|Much ado is made about stretching the brain and writing or reading outside our comfort zone. Do you think this is helpful? How much fun is it for you to read and write outside your usual genres or your comfort zone?
Any kind of stretching encourages growth. So, I can see that this is a good thing. I read and write a lot in various genres and various levels of comfort. I've written about people who are nothing like me. I've written people dying and mothers and people in fear and lovers . . . in other words, people who live lives that are outside my personal experiences. However, that doesn't mean that it's necessarily out of my comfort zone. I don't need to experience a mother's loss of her child to be able to extrapolate from my own experience as an aunt who lost a nephew and the witness of my sister who lost her son.
In fact, in some ways, when we are so close to a tragic happening, it becomes more difficult to maintain the objectivity to write a story about it. Going back to the loss of a child, when it first happened, I wrote essays and poems, but I have been unable to write it as fiction to my personal satisfaction. That's because it feels too close to write well. Does that mean that I avoid the topic in my fiction? Absolutely not. I approach that experience like an accident victim probing the edges of a wound, trying to get close enough to know whether the scab is ready to be peeled away to witness the healing underneath. It may never happen. I may be reduced to writing badly about this topic for the rest of my life. But there are other places and topics that I can go to which are informed and strengthened by that experience as is all my writing.
After all, as writers, we bring everything that we are into the words and our characters.
So, yes, I feel that it's important to stretch my own boundaries and write close to the edge of being where stories live. And yes, it's fun to do it. Even if it is sometimes painful.