Tuesday, July 8, 2008

In the zone

Yep... that was the kind of day I had today. Couldn't seem to get it together. So I spent time sorting and filing and mailing. I read e-mails and blogs and chat loops.

What I found interesting was the number of references to comfort zones. Some writers mentioned that writing in certain genres were beyond their comfort zones. Some readers mentioned that certain books were not in their comfort zone. I thought about that while I was doing all that filing and sorting. What the heck did they mean?

What is a comfort zone and how does it relate to books? It isn't the first time I've heard it. I had a woman decline to take one of my signed book covers because it was "obvious that the story was not in her comfort zone." Another reader taking part in a discussion on a chat loop commented that a certain book excerpt sounded very amusing and interesting but unfortunately she wouldn't be reading it because it wasn't in her comfort zone. So I'm thinking that this must mean that these readers are not willing to try anything other than books that are the same as the exact things they've already read. What is not in their comfort zone? Sex.

Oddly enough, these same readers are writers who find no problem writing about sex. Hmmm. So their sex is within their comfort zone. But another writer's sex is not. Interesting.

On another chat loop there was an ongoing discussion regarding characters of color. Seems that quite a few readers found that the character's skin color was a determining factor in whether or not that book would fall within their comfort zone. Some confessed that certain ethnic groups were also not likely to be in their comfort zone. One woman serious stated that she never read books that were set in the south because she didn't like to read about rednecks. They just weren't in her comfort zone. Seriously. It was way outside her comfort zone.

By the time I collected a list of all the items that made a book outside the comfort zone... well, there wasn't much to write about. And the strangest thing of all was the insistence that these items were outside the comfort zone. That's a nifty little phrase there. Talk about politically correct double-speak! Bigotry, prejudice, prudery, and religious intolerance are all swept aside under that lumpy rug in the comfort zone.

I can envision this phrase sweeping the country. Don't want to shop/live/drive in a less desirable part of the city or county? Well... just mention that it's outside your comfort zone. That will do the trick.

On the other hand, I've talked to several authors who have stated that they didn't write books in certain genres or heat levels because--you guessed it--they weren't in their comfort zone. I will freely admit that I will likely never write an historical romance because... it's not in my comfort zone? Alas, no. I won't write one because there's too darned much research and I'm basically a lazy individual. I don't want to be tied to a myriad of factoids. I probably won't ever write a true BDSM novel for much the same reason. Something along the lines of if I can't do it well, then I won't do it at all. I'm afraid that it has absolutely nothing to do with my comfort level. Whatever that is.

If you as the reader don't care for Regency romances, then say so. Too formal. Not enough sex. Whatever floats your boat. If you find Sci-Fi too strange and difficult to relate to, then say so. If fantasy gives you a headache, well swell. Bring it on. If you like your romances sex free, that's fine, too. Everyone has different tastes and none of them are about comfort levels. They're about our cultural, religious, and even prejudicial backgrounds. Until we are willing to step out and admit why we find certain books verboten, we will never move on.

I'm not suggesting that everyone has to read a book outside those comfort levels. I am suggesting that we take an honest look at why we feel like we have to use an euphemism for the truth.



  1. Excellent blog with excellent points - 'comfort zone' to me equals scared to have an opinion that another may dislike. If we stopped worrying about what others thought so much we may just experience a whole lot of new things. My comfort zone is chocolate and I dislike/like what I do without fear or favour.

  2. Comfort zone is one of those catch phrases I can't see myself using. As you pointed out, it's such a generalized cover for a real opinion that it's basically meaningless...to me anyway.

  3. I have to disagree with you here, Anny. I don't read BDSM books because they make me so uncomfortable I can't enjoy them--in other words, they are outside my comfort zone. Others have similar responses to fantasy--they are just too uncomfortable trying to read about a strange world they don't completely understand. So there are times and places where the phrase is legitimate.

    I agree with you that it is over used (often to justify possibly less admirable opinions), but it's not entirely a euphemism.

  4. LMAO...I just blogged about writing something in my "comfort zone". Somebody slap my dumb ass please. LOL. I actually meant I feel "safe" writing a certain genre but that I'm willing to write others...just not now. Maybe I should've said safe instead.

    You are right though. Maybe it's becoming a catch phrase that sticks in the brain...like TOTALLY. Hmmm.

    Great post...still laughing at myself! snort.