More About That Comfort Zone Thing

Picture of a swimming pool.

Here's a picture of that pool, taken from the balcony.

I was thinking more about the idea of writing outside your comfort zone, and found something that’s happened recently pretty applicable.

I have never been a good swimmer. It’s quite possible I never will be. When I was a kid, my parents kept enrolling me in swimming lessons, and I kept being a terrible swimmer who refused to put my head under water. Part of it was that I’d learned by then that if I got water in my ears, an ear infection wouldn’t be far behind, so every lesson was a silent battle to avoid putting my head underwater. It wasn’t till high school, when several friends decided I would learn to swim (bless you, Ann, Ann, Anne, and Maureen), that I actually got to the point where I could float long enough to survive a (fairly brief) period if I ever fell off a boat. Couple that with an illness that made me extremely self-conscious in a swimsuit for a long time, and you can see why I just don’t get in the water very much.

So here we are in Costa Rica, with a swimming pool right outside our balcony, and a temperature that makes that pool pretty darn inviting. So I got in and splashed around, and finally decided to do a little swimming. And you know what — I liked it. I liked it a lot. And found myself going back repeatedly. Right now I’m going to finsih up this post and then go do it some more.

It took a while to get over the panicked feeling that I was falling forward, that the water wouldn’t hold me up. I kept insisting on starting on the deeper end and swimming towards the shallower, because that way if I put a foot down, I’d be able to hit the bottom. But with every time I made it all the way, it got easier. I started trusting the water (and myself) more.

I’m not claiming I’m going to become a good swimmer anytime soon, or that I’m ever going to like getting water up my nose. But I’m better at it, and certainly more confident about it. And I’ve found something that I like doing, and that I will be trying to incorporate more in my life.

And that — as with so many things in life — applies to writing. Those first attempts to do something new and scary may well be awkward and uncomfortable. In fact, they probably will. Because that’s how we learn. It’s very hard to get good at something without being pretty bad at it at first. And in doing these things, you learn to trust the universe a little more. Which I see as a pretty good thing.

So it’s a Monday morning. Here’s my challenge for you. By Friday, go write or do something that scares you. And come back and tell me what you did.

Enjoy this writing advice and want more content like it? Check out the classes Cat gives via the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers, which offers both on-demand and live online writing classes for fantasy and science fiction writers from Cat and other authors, including Ann Leckie, Seanan McGuire, Fran Wilde and other talents! All classes include three free slots.

Prefer to opt for weekly interaction, advice, opportunities to ask questions, and access to the Chez Rambo Discord community and critique group? Check out Cat’s Patreon. Or sample her writing here.

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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She is currently working on Exiles of Tabat, the third book of the Tabat Quartet. A new story collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears from Hydra House this fall.
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