As I mentioned last week, I recently participated in Round 1 of the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge. Going in, I was concerned because you don’t know in advance what your parameters will be and there is not a whole lot of time to plot, if that’s your thing.
I got dealt the hand of a ghost story and thought okay, I’ve written paranormal, that’s not a big stretch. Then the subject of agoraphobia. I had to do some research but figured I could handle it. Then the character was a divorce attorney. Well…I don’t typically write adult stories. That’s not to say I didn’t think I could, but it was definitely out of my “teen love and awkward phases of self discovery” kind of realm.
The time limit, 8 days for the first round, was a little daunting as well. I don’t typically do a lot of plotting but I knew I couldn’t totally wing it because I’d never make it to the end of the story without knowing where it was going. Add in the 2,500 word word count meant that I couldn’t over develop ideas or themes because it could slow down the pace.
Writing it was definitely a challenge for me, but one that I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s good to flex your under used muscles and branch out of the comfort zone. You might be surprised at what you create. It could tell you that you can write outside of your genre or typical age group. It could tell you that perhaps where you are is best for your talents, but if you don’t try to spread your wings, you’ll never know if you can fly beyond your home “town”.
Find a writing contest and give it a try. Join writing.com and pick up some of their daily writing prompts to try. We should be constantly growing as writers whether it’s polishing what we already do or by learning new techniques, forming new ideas or dipping a toe into different genres. As a writer most, if not all, of us are avid readers as well and a good story can prompt us to make changes in our own styles as well. We should be constantly evolving and becoming masters of our craft otherwise the writing could get stale and predictable. Step outside your comfort zone and take the chance. It certainly can’t hurt.
What do you do to push yourself outside of your writing comfort zone?