Jeff and I have quite often talked about inspiration. Everyone finds it in different places. Something I’m starting to notice for myself is the source of that inspiration has a bearing on what I write. Yesterday I was inspired by two different things. Yesterday at lunch I was thinking about someone and I got inspired to write something I haven’t written in a long time, I wrote a poem. Now for those of you who don’t know I actually used to fancy myself a budding poet, that’s right I was an angst ridden 22 year old who wrote a lot of sappy poems that rhymed. Turns out none of those were good really. The last time I actually sat down and wrote a poem was right after my dad died. Then yesterday I sat down and wrote a poem. Needless to say poems are a bit out of my comfort zone these days.
Last night I watched Finding Forrester, a movie about a young writer which never fails to inspire me. The result of that inspiration was I came into work this morning and had to set aside 20 minutes or so to write the opening to a chapter in a new story. A story that is so far outside of my comfort zone I have no idea where it really came from. So for the last two weeks everything I’ve written has been outside my writing comfort zone, no mindless action, no technical jargon none of that. Heck what wrote this morning is mostly descriptive, no dialog. Now this is hardly the first time I’ve written like that, but the only other time I’ve written no dialog in a chapter it was an exercise in storytelling. This time it was simply because there didn’t need to be any words in the scene, that combined with the general subject matter make this way outside my comfort zone. The thing is I think this is one of the best first drafts I’ve written. So does getting outside my comfort zone improve my writing?
When you get outside your comfort zone one of two things happens. You let it get to you and either don’t finish or putz it up so bad it’s unreadable. Or you embrace what you’re doing and really concentrate on the writing. I think for me that concentration on the tone of my writing really helped it be something above average for me. Now obviously everything can’t be outside your comfort zone and what is, once you’ve worked on it for a while, won’t be. But I think working outside your comfort zone can help you hone some of those basic writing skills, it can make you pay attention to how you’re writing and hopefully you can bring some of that back to the things which are in your comfort zone.
But there’s still a larger question here, what has me writing so much outside my comfort zone? Why am I suddenly interested in really challenging myself with things that don’t come naturally? Well I think there are a lot of reasons for it, like any writer what I write and how I write are affected by my life. In the last year I’ve been forced outside of my comfort zone a lot. I’m starting to learn how to approach things that used to worry the crap out of me. I’m also being inspired by things that haven’t inspired me in a very long time, years in fact. So I’m just not going to look too closely at something that is making me write and improve my writing in the process.