When Writing is Uncomfortable
Contributor
Written by
Alissa Johnson
September 2014
Contributor
Written by
Alissa Johnson
September 2014

If it weren’t raining right now, I’d be out on my bike taking in the fall colors from a trail instead of my office window. I would give you all kinds of reasons for playing hooky.

The trees are bursting with color. The leaves will fall from the trees any day now–this could be my last chance to enjoy them. I’ve done everything I could possibly do to today. I don’t know what to do next.

But the truth is that all of my work has taken me to uncomfortable places. I’m in the middle ground of my novel, where the way forward feels less clear and the inklings I do have indicate that my main character is about to do some things that make me very, very nervous.

My work as a writing coach, which I love, also forces me to step outside of my comfort zone. Not just reaching out to new partners and connecting with new writers, but forcing me to take a good look at my own stuck points. Because how can I help writers face their fears if I don’t face my own?

So I do the only thing I know how to do. I enter new territory carefully. I show up and write what I can, getting comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable. And then I get the heck out. Ride my bike. Walk the dog. Work up a sweat with a workout.

Back and forth it goes. Discomfort. Relief. Discomfort. Relief.

Perhaps that sounds like crazy making, but here’s what I know to be true. Again and again, the clients who send me the most powerful work are the ones who find the courage to sit with their emotion and write anyway. The people who take the most from workshops are the ones who get emotional and even cry but stay anyway. And the writing that has scared me the most has also taught me the most, leading me to new and exciting places.

It’s tempting to think that good writing is a matter of talent, or coming up with the right idea. But I think it grows from the courage to feel. Remember that discomfort and fear are not necessarily a reason to stop writing. They’re simply a sign to move slow, to be gentle, and to take care.

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