by R.C. Lewis
Last week, Jemi posted about writing what you read. It's a matter of choosing to write what we're familiar with, what we're passionate about. In a way, it's our comfort zone—a good kind of comfort zone, the kind that gives us power and authenticity.
There's another kind of comfort zone that isn't necessarily so good. It consists of the aspects of writing that we're most secure with. Our strengths. For some, maybe it's world-building. For others, dialogue. Or weaving in backstory, or evoking emotion.
Strengths are good. Embracing them, playing them up helps create our individual style as a writer. But what happens if we stop there?
What happens when we shy away from aspects we know lie outside that zone of strength?
We should always challenge ourselves, push to improve and learn more about all areas of our craft. That means going to the edge of our comfort zone and taking a small step over that line. Weaknesses can't be ignored and left alone.
This has been on my mind a lot lately. There are particular nuances within the context of characters' emotions that I struggle with. I used to be downright afraid of it. I've been edging myself into that realm, trying to get more comfortable, trying to handle it more deftly. I think I've been making progress, but once in a while I get a reminder of how far I have to go.
At the same time, it's important to be true to ourselves. We each have our identity as a writer, and it's possible to push ourselves not just outside our comfort zone, but outside of who we are. For me, it's important to convey emotional context more clearly, but I also know I could take it so far that I'd be attempting to write something not authentic to who I am.
It's a matter of finding balance. Moving outside our comfort zone—and thereby expanding it—without wandering too far from the core of our writer-selves. How to find and maintain that balance ... that's something I'm still working on.
What aspects of writing lie just outside your comfort zone? How are you pushing that edge out a little further? How do you hold your identity as a writer while still learning and growing?
R.C. Lewis teaches math to deaf teenagers by day and writes YA fiction by every other time. You can find her at Crossing the Helix and Twitter (@RC_Lewis).
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