Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Five Ideas to Help You Read Outside Your Comfort Zone

We've already talked about how cross-fertilizing ideas from different disciplines will help you generate original and creative writing ideas.

It's easy for most of us to read and learn about subjects we already know, but to capture all of the benefits of cross-fertilization you have to step outside of your knowledge comfort zone--and the further you go outside your zone, the better.

Most people are extremely uncomfortable doing this. They find it too intimidating to read about a new subject when they don't even know where to start.

This is an enormous opportunity for you, mainly because so few others bother to seize it. Here are five ideas to help you get on the road away from your reading comfort zone:

1) Ask your friends who work in completely different industries to recommend books about what they do.
Your friends will likely know off the top of their heads what books a newbie should read to learn about their field. Why not use their expertise?

2) Join a book club on a subject you don't know. At all.
A few years ago, my wife Laura and I started a business and investing book club with several of my investment industry colleagues. Almost every subject we read was completely foreign to her: Peter Drucker, the history of economic thought, the oil industry, commodities. And years later she's still coming up with ideas from the two dozen books we read.

3) Use The New York Times Book Review section to select books on subjects new to you.
The Times' Book Review section is one of the most polymathic information sources you'll find in the major media. Every single week it brings you reliable book ideas on subjects you've never heard of.

4) Read a book about a place in the world you know nothing about.
If travel broadens the mind, then reading about other places is the next best thing. Pick a country at random off of a map and read a book on it, and then use that book to help you choose other books. Better still, use these books as an excuse to visit the country for still more original ideas and experiences.

5) Read a book about an era in history that you know nothing about.
The synergies and "rhyming events" that occur across history are never short of stunning to any attentive reader, and they provide an endless supply of original and creative ideas. And yet so few writers ever bother to read any history. No wonder the expression those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it rings so true!