I was standing in line at the local food co-op a few weeks ago when I heard the man behind me say, “I always get bad vibes when I come in here.”
Bad Vibes. At the co-op? This is a store that fills its shelves with good nutrition. A store that is conscientious about the impact its merchandise has on the planet. A place of good health. Bad Vibes? Who was this clown?
I tried to envision what he might look like and was getting a redneck vibe. Then I casually glanced over my shoulder. Sure enough. He was standing next to his wife, looking completely uncomfortable, holding two items that had to have been the two least nutritious things in the entire store.
The store wasn’t giving off bad vibes. He was just out of his element.
We’re all uncomfortable when we step outside the normal cocoon of the lives we’ve built, and it’s all the reason most of us need never to do it. Ever.
But trying new things is part of keeping life fun and, as every writing coach I’ve ever known would say, “fresh.” They all enunciate the word with an emphasize on the esh, as if the word itself could generate a spring breeze. Freshshshshsh.
I do think it’s particularly important for writers to be willing to step outside their comfort zone now and then – to open our minds to something different. Something we might want to depict on paper. Something to pull our readers into. It also reminds us what it’s like to feel excitement and apprehension when doing something new. It introduces us to new people, new foods, new music, new environments, new situations; all of which we can use in our writing.
As a kid we were always trying new things—sports, art, music. But as adults we don’t. Perhaps because we’re so busy.
I’ve made an effort to try new things even as an adult, and have had strangers approach me to let me how cool they think it is that I’m willing to try something new. I suspect this translates to: “Isn’t it cool you’re not afraid to look stupid.”
And I’ve looked plenty stupid at times. That stint as an ice skater was probably highly entertaining from the sidelines, and I don’t think my cat appreciated the violin lessons. The quilting went better and there are over a dozen quilts out in the world as evidence.
I love learning new things and “experiencing” new situations when I read too, but I don’t want to read about it from someone with no experience. Someone who’s just guessing. I want the author to have been there and done that so they can describe it in such depth and detail that it feels like I’m right there with the narrator.
What about you. When’s the last time you tried something new? If it has been awhile, how about setting a goal for 2012 that includes trying something completely out of character. Something that’ll push you outside your comfort zone. You’ll know you’re there when you get BAD VIBES.