The Discomfort Zone

This month I’m participating in a blog chain with some wonderful people at ChristianWriters.com and today it’s my turn to write. We are discussing stepping out of our comfort zones in relation to our writing.

When I first read the subject for this chain I was a little puzzled. Could I think of something to write on such a subject? After all, what could be uncomfortable about writing? Writing is fun. Writing is my leisure activity. It’s what I do when I want to have a little ‘me time’ (not that you get much of that with two young children). Writing is that creative flow that pours out of a person because they simply can’t not write. It’s in the blood.

But this raises the important question – is there more to it than that? What happens when writing moves beyond that place? Up until now, writing fiction, for me, has been a pleasure activity. It has been primarily for myself. All my life, however, I have dreamt of taking it to the next level – publication. Why is it that we have this desire to get our stories published? Is it just vanity? I don’t think so. I tend to be an introverted person who woud rather sit in the shadow than take the spotlight. I think it comes down to one simple thing: a story is meant to be shared. Otherwise it isn’t really a story is it?

Taking that first step, from writing purely for youself, to seeking publication opens up a whole world of discomfort. Firstly there is the inevitable critiquing. Seeking the opinions of others in order to improve your work. I know very well the benefit of this process. I was taught it at school and I’ve seen it in action. Just as with software testing, you need to get a fresh pair of eyes to put your writing through its paces, to look at it with an objective (and hopefully more experienced) eye. Dispite all this head knowledge however, there is always some hesitance. What if the person critiquing the work pulls everything apart and messes up the story? What if they want me to change something that I consider important? What if the result of the improvement no longer looks like my story anymore? What if the improvement to this novel messes up my plans for the fourth sequel down the track? These kinds of fears would seem quite natural. Afterall, our writing is our baby. We’ve nurtured it from an embrionic idea, to a healthy bouncing first-draft. It is extremely tempting to think that the story is finished and ready to go at this point. However, if we are ever to see our story reach its full potential, we have to allow it to finish maturing into adulthood. Even the process of finding somebody who has the necessary skills, and is willing to make the significant commitment to critique a novel-length work is a daunting thought. I hardly know where to start.

That is the first step into the discomfort zone. After that, it gets even scarier. The whole process of publication seems very daunting and mysterious. Who do you call? Do you talk to a publisher? An agent? Where do you find such people? I know that there is information to help with this kind of thing – but most of the imformation seems to be American in nature. Does it work the same here in Australia? We have a much smaller publishing industry, and almost nothing of a Christian publishing industry. I am sure I will find the answers when I seek, but the process itself is daunting.

Beyond that, if a publishing deal is succesfully secured there comes the final step into the discomfort zone – marketing. I understand that this is becoming an increasing responsibility of an author. How could someone like me, with a full-time job, a wife and young kids possibly market a book? Would anybody even be interested?

So, the more I look into it, the more I realise there is a big scary world out there. The road to publishing success looks like a difficult one, and it seems that writing the book may in fact be the easy bit. I am currently standing on the threshold of this big step. I have written a first-draft of a novel and want to take it further. This is the path I must travel if I want to take this dream seriously. So will it be worth it? Well, if something that I write can touch someone, entertain them, inspire them, or make them think, then yes, it will all be worth it.

Finally, I’d like to show from my own experience that stepping into this discomfort zone can bring unexpected benefits to our writing. About ten years ago, I was participating in a course at my church, to determine out abilities and spiritual gifts. It came up that I had a gift for writing and a desire to share spiritual truths through writing. The pastor running the course suggested to me that I should try my hand at writing devotional articles. My first thought was ‘that isn’t my genre. I write fiction, and mostly science fiction’. However, I took up his challenge and discovered a gift and passion that I hadn’t known existed. My blogging has stemmed out of that encouragement. So, let us never be afraid to leave our comfort zones as writers. There is more out there than we realise.

The journey begins…

Follow the chain…

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About Adam David Collings

Adam Collings is a writer of speculative fiction who works as a software engineer during the day. He lives in Tasmania, Australia with his wife and two children. Adam is currently working on a science fiction novel.
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