I want you to do something for me this week.
I want you to write something that makes you feel nervous.
It doesn’t matter why it makes you feel that way — what’s important is that you feel it. It’s not imaginary; it’s real. Heart pounding in your chest, throat closing up, palms sweating, knees shaking … whatever you physically feel when you get nervous, it should make you feel like that.
It could be a scene in a book or short story you’ve been avoiding.
Or a blog post about something you haven’t felt comfortable addressing.
An email to someone you figured you could just forget about.
An article that’s a little more controversial than you’re used to.
A poem that hits too close to home.
Why am I asking you to write something that makes you feel uncomfortable? Because we — all of us — spend way too much time in our writing comfort zones.
Yes, even me — someone who does this every day. I slip into patterns. I lock myself into routines. I don’t always challenge myself enough. And that’s a problem.
When you don’t write things that make your heart beat faster, you’re not growing. You’re not learning anything. You’re not daring to try something different; something new. You’re just sitting in that chair or laying on that couch writing the same things you do every single day.
No wonder you’re bored. No wonder writing feels so much like work.
April is halfway over already. We’re almost at the five-month mark of 2017. I can guarantee you haven’t accomplished a third of the writing goals you’ve set for yourself this year (if any). And I’m pretty confident in guessing it’s because you just haven’t challenged yourself to step out of your writing comfort zone yet. You keep telling yourself you’re ready. Yet your toe never moves over that line.
Part of what makes good writing good is that you feel everything your reader is supposed to feel reading it as you’re sitting here writing it. Maybe you don’t write things that make you feel uncomfortable because you don’t like feeling that way.
But that’s what writing should be. Feeling. Opening yourself up to the world, letting yourself be vulnerable, not just saying what people want to hear, but showing them the lessons they need to learn. How can you expect a reader to get anything out of your words if you’re not benefiting from them in any way yourself?
Write something that makes you feel nervous, like what you’re about to say is going to change the world whether you’re ready for it to or not. Because you never really know. It just might.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.