• Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 18 comments

    Yesterday was a sunny and gorgeous winter day in New York City, topping out at near 65 degrees. It was so warm that in the afternoon I visited my spring/summer/fall writing spot, a series of benches overlooking Riverside Park, the West Side Highway and the Hudson.

    (The writing didn’t go well, but the experience was a pleasure.)

    While walking back home I passed a dude lying along the rock ledge pictured at left. I didn’t snap a photo of him, because creepy. But he was horizontal, on his back, his head on the hard wall, holding aloft a notebook in his left hand and writing in it with his right. To his left, a 25-foot drop (pictured below). An aggressive human or gust of wind or a surprise tremor and he’s a goner.

    I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a more uncomfortable-looking position in which to write. A bunch of ridiculous “on the edge” cliches came to mind. I almost stopped to share one of them with him, but then I had a sudden fear of interrupting him in the middle of writing a sentence that begins “I am going to slice open the next stranger who.”

    I don’t have anything particularly insightful to say about all of this. Mostly what it did is make me wonder if getting out of our comfort zone — physically and psychologically — as writers every now and again is a good idea. Just like with most advice: If it’s something all people are supposed to do occasionally, it probably goes double for writers.

    So that’s your — and my — new challenge, should you (and I) choose to accept it: Sometime in the next week, do some writing outside of your comfort zone.

    Define it how you will: location, genre, body posture/position, time of day/week, whatever. Anything that’s outside of your norm.

    And then report back! Because what good is this experiment if we don’t share our results with one another?

    Also, let us know what your comfort zone is: Where do you typically write? In what position? What time of day?


    David LinkedFULLWriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is copy editor and fiction editor at the Texas Observer and has written for the Dallas Morning News, Electric Literature, Publishing Perspectives, and others.

    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you achieve your creative potential and literary goals. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres, nationwide and worldwide. If you have a 2016 writing project that you’d like a little help with, take a look at our book coaching, private instruction and writer’s block counseling services. Join our mailing list and get a FREE writer’s diagnostic, “Common problems and SOLUTIONS for the struggling writer.”


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    When I write by hand it’s usually on my stomach, in bed or on the couch. When I type, it’s usually just sitting up straight at my desk or coffee table. Both of those are boring. How should I shake it up? I don’t want to write upside down like your guy, but I like the idea of a different place and position. I don’t write in public a lot, almost never, so I could try that. I like it quiet when I write, so maybe a loud coffee shop or bar or something.

    Beth B.

    My comfort zone = on the couch with my cat and a cup of hot tea or iced tea, depending on mood/season. So like Mark I think my uncomfort zone is probably out in public, no cat, no couch. Something crowded, like the train depot. Which is the only place in my town that ever gets at all busy or crowds. I’ll let you knopw how it goes!

    Beth B.

    *know how it goes!

    Barbara Mealer

    I popped out of my comfort zone when I retired. I still use a desk and my laptop only because it is easy and convenient but I have written while sitting in a Starbucks in a Safeway store, while in a tent when traveling, while sitting in a lawn chair near a camp fire, in motels, sitting on my bed to get away from the TV, etc. I guess I’m one of the lucky people who can work no matter where I am. Having gone through 4 years of University with 4 small children running around the house, I learned… Read more »


    My discomfort zone is anyplace where someone can potentially see what I’m writing. If I’m on a bus or plane or whatever, the person behind me can see over my shoulder. If I’m in a coffee shop, on my cmputer, anyone behind me can see what I’m writing. If I’m at home, my boyfriend can peek at my notebook when I’m looking away. None of these things ever happen, mind you. But the fact that they conceivably CAN happen is enough to make me uncomfortable. Therefore my comfort zone is home alone. Or in a DESERTED public place. Or the… Read more »

    Jon Sommers

    Is there a comfort zone for writing? I don’t want a comfort zone. The day I get comfortable writing is the day my writing turns to shite. Put me on a ledge. Hang me upside down in a cave. Cram me onto a crowded bus.

    So- I guess for this experiment I should do the opposite, which is write when comfortable. I spose it’s worth a shot just to see. I’ll write in bed or something and report back! JSS

    Sid Kemp

    I remember that wall! I used it around 1987 to get back into my comfort zone. I had been sitting Zen with a koan about falling off a cliff, and it just wasn’t real to me. I went and climbed the wall. If I had fallen, I probably would have just been bruised. But I didn’t feel that way! I felt like death was below me! The koan became real, and I took one more step towards Awakening. Now, I’m perpetually outside my comfort zone. I live a life with no safety net. Maybe I should try comfort. Heck, maybe… Read more »

    Sid Kemp

    Will do. And I’ll let you know what happens. The world’s first case of chamomile poisoning, probably. :-) As for the wall, it runs for 25 blocks or more, and the height varies. I climbed a spot just 12 feet high. I like the feeling of risk. But I’m a very careful adventurer. Hmm, I write like that, too. Worth exploring. It just occurred to me – new writing exercises are a way to break out of the comfort zone, too. As is a change of time of day, or a marathon writing session. More hmmm. These are good thoughts… Read more »

    Dot Day

    I have been taking on politics on Facebook. There are plenty of opinions, and I love asking for facts and specifics. that is pay, not work. As far as work, i need to sit butt in chair and get to work/ i still have much to learn and much to write before i sign up for your coaching service.

    […] couple of weeks ago we challenged you to write outside of your comfort zone, however you choose to define that — location, posture, time of day, etc. Most of your […]

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