Write With FearLast weekend I attended a conference for working Moms. As usual, I found writing inspiration in the strangest places. I attended a session by Melinda Garvey of Austin Woman’s Magazine. Now, the session was designed to inspire entrepreneurs to embrace fear so that fear doesn’t ruin their chances for success.

An admirable message, but I couldn’t help but think that this could be extended into all parts of life from deciding to move to a new city or take a new job to whether or not to date that new guy or get a divorce.

And of course because I have fairly limited interests, I immediately extended the idea to writing. Here are three things I think we should all do to add a little danger (aka fear) to our writing:

  1. Write what you don’t know.
    Everyone always tells you to “write what you know.” Well, I’m telling to write about stuff you know nothing about. Have a vague interest in ancient aliens but not enough to watch the TV show? Write about it anyway. Normally write hard hitting contemporary teen romance? Try writing an archeological adventure for boys. These stories may not go anywhere, but stretching our writing muscles in new and interesting ways are always a good thing.
  2. Write outside your comfort zone.
    Write in a genre or an age range that you never write for. Are you a novelist? Try to write a picture book or concept book. Can’t write a book under 80k words? Try flash fiction.
  3. Write scary new stuff.
    This is sort of the culmination of the other two. Think of the most terrifyingly, horrible thing and then try to write it. No matter what it is, no matter what the subject matter deals with. Write it, and exorcise some of your demons. (For me, this is generally about how miserable parenting makes me. It’s not the kind of thing you’re supposed to say out loud. There’s some real liberation, though, in writing about the taboo.)

Now, I know it’s easy to say or read about writing scary stuff. But, I’m going to actually practice what I preach.

I never write romance. I often skim romance sections in books. So, I’m going to challenge myself to write a romance: specifically to write a 15k word superhero romance to submit to Good Mourning Publishing. The idea of writing outside my comfort zone and then submitting it is, frankly, terrifying. But that is how I know my goal is big enough. Without fear, then we’re merely living in our comfort zone. Without fear we aren’t challenging ourselves.

How are you going to challenge yourself and your writing? Tell me in the comments.