Sometimes you may feel that you've mastered a particular form or skill in your writing, but the writing is stagnating anyway. You find yourself writing the same thing over and over in different stories, or stuck re-hashing the same plots, or re-creating the same character again and again. The thing to do when you're in a writing rut like this is to break out of your comfort zone.
Continually challenging yourself and trying new things is important for life - and it's equally important for writing. If you don't keep surprising your readers, adding complexity to your characters, and refreshing your plots, you'll end up writing that is hollow and dead, competent but lifeless. Here are a few ways to break out of your comfort zone in life or in writing, and keep stepping out of that box of familiar experience.
Try a New Skill
Once you're out of school, you may breathe a sigh of relief, telling yourself, "Now I'll never have to be frightened or overwhelmed by learning new things again." Of course, an unchallenged, unchallenging life isn't worth living! In the past few weeks, I've tried to break out of my comfort zone by picking up a new skill - learning the guitar. I've never played a stringed instrument before, so I'm a complete beginner, but I've found it exhilarating to be a newcomer to this skill, learning different rules and techniques. I'm learning slowly but steadily, so keep checking in on me, readers, to make sure I keep at it.
Try a New Writing Form
My teacher this semester is making her class write something in a completely new form. Whatever is new to us - whether it is poetry, the first person, or magic realism - is what we must write. This is a great way to refresh your writing skills and put your words to work in a new way. Try something that you're afraid to do in your writing, and you'll be forced to write in a bold new way. So this week, consider trying a new form, even if it is only for a page - it may seem frightening to break away a tried-and-true form, but it will ultimately benefit your writing skills.
Meet New People
Are you describing the same characters over and over in your writing? Maybe it's time to find some new sources of inspiration, and break out of your current social box. In order to write with confidence about different people, try meeting some new people. Go to readings and museums; take up your friend's offer to attend that party, or go to the park or a cafe and do some peoplewatching. The more people you expose yourself to, the more people you will be able to depict convincingly in fiction.
How do you shake things up and break out of your comfort zone? Help our readers with your own ideas!