Writing Outside of Your Comfort Zone

Many seasoned authors herald the importance of writing out of your comfort zone. Taking yourself out of your comfort zone is something I was taught, many times over, in acting classes. Theoretically, if you stretch your boundaries, not only will you grow as a person, you will also discover techniques that help you hone your skills. Makes sense, right?

But what if the subject matter takes your readers out of their comfort zones?

As a writer and an actor, I want to produce work that resonates. Engaging an audience is twice as hard when you are guiding their hand to an area they are not sure they want to touch. If the goal is not only to hone your craft, but also to produce enjoyable product, how much time do you invest if you fear the subject may make people so uncomfortable, many of them won’t want to read your work? The answer is subjective, because isn’t the point of creativity self-expression? And isn’t part of the point of self-expression to show the world a part of yourself? If people won’t be open to you, it feels rather defeating.

When you exercise self-expression, you run the risk of finding yourself on the defensive. That happened to me when I explored the angst I felt with a taboo subject. After all, there are not many books on sibling incest, let alone consensual, romantic sibling incest with civil rights in mind, for a reason. In the end, I became so comfortable that I wrote a trio of novels revolving around the subject. But the comfort level I found was largely something unique to me, and while I am usually all too happy to talk about my work at social gatherings, I often found myself uncharacteristically reserved.

How do you respond when people who have no idea what you are working on, ask about your project that involves a subject so taboo it drives many people to instant ire? Do you go full steam ahead and act like it is no big deal even if you see them sweat? Do you dodge the subject and bring up other aspects of the book, thus creating a false impression? Or do you site big name projects that gently touch the subject as a way to prove your position along with the value of your work?

Here is what I have learned to say when asked about my sibling incest novel, Love’s Forbidden Flower:
“I took myself out of my comfort zone. I saw something biased and thought I could do better at tackling a tough subject. Once I delved in, some real-life scenarios tugged at my heartstrings and raised my compassion. When I researched statistics and found how common something so forbidden is, I asked myself why I had so many opinions about what is right and about how others should live their lives. I then challenged myself to jump into another’s shoes, and I am a stronger and better person for it.”

What lies in your discomfort zone? Are you willing to write about it, read about it, and spend hours researching it to question why it feels wrong and strive to find compassion? I did, and my heart will never be the same.

I dare you. I absolutely dare you to go outside of your comfort zone and search for understanding. You don’t need to go so extreme as to write a book on incest, and it is perfectly fine if you do not find the level of compassion I did. Just opening your eyes and challenging yourself to grow and be more accepting is all you need to do. By challenging yourself to see something you fear or do not condone in a new light, you are changing the world, one tiny step at a time.