Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Leaping out of my Creative Comfort Zone

A week or so ago my neighbor asked me to join her team for the Ultimate Fitness Challenge at our local YMCA. It’s a program designed to challenge you to keep weight off through the tough holiday months. Since I’ve already been wrestling with the Snickers/Milky Way/Twix miniatures assortment that I purchased for trick-or-treaters two weeks ago on sale at Target (where Halloween began sometime in August), I was like “I’m so in!”

And knowing I’m a writer, she asked me if I’d consider coming up with a name for the team.

Like, zoinks, Scoob!

I get stage fright when asked to be creative on demand and coming up with something catchy, that others like too, makes my knees buckle. This is why I write novels. Not that I don’t want my novels to be catchy or have people like them (I do!), but writing a novel is like going on a nature hike – there are moments you grapple with the elements, scale sheer heart-thumping mini cliffs, narrowly miss stepping in a pile of animal dung and sometimes feel as though you’ve lost your way on the path. A hike can be long and at times arduous. Then there are those moments, when you slow down and take it all in and realize there’s a magnificent vista in front of you, beauty that’s so overwhelming it’s hard to contain and all the effort on the journey was worth it.

Being asked to come up with something on the fly is like a sprint – using a completely different set of muscles and mind set. Heart pounding for sure, but quick and if you stumble on your starting block you’re pretty much out. In the writing world, I’m a hiker. So being asked to sprint – no matter how lighthearted the task – immediately put me out of my comfort zone.

Writing is such a solitary (and sedentary!) activity that it’s easy to get used to sitting in your chair, creating your world the way you want it, without having input from anyone – at least at the onset. This required immediate approval. A vote. I tossed some ideas around and kept coming back to one in particular. It was catchy, fierce, fun. I e-mailed the group, they voted and we became the Cardio Ninjas. When we signed up with our name, the receptionist noted “That’s a name to live up to”. Um, yikes, maybe , but better to be a Cardio Ninja than a Cardio Schlepper.

Next we wanted a logo for team shirts. I immediately thought of a pal of mine who happens to be one of those multi-talented, double threats – he can write and illustrate. I wasn’t sure if he’d be available but I knew the ninja thing would be right down his alley. I e-mailed him and asked politely (begged) if he could help us out. He said sure. I told him our name, a little bit about the challenge – and the tag line my neighbor came up with “You’ll never see us coming”. He took it and ran with it. And the logo above is the finished product! So now not only do we have to live up to the name Cardio Ninjas, but the awesome logo my friend Austin created.

Asking someone else to help out was also out of my creative comfort zone, but not in my wildest dreams would I have come up with a logo as impressive as the one above. If I had imposed my own vision on this it would have been much different. My envisioned ninja was not nearly as sleek, fun and kick ass as the girl, wait WOMAN, ninja above. This may be the closest I get to an author/illustrator collaboration, and it was rather inspiring to see another person’s vision add that much more to two simple words and a tag line.

So, Paper Waiters, how are you going to get out of your creative comfort zone this month? Try it. I DARE YOU.

*Logo credit: the fabulous author/illustrator and fellow Writing Barracuda, Austin Light


  1. Robin,
    Who says you can't think in a "sprint" frame of mind? Both name and logo are excellent!

    Reminds me again of how an inspired illustrator, for example in a pb, transforms words by giving them new depth and sparkle.

  2. I don't have a creative comfort zone! As Winnie the Pooh said, It's all a little anxious.

  3. Robin,

    What a winning combination!

    Writing a novel is most likely what takes me out of my comfort zone. I tend to write shorter things.

    This was a cool blog post. Thanks for sharing the process!

  4. Gale - Seeing what Austin came up with floored me so I can only imagine what it's like to have an illustrator look at your words and co-create another dimension for a picture book. It really is an amazing process.

    JL - My comfort zone is sitting at my desk, once I have to show my characters to my crit group...yikes, I agree with Pooh.

    Linda - Most of the time I love sitting down, letting my characters speak to me, but there are always those times when I get a little freaked - like when the editorial voices start sounding their suggestions too early! Thanks for stopping by :)

  5. Wait - you mean there is a creative comfort zone and nobody told me! Directions, please!

  6. Kudos to Austin! That logo is awesome! And mucho kudos to you..the tagline is uber fantastical!!

    I know exactly how you feel, Robin. People think because I write (fictional stories) I can be creative on demand. That scares me more than anything, well that and sharks.

    As for me, how will I step out of my comfort zone?..I will need to buy a steal mesh wetsuit first!