Habits repeat themselves almost unconsciously. They feel comfortable, familiar: the usual way of doing things. I’m thankful for habits that help me breeze through the day. Truth be told, I pay little attention to my habits until something interrupts my way forward. My comfort zone setting inhabits the daily normal. 


In The Creature of Habit—a delightful picture book by Jennifer E. Smith, illustrated by Leo Espinosa—we enter the tale of a lovable very big creature on the Island of Habit. His ways repeat and repeat and repeat themselves quite comfortably. Then a lovable very small creature lands on the same island and shakes things up with different daily habits that include a twist or two apart from the lovable big creature’s quite comfortable ordinary.


Confronted with something beyond his comfort zone, the Creature of Habit experiences discomfort, confusion, and uncertainty. The very small creature’s quirky habits rattle the familiar habits, the comfortable places so well ingrained. Yet, with grit, guts, and gumption, the Creature of Habit partakes in new habits way beyond his comfort zone. And he discovers that anything can happen.


In late July, right wrist surgery to repair an age-related torn ligament just below my dominant hand has created the perfect interruption.  My triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC) tear created pain on the ulnar side of the wrist, decreasing my wrist’s fluid movement and grip strength.


I’m right-handed, so I tend to use that hand for everything. I wash my hair, brush my teeth, eat my yogurt, button my blouse with my right hand. I open the door, open the mail, and open a book, with, yes, my right hand. I scribble notes to myself, scrub vegetables from my garden, and savor a cup of Earl Grey tea by using my right hand. My right hand is my comfort zone, a familiar habit over 70 years in the making. 


When the familiar becomes unfamiliar, willingly or unwillingly, we are jettisoned out of our comfort zone. “I’ve always done it this way” becomes “I better find a new way.” That leads to thoughts like, “Yikes. This feels awkward, disruptive, and plain weird.” 


What I often forget is that stepping out of my comfort zone can be stepping into my creativity zone. I’m not new to interruptions of habits. Yet as creatures of habit, most of us avoid change. We don’t want to be like the weather that changes constantly. 


I am sure I don’t have a clue as to how I’ll manage some things without the normal familiar comfortable use of my right hand/wrist/arm for a bit.

    • My hair will probably be quirkier than its usual.
    • Funny moments will certainly occur.
    • Frustration will definitely pop its head as well.

Yet, I’m curious where this will all lead. 


So what’s this got to do with writing and books and editing?

As writers, we like our comfort zones, don’t we? But what would happen if we explored just beyond our normal writing habits for just a bit? What creative wonder might we stumble upon?

What if you …

… only wrote one word a day on a post-it note?

… retold your complex novel in a condensed form, like a poem?

…  wrote your nonfiction book’s main message as lyrics to a country western song?

… used only words that started with b or p to create one paragraph?

… spoke your words into the microphone, letting your thoughts free-flow on the page with your eyes closed to misspellings, punctuation, and grammar?

… took one step past comfortable into creatively uncomfortable?

… chose a few folks to be beta readers for that novel or devotional that’s been sitting on your computer, ready for another set of eyes to see it?

… wrote a book proposal?

… wrote your usual ways but turned and offered them in new ways? What if you submitted to that magazine you’ve long admired? Or dared to sit in a writers’ group and shared your words with others beyond your normal circle?


What other ways can you step out of your normal writing comfort zone mindset or writing routine to find a new adventure ahead?


Here’s what I do know. The more you feed your creativity zone, the more it’ll feed you. 


Your creativity zone will be exactly like…No one else’s!


I’m pretty sure by the end of surgery, stitches, splints, and physical therapy, I’ll be way, way out of my comfort zone, literally and figuratively! I’m hoping it will all lead me to find some new habits in a new creativity zone. 


For as The Creature of Habit reminds us, anything can happen. Join me in exploring new habits just beyond your comfort zone. What’s one small step you could take today to move past the boundaries of your comfort zone into the boundless possibilities of your creativity zone?


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