When I first started writing, the idea of someone reading it was terrifying. It still is. But I’ve done it. Posted work on Wattpad and fanfiction sites (even though the errors littering the work now makes me cringe) and people have read it. They’ve commented on it, favourited it and left kudos all of which gives me more confidence to keep putting it out there, and moving toward getting an original story published.
But that is all anonymous, hiding behind the computer screen and not having to hear or listen to criticisms in person. Stepping out of that comfort zone, meant attending writing groups, enrolling in Creative Writing papers as part of my degree and putting forward work for Cold Reads at conference. All of it nerve-wracking and in person. But I did and continue to do it. Meeting with other writers, regardless of whether they write the same genre as you or not, will help to keep you moving forward and take the confidence to step out of the comfort zone. And if they don’t, find new ones.
Writing isn’t the only area I’m stepping outside of my comfort zone. Donning a pair of roller skates for the first time in …. years, was frightening. Balance isn’t what it used to be and neither is co-ordination. And it is nothing like riding a bicycle, you can’t get back on and expect to be able to do what you could as a kid, my friend and I soon discovered. But it was fun. And we went back….. though we can only go forward, stopping is hard and I’ve gained bruises and pulled muscles – muscles ached for days after the first time, even simple everyday tasks felt impossible. It is also frustrating, remember what you could do as a kid, but can’t now…. brain wants to go faster, wants to do crossover moves and balance on one foot, but the body isn’t so willing. Going backwards….. that one is going to be hard, I couldn’t do it back then either.
So why try? Why step out the comfort zone where you know everything is safe and predictable?
Because its good to do it, to challenge yourself and the benefits do flow onto your confidence in other area’s of your life. It doesn’t have to be big steps. Little ones will still take you somewhere, as we all move at our own pace. But for me, it was also reminding myself that I could do it, that I could step out of the comfort zone I had built around myself without realising it. A comfort zone which had almost become a prison filled with self-doubt and anxiety… its fun watching the walls crumble, even if only a little bit at a time.
And that struggle can also be seen within the characters I write. They all have their own comfort zones needing to be stepped out of, sometimes multiple, whether it be around taking a risk on love; on trusting someone or choosing to step into a world far different from the one they grew up in. And when they do, it isn’t all Happy Ever After right from the start. Stepping out of the comfort zone isn’t that easy, you can get hurt, but its how you deal with that – how the character deals with it – which decides what your HEA looks like.
(It’s that, or I just like to put my characters through the wringer before I leave them in happiness.)