Hiding in the comfort zone

comfort zone


This is a funny week for me. ALA is coming, and I will have my very first ALA signing. (I am very excited/nervous about this.) Putting yourself in public is always a little hard for me. (I am not cool.) Last night, as my husband and I watched the Chicago Blackhawks score twice in 17 seconds, (YAY Hawks!!!) he said, “Why are you so nervous? Put yourself out there. Isn’t that what I always hear you tell your students?”

He was right. (Note to self: I need to lower my voice.)

I do say that. All the time. And I am most excited when it works. I love getting messages from writers who haveĀ stepped outside their comfort zones in a revision, when they stop hiding behind what they have written and try something new. Those notes are always filled with a lot of exclamation points!

(In general, I feel that this world needs more exclamation points.)

On the flip side, I always know when a writer (this includes myself) is clinging to the zone, because usually, there is confusion. That letter (or journal entry) usually says:

Why isn’t this working?

I am attached to this part.

I can’t do THAT.

For me, it’s part of the process. I write my story one way first…so I can write it another way later. The dilemma is: when I cling to that wrong way–that comfort zone–those words already on the page. I think all writers have chapters/moments/whole books that represent their comfort zones. They might have been fun to write. They might represent weeks or months or years of work. But at some point, most writers need to step out of that zone if they are going to find their magic.

When I stop hiding,

The light bulb goes on.

I get nervous. It is not safe. It is scary. But here is the interesting thing: I’m no longer worried about success.

I ALWAYS start a blank piece of paper.

For me, the magic place always starts with a blank page and a plan. It is ALWAYS camouflaged by a list of excuses (I’m not a good enough writer/it will never sell/it’s a dumb idea/go watch Law and Order…that will help.) It always takes that leap of faith, desire to jump from the cliff/willingness to FAIL.

I ask my students to go there, too. I ask, “What is there to lose? Just try it. You can always take your old words back.”

I ask them (and me) to step away from what we thought was “doable” and toward what we wished/yearned for/dreamed we could do. They are always surprised when it works. I no longer am.

So today, to get pumped for my big week of fun and books and friends and Chicago, I have a blank page staring at me. I have a storyboard. I am going to try and stay out of the comfort zone.

Leave a Reply