Thursday, February 20, 2014

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone! Or Not.

Some of us are risk-takers, while others prefer to stay relatively safe in our Comfort Zone. 

Why disturb a perfectly good comfort level if we don't need to?
What are the advantages of staying in a known comfort zone? Are there disadvantages?

Remember cliques when you were a teenager? I was a member of one, although none of us consciously entered into this comfortable friendship with others much like ourselves. It somehow evolved over a period of a few years during junior high and high school.
This didn't mean each of us didn't have other friends outside the circle--all of us did. Still, those friends were similar to those in the clique.

A comfort zone is a behavioral state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition. In this neutral zone, the person delivers a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk.
This risk--free zone can create an unfounded sense of security. If the person steps outside this zone--or box--, she must experiment with new and different behaviors.
In stepping out, then the person will need to learn new and different responses to the behaviors.

During my adult years, I have moved in and out of different zones, some of which became uncomfortable and stressful. Those that made me angry, unhappy, or fearful caused me to back off eventually.
Maybe we're all programmed a certain way and cannot change.
Or maybe we can change if we choose something that won't completely destroy us.

Can we step out of our usual comfort zone and still experience positive feedback?

I'm betting those of us who write struggle with this quite often.

My comfort zone is writing historical western romances. This is the area in which I've earned the most success in sales and reviews.
But I also have written a few contemporary novels that had nothing to do with cowboys or horses. I had to step out of my comfort zone to do this. Each of the four contemporary novels was very different from the others. But the stories came to me so strongly, I forged ahead and wrote them. All are good stories--I say that, a few reviewers say that, and my local readers say that.
But still, I never felt comfortable writing the contemporary novels with contemporary characters.

For me, that's about as far out of my comfort zone as I can get.

 Characters are in the same category. I so admire an author who can step way out of her comfort zone and write about a unique character. One writes about a blind hero; another writes about a disabled veteran; another writes about mentally ill hero; another tells the story of characters with special mental gifts; and still another writes about superhuman characters.

Could I do this? Not yet. I admit it, I can't go to any extreme yet, but maybe one day I will step out of my comfort zone and find that unique character and story.
Celia Yeary
Romance...and a little bit of Texas


  1. I'll admit, when things get boring and I'm stuck in a rut, I like the idea of stepping out of my comfort zone. Whether or not I'm brave enough to actually do it is a different story. In my writing, I'm a bit braver. If the character is strong enough, I'll do it.

  2. I have lived in and out of my comfort zone for as long as I can remember. I've envied people who live a placid life in one place all of their lives but truly, if I had the same situation, I'd probably be bored. I thrive on change and challenge which can be a blessing or a curse.

  3. Nice post, Celia, and it extends well outside of writing, too.

    My comfort zone is really very, very small so I spend much of my time outside of it. To me, growth, especially personal growth, is a very big thing, and stepping outside your comfort zone is a huge step in growth. I can't understand refusing to do that at least at times.

    I think it's good for writers to cross genres (writing and reading) even if they don't decide to publish their outer zone efforts.

  4. Jennifer--I, too, sometime let my characters do something I would not. Frankly, I've been forced to step out of my comfort zone more than once in my life. Now? I'm pretty happy where I am.
    Thanks for your comment.

  5. Linda--I definitely think you would be bored if you didn't have so many things to do and places to go. Staying in one placid place sounds appealing to a degree--then, like you, I have to step out.
    With my writing, I think I'd be wasting my time to try another distinct genre.
    Thanks for coming by--you know I always want to know what you'll say.

  6. LK--I understand. And I do admire you for stepping out and creating a new identity and writing a different kind of book..for you.