity. The habits I had gotten into in terms of what sort of stories I want to write; the length, the subject, the ideas. For a long time I believed I couldn’t write short stories. I had attended all those courses about writing for those magazines that buy short stories and very quickly I realised my voice and ideas didn’t fit there. So I put aside all thought of short stories and plugged on with my Modern Heat and now my new work. I was happy. I was writing the stories I thought I wanted to write.

And then at the beginning of this year I decided that I needed to join a writing group. I looked around and knowing myself I knew it had to be somewhere near otherwise I wouldn’t go. I ended up joining a writing group run by my local library and suddenly for the first time in years I was with non-romance writing writers.

It was weird.

They wrote other sorts of stories and the writing exercises we did meant that I couldn’t resort to my default romance stories. At first I felt uncomfortable as if I was wearing a jumper with odd length sleeves. My writing was clumsy and broken.
And then there was a revelation… there were other stories out there, other subjects. Blimey. Who’d have thunk it? And then came the day when our lovely group leader, the Children’s Librarian issued us a challenge. There was a short story competition being run nationally and she thought we should all enter. Were we up for it? Me? A short story? You have to be kidding me. I didn’t do short stories. But I was already out of my comfort zone and I obviously felt brave so I started to write. This short story felt different but right. Its only constraint was its length and its theme. 2000 words on conflict.

Ping! Zing! WOW!

A whole different set of creative muscles woke up and started to flex. No longer was I constrained by boy meeting girl (although there was a touch of romance), I was writing first person as a 15 year old boy. And I finished it. It probably wasn’t the conflicted, war torn, literary masterpiece they were expecting but it was mine.
It didn’t win the competition but it did in another one but more than that it set my imagination soaring. Those creative muscles are still working and I have ideas buzzing round in my head.

When have you stepped out of your comfort zone? And how was it for you?

Brigid is basking in the glory that her short story ‘The Great Leap Forward’ will be published in Tonto Books ‘Even More Tonto Short Stories’ soon. When she isn’t basking she is working on ’Bah Humbug!’ and a young adult fiction idea.


  1. Thank you!! It was lovely having a book cover to add to the end of the post :-)

  2. I gave up my career as a wedding planner to try my hand at writing so far its been very fulfilling even if I've yet to publish anything or get an agent. I like your blog it is very informitive.
    All the very best,

  3. Simone - glad you like The Pink Heart Society! It is a great place to hang out. You definitely moved out of your comfort zone. Good luck with your writin.


  4. Congratulations. Isn't it wonderful when we break out of the expected and do well?
    It's hard to say when I have stepped out of my comfort zone. I'm an introvert so just going on my first date with my husband was stepping out of my comfort zone!
    On the other hand, I've moved to another state, another country. I love exotic food that some of my friends won't touch. But I moved around a lot as kid and my parents love trying new cuisines, so those were two things that were "normal" for me, but strange for others. hat's the interesting thing about comfort zones, they're so personal.

  5. Thanks Jill! You are right that comfort zones are so personal, I hadn't thought about it like that before.