Four years ago, a few writer friends and I got together in Houston for a Modern Love brunch. All avid readers of The New York Times column, we vowed to each write our own essay and share them aloud. A Modern Love critique group.
I only wrote half my piece. But over the next few years, I worked on it little by little, and I finally finished it while at a writer’s colony last fall. It morphed into a story that wasn’t right for Modern Love, but this weekend the personal essay ran on Salon: I fell in love with a megachurch.
Writing this piece — not to mention letting other people read it — pushed me way outside my comfort zone. It’s about love and religion and feelings and personal growth. And for me, it’s far more challenging to write honestly about how those subjects pertain to my own life than, say, help y’all learn how to better use Twitter.
But finishing that story made me realize how far I’ve come as a writer. I began drafting the piece before my 2008 backpacking trip, before writing my memoir, and finished it after completing my book — which means the essay benefited from all the wisdom gained while writing my manuscript. That’s a lot of practice in first-person writing.
And while it may not come easy to me — while I’m still feel stronger when I’ve got my journalistic hat on — this is a perfect example of when it’s beneficial to take the hard route. Because stretching my writing wings and pushing myself over that wall of discomfort makes me better at what I do. It makes me a better writer.
How have you pushed yourself outside your comfort zone lately?