Monday, January 16, 2012

Writing Outside Of The Comfort Zone

Sometimes we all need to live outside of our comfort zone.

My favorite church service of the entire year isn't Christmas, or Easter, or any of the "big" Christian holidays.

It's the Sunday before Martin Luther King Day. 


For the past 13 years, my Congregational church has been coming together with our sister church, an African Methodist Episcopal church, in the hour which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dubbed 'the most segregated hour in America'. Sunday morning, the church hour.

Why is this outside of my comfort zone?

Well, because it is two races coming together, deliberately, because we are aware of segregation. Aware of the wage gaps. Aware of racism. We come together because of and in spite of these things. They are in the room with us.

In this room, I am very aware of my whiteness. 

We have made an issue of our color, and have made an issue that it is still an issue.   

We sing "We will overcome," while crossing our hands over our chests, and then clasped in the hands of the person next to us. Our passings of the Peace are hugs, not handshakes. We mingle together over sandwiches and prayers, balloons, and cake. 

On the day before Martin Luther King day, we pledge to make that time the least segregated hour in America, by joining our two church communities. We form bonds and friendship which last all year long.

We continue to overcome.

And for one day, we create the world we wish that our world was.

As writers, we do this all day long. Create and recreate the world.

What responsibility do we have to use our words? What impact do we want to make on our world? What can we achieve, if we each write deliberately?

If we leave our comfort zone?

I remember reading Heinlein as a teenager, and loving that the women there were taken just as seriously as the men. These women were strong, intelligent, and treated as such. Reading those books changed something inside of me. I read a world in which I wanted to exist--a world which could exist.

It empowered me.

This responsibility is not just about race relations, but about empowering all individuals to see themselves reflected in our worlds.

Write outside of your comfort zone.

You'll never know how exhilarating it can be, until you try it. :)

Can I get an Amen?

What is your comfort zone? Do you stretch outside of it? Do you see yourself as having some responsibility to write deliberately?

On the goal front, I am loving ROW 80. I love the spirit, and I love that I am making my pledged 2 hours of progress every day. Well, except the weekends. I might have to amend my goal to not include weekends!

How is your progress? What inspires you? Music? Church? Writing outside of your comfort zone?


  1. A BIG Amen, Heather. What a beautiful post.

    Progress on my novel is going great, although I have a tendency to edit until I bleed. Sometimes, I think I am writing a 90,000 word poem.

    What inspires me? I will often go into a woods and bring some music with me. There, in the stillness, I can meditate on what I, too, wish the world to be.

    And it is there that I am reminded that in God, there is no such thing as a comfort zone, only comfort.

    Blessings and Best~~~

  2. Fabulous post and message! It's definitely hard for me to write outside my comfort zone, mostly due to fears of failure, but I am working to change that. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. That's wonderful the two churches come together! My church is already mixed, and it's been that way from the beginning. I'm sure it catches some people by surprise, but I don't even notice anymore.

  4. That's such a wonderful idea. Any time our world is opened up and we reach and stretch - it's a good thing!

  5. Thank you, Heather. Inspiring words on so many levels.

    My comfort zone includes writing in many genres -- where I need to push myself is perhaps getting involved in a feedback group where I can truly be pushed and pulled to become a better writer.

  6. Great post... makes me more motivated:) I pushed myself outside the comfort zone last year when I wrote my new book in present tense and completed a first draft in 6 weeks... may not seem much, but for me whose unable to control my inner editor, it was a real change:)

  7. your post was inspiring, Heather. And you can definitely get an Amen with that :)

  8. Your church sounds amazing (I love the congregationalists).
    Great story and a fantastic message.

  9. That's an interesting tradition of two churches joining together for MLK Day.

    It has just dawned on me that I did a review of a book on one of the worst cases of ethnic segregation and nationalist hostilities - Nazi-occupied Ukraine. Quite fitting for MLK Day, I guess.

    I also find it interesting that cultural views of women's roles can vary so much from a country to a country. Russian culture, including literature and folklore, has plenty of strong women characters, while in the American culture they are far less prominent. Hey, we've had several women rulers in a row - Catherine I, Anna Ioannovna, Elisabeth I and Catherine II !

