Step out of your comfort zone, you coward

My intention is not to insult you with that tongue-in-cheek title but to make you think. How much are you pushing yourself and your writing abilities?

This is your chance to do something out of the ordinary in one easily-attainable step.

Why do we gravitate to our comfort zones?

It’s not rocket science: a comfort zone feels safe and secure. It’s human nature to avoid stress and risk. We know we are good at a certain style of writing so we stick to it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as we develop our skills in that area and hopefully build a reputation for that style.

Developing a personal style and voice is important, but so is trying new things every now and then. If you find yourself falling back on the same tried and tested characters or similar plots, it might be time to mix things up.

We only grow when we are challenged

This is true in all areas of life. A cook only improves by trying new recipes; dancers rarely only master one type of dance. The same goes for writers. By doing something that you wouldn’t normally do – something that is difficult and even scary – you not only build on your skills but also the confidence in yourself as a talented writer who can take on anything. It’s proven that working in a state of ‘optimal anxiety’ – that unknown area just outside your comfort zone – produces the best increase in performance.

A 30 minute challenge for you

Are you ready to be brave? There are so many weird and wonderful literary genres out there and now it’s time to be adventurous and try a new one.

Below is a quick selection of genres. Glance over the list and pick one at random. Resist the urge to pick one you've tried before and avoid ones you're skilled at. In fact, pick the one that scares you the most. Which feels most alien to you?

“But I don’t know how to write ________.” Remember: this is not about writing something that others will even read; it’s an exercise to stretch your creative muscles. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never even read anything in that genre. What you write is unlikely to be very good, and that’s okay.

Horror, mystery, fantasy, adventure, speculative, detective, superhero, romance, western, steampunk, post-apocalyptic, magical realism, historical, paranormal romance, spy, utopian/dystopian, prehistoric or space opera? (If you want to research any of these genres, they’re all linked to a corresponding Wikipedia page.)

Once you’ve picked, get writing! Jump right in and just write for 30 minutes – no overthinking. At the very least you’ll have tried something new and you might even enjoy it.

If you try the challenge, we’d love to hear how you get on. Share your experience below in the comments section.