Comfort Zones


One of the reasons I love workshops is that it pushes me out of my creative comfort zone. Unfortunately, whenever I’m given the chance, I still find myself returning to its (my comfort zone’s) warm embrace.

Not only do I seek out my comfort zone in my own writing, but I look for it and commend it in my peers’ work, as well as published authors. For instance, I recently came across a collection by one of my favorite authors, Joy Harjo. I thoroughly enjoy her work; however, I know that I am not doing myself, nor her work, any favors by only highlighting the elements of her poems that I like. Workshops have taught me to look past the superficial aesthetics of the poems that I used to focus on (well, I still do, but I hope to a lesser extent) and shed light on the deeper, more meaningful aspects of the poem.

If I’m being honest, one of the reasons I chose Joy Harjo’s collection was the predominant equine imagery and the ambiguous female pronouns (sound familiar?) While I know that I am judging the book by its cover, so to speak, I am eager to unearth the grit in her poems, as well.

I want to use this so-called technique in my own work. In other words, I want to write a poem that is appealing on the surface level, but raises questions once the reader actually becomes engrossed in it.

Oftentimes, I get too caught up in the surface-level fluff, aka the pretty picture that the poet paints, rather than the true purpose of the poem. That surface level “fluff” is my comfort zone. While I still want to acknowledge my comfort zone, because that’s what originally drew me to poetry, I want to become a better poet. That means that I must step away from the man-made utopias that I usually associate with poems and look more at raw emotion and human imperfections (the things that I tend to stray away from in my writing.)

What do you all do to get out of your comfort zone in your writing?

One Reply to “Comfort Zones”

  1. You bring up so many good questions, ones that I ask myself often. For the first part of your question about comfort zones, I would say not to overthink it. I’ve asked myself that a lot– but I think it’s important to realize that we are so new as writers– and if we find something that works for us, maybe we should run with it (at least for now.) I think another central question to this blog post is: what should we write poetry about? And why? What make a poem deeper than just a collection of images? I am always asking myself that. I think this plays into your question about comfort zones. During a writing exercise, someone told me to “write naked” and I think that makes a lot of sense. I think poetry has a duty to ask questions but not feel the need to provide answers, to probe things that bother us or make us feel good or make us feel any type of why– but it moves further than the feeling– it is the asking of why that feeling or image is important. I sometimes ask myself, what do I want to document? What is an important moment to me for reasons I can’t explain? I think if we can’t explain it, it might need to be documented for that reason– because it has yet to be explained. Maybe that’ll lead you somewhere.

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