Yesterday I talked about the Amnesia Goblin and how it strives to kill your creative and productive writing time. Today we meet it’s cousin, the Comfort Zone Monster.
It is necessary to have a comfort zone, both for your sanity and continued good health. The comfort zone is a place we go to recharge, to rest, and to gather ourselves up for another attempt at interacting with the outside world. We have comfort zones in writing as well, whether it’s a certain genre, a certain style we’ve mastered, a way of plotting or structuring, etc. They are tried and true for us, skills we worked hard to attain, and they become our defaults when starting a new venture.
Yet they can also be a most vicious and sticky trap, sucking us down into a claustrophobic state of meh, because the excitement has been choked out. We know what to expect, where the roads go, and what’s at the end of the rainbow.
And spoiler, that’s not gold. It’s just a pot of chili, because leprechauns know that pots are for cooking, not hiding valuable goods.
When the Comfort Monster arrives it’s not apparent at first. You’re feeling dissatisfied, a little aimless, and mostly bored. You start to question yourself. Did the magic run out? Am I still a writer? Have I used up all my good ideas?
You can go in circles all day long with that kind of thinking, and you’re looking in the wrong direction. If Stephen King can keep writing in the horror genre for, what is it, around 50 years now? You definitely have not used up all your creative wellspring, my friends.
Most likely what you need is a change of pace. Here are a couple of ideas.
1. Try writing a new genre.
I love writing fantasy, but there have been times where I needed a different scene, so I wrote strict horror or pure western. Both are genres I enjoy reading and watching, but I don’t write many stories set within those parameters. It was actually kind of freeing to play with something completely different and I learned something new from both stories.
2. Write another gendered character.
If you mainly write from a man’s point of view, create a female character and write her. Or vice versa. Or do some research on the rest of the gender spectrum and then create a character that embodies one or more of them.
3. Switch up your writing style.
If you write in third person try first or second. Play around with the tenses. Add some poetry, try putting your story into song form. Write your story as if it’s a legend being told around a campfire at midnight. Write it in diary form, or as a letter. Maybe your story is an old manuscript hidden in the back of an abandoned temple, or a confession left in the mailbox of a judge. Go nuts.
4. Switch up your writing order.
If you normally write things in linear order try writing from the middle outward. Or from the end to the beginning. Or just write out scenes and then figure out where and how to place them later.
5. Mix your genres.
A personal favorite of mine, because mixing lets you take whatever you consider the most exciting about two or more genres and blend them together into something unique. So write about aliens interacting with elves. Stick a gunslinger in medieval Europe. Drop a noir private detective into the middle of a love triangle on a spaceship.
6. Write something that makes you emotional.
Write something that makes you cry. Write something that scares you. Write something that makes you laugh until your ribs groan. Stories are here to invoke emotion from the reader, to make them care about what is going on. That can’t happen unless the prose elicits something from you. Some of the best work I ever wrote came out of a time I was diverting a lot of depression and anger from another situation into my story. So rip off the bandaid and put your characters into some kind of emotionally charged situation. It’s also pretty cathartic for the writer.
7. Switch up your writing routine.
If you usually work at home, take your writing on the road. Go to a coffee shop, a bookstore, a restaurant, a cemetery, a library. If you usually write while outside the house, go home and curl up with your beloved laptop and a cup of coffee. Or take your writing to your vehicle, get the best of both worlds while being in neither.
There are literally millions of combinations and new avenues to try with your writing if you sit down to think about it. With those kinds of odds, you’ll never actually run out of things to write about, and branching out in different directions mentally and physically not only opens up your creativity, it teaches you new writing skills.