I am out of my comfort zone. Even though I am sitting at my usual desk, on the same chair tapping away on the same wireless keyboard, with the dodgy ‘shift’ button and the radio is tuned into BBC London, I am not comfortable. So what has caused this rise in my blood pressure? I’m writing a short story. Is that it? I hear you cry.
Ok, I’m writing sci-fi. Yes, I can already see the blank faces staring back at me and the next words out of your mouths are ‘Oh, I thought someone had died. What’s your problem?’
The problem is that this is the first time that I have written anything that could remotely be described as sci-fi and it feels like I’m wearing a jumper that has shrunk in the wash. It’s not that I can’t write. It’s not that I lack imagination. It’s not that I don’t like sic-fi because I do and I will happily confess to being a big comic book geek, however, everything that I have written in the past can be firmly placed into one of two camps. Crime fiction or contemporary fiction.
I don’t remember the exact day that I decided that these will be the genres that I would write in. All that I can recall is that I read an article about the Bank of England and that laid the seed for my crime novel ‘Key Positions’. The idea behind my book ‘The Sisters’ came to me whilst I was watching ‘The real housewives of…’ (just pick one). The point is that these were ideas that just came to me and it felt comfortable and natural to create a story around them.
I don’t think that I ever said, I’m going to write the next `American Tabloid’ or the next ‘The Joy Luck Club.’ I just decided to write because I thought that I had a good story to tell. It was a more organic process. Whereas my decision to write a short story about a time travelling assassin was a much more cerebral process. The idea didn’t just come to me. There was a lot of planning and a lot of second guessing.
My problem is that I never back away from a challenge and what can be more challenging than writing in an unfamiliar genre. As I reached the halfway point of my story, I found myself asking why is this such a challenge? It’s not the writing that is a challenge because to be honest, once I had planned out my story and could actually see my protagonist and his crazy sister in my head, the writing flowed naturally. What makes it uncomfortable is the idea that you’re asking for a new community to let you in and you don’t have the arrogance of experience to build up a strong enough backbone to deal with the response whether it’s acceptance or rejection.
There is that old adage, stick with what you know but when I think about it, being forced to write outside of your comfort zone is a good thing. It allows you to put aside t your usual formulaic way that you may have of writing and (I hate to use the term) think outside the box.
I would be lying if I said that writing my sci-fi short story hasn’t been fun because it has been. Time travel is fascinating and has led to interesting conversations with family and friends. Time travel has also given me a headache. Believe me when I say that it’s easy to confuse yourself when you’re thinking about the space time continuum and if your future self can exist in a time when you don’t actually exit? See, there you go, I’ve given you a headache.
So, will this little trip out of my comfort zone be worth it? Will it put me on the road to fame and fortune? I honestly don’t know but what I do know is this; it’s been emotional.