Comfort zones. They are, well… comfortable. You don’t want to leave them because they are familiar. They may not be safe, but you know what the dangers are and how to deal with them. They are also pretty small, and there’s a whole world out there to be explored. There are new things to participate in but you must get out of your comfort zone to experience them.
For a writer, this means broadening out in your areas of interest. Everything I do, everyone I interact with, everything I read or see; this is fodder that influences how I write or what I write about.
“Write what you know.”
The adage that writers live by is, “Write what you know.” So if all you know is your comfort zone, then that’s all you can write about. The best authors know about many different things. They may not be experts at those things, but they know enough to fabricate a sense of realism into their stories.
I’ve never fired a gun in my life, yet I’m trying to write a story where characters are shooting guns. My guns have nebulous descriptions – pistol or shotgun. I have no idea where the safety switch is or how you load them. I don’t know what it’s like to pull the trigger and have it kick in my hands. In short, I suck at writing about shooting guns. That changes tomorrow, thanks to a kind invitation from a friend to join him at the firing range.
I’ve also written stories about things I personally have never done, like mountain climbing. I’ve always had a fascination with it, but more from the perspective of why would someone risk their life to climb Everest? So I read books about it and watched documentaries. I did research. Then I wrote, and when I wrote, it was from my perspective – Why would anyone climb Everest? My main character was questioning the whole process while he did it. It worked pretty well.
So what’s the take-away on that? You don’t have to actually go do something yourself to write a believable story about it, but you do need to know something and if you do so in a way that is relevant to your perspective, it can have an authentic voice.
As NaNoWriMo approaches, I have my Everest to climb. Write 50,000 words in 30 days? That’s crazy! Why would anyone commit to doing that?
It will be 30 days of absolutely no comfort zone at all. I will be in writer’s survival mode, brain-dumping to the keyboard with wanton abandon. Most of it will be crap. Like a climber who has summited Everest, all I will have is the experience and ability to say, “I did that.”
If someone asks why, the answer will be a quote from the famous mountaineer, George Mallory, “Because it is there.” I don’t expect anyone to understand it, just as I don’t understand why Mallory would climb Everest.
Surely, out of 50,000 words, one of them will be good?