  10. Great post Heather. It sounds like a great tradition for your church and a nice way to dedicate at least one day of the year to open communication about admitting injustce and inequality still exists and we need to come together to combat it,

  11. I agree that it's really important to try to get out of your comfort zone. In my art, I'm trying different styles and trying new techniques, because I don't want to fall into a rut of "tried and true." Thanks for this lovely post.

  12. I actually like writing outside my comfort zone, and sometimes I use it as a way to jump start writing when I'm stuck. For instance, when I don't know where the story should go next, I deliberately take it where I most don't want it to go. I force it.

    Lots of ugly things come from this, but that's what DELETE is for. It always gets the ball rolling again, though.

  13. Hey everyone! *waving up to you all* I have been busy revising and writing, and stopping in to gather new energy from all your great comments! Love these!

  14. @Bryce--your description of a 90,000 word poem really struck me. I love that. It is so hard to turn off the inner editor. I tend less to edit each word, then to try to preserve cadence of voice. Thanks so much for the insightful comment!

    @Heather--I struggle with doubts at every stage. I'm getting to the point, though, that I am ready to go BIG. I think I'm ready to take the risks to create something worthwhile. Good luck conquering your fears!!

    @Alex--diversity is such a blessing. I'm so glad it is commonplace at your church!

  15. @Laura--I agree! What would our writing be if we didn't stretch?

    @Angie--Thanks! I'm glad it resonates with people. I'm always a little (a lot)nervous discussing anything touching on religion on the blog.I feel like there are so many great religions and spiritual avenues in the world. I hate to push my beliefs out there. :)

    @Beth--I love to experiment in other genres as well. And I always feel anxious when I receive feedback from another writer--no matter how long our crit relationship has been. Good luck on stepping outside of your comfort zone!

  16. @Alicia--Thanks, roommie!!

    @tfwalsh--writing a manuscript in 6 weeks is an awesome achievement! I have never tackled present tense. That's a tricky beast! Good luck in all you are setting out to do!


    @KO--Thanks! It was such fun. :) And inspiring, and motivating!

  17. @svetlanakarlin--We have a great partnership with the AME church all year, but it is so wonderful to all be together on that one day! I love your take on strong women leaders. Let's contribute to that on the writing front!

    @Alana--I agree! Sometimes I believe that we are further along (as a country) than we actually are. In race matters, gay rights, and other equality issues. I live in a nice world, in my head. :)

    @Sylvia--I love that you continue to try new techniques! That must offer great surprises! Any art would be out of my comfort zone. :)

    @Jen--What an awesome exercise. I wonder if I can make myself do that? :) Thanks for the great technique. I bet you go down lots of interesting roads that way!

  18. You can certainly get a big AMEN from me, sister!

  19. Joining the "Amen corner!" This was an inspiring, thought-provoking post. Thanks so much for posting it.


  20. Huge AMEN! What an awesome, inspiring post, Heather!!!

    And yay, I'm so glad you're going strong with your ROW 80!! Go you!!

  21. Thanks for the bit of inspiration to even think about challenging ourselves to step outside our comfort zones. We don't normally do this without a bit of probing, or a good swift kick...

    What inspires me? My writing friends, quiet moments, listening to someone teach about writing and reading post from other writers who share their experiences.

    Good post.

  22. Thanks for sharing, Heather. Nice post.

  23. I'm really liking your blog. What a lot you have packed in here. No wonder you have so many followers. I'm envious. But I guess now I know what I need to do to beef mine up. I stopped by during the Comment Challenge just by happenstance and I'm glad I did. Very nice post by the way.

  24. @Miranda--Loving your multicultural book reviews at your blog! Everyone should check them out:
    Thanks for stopping by (and for the Amen!)

    @Judith--Thanks so much for stopping by!

    @Marisa--I am indeed getting so much out of ROW80. I know you are doing a similar thing with a crowd as well--I wish you many words!

    @Jackie--I love that you find inspiration in quiet moments. Sometimes I can't quiet my brain enough. Thanks so much for stopping by!

    @Tracy--Hello!! Great to see you. Thanks! :)

    @Bill--Thanks! I love the comment challenge for bringing us all closer together. I have to credit my friend Jon for the design over here. He keeps me relevant. :)

  25. I like not only challenging myself to write out of my comfort zone, but go through life out of my comfort zone. Sometimes it is as simple as parking on the left side of the street. (It's just so much easier for me to park on the right). Thanks for the inspirational post.