Yes, today's going to be getting right to the point again, since I've only got a few hours before it's back to retail purgatory I go, I've got a pile of work to get to for my two current clients (contracts, and edits, and website builds, oh my!).
But anyway: comfort zones = BAD NEWS.
I remember when I was finishing elementary school and then starting high school, I was still really figuring out how I could write and the kinds of emotions I could get across. Around this time, I discovered FanFiction.net, which was insanely helpful in getting me writing in a way that forced structure, and exposed me to feedback from actual readers (who weren't related to me, and so didn't feel obligated to tell me I was great even if I stunk).
For those not familiar with the site, it's one where you go to write your own stories based on existing stories and characters - anything from books, to movies or TV shows... you name it. You take established universes, and you get to play with them in a way that gives you invaluable practice in working with voice, tone, character arcs... all of the essential story building blocks. Can't stress this enough: if you're getting going as a writer but need some warming up, that might just be your golden ticket (it sure was mine).
Anyway, at the time I started on that site, I was reading all sorts, but was mainly watching a variety of law enforcement-based shows (NCIS, Numb3rs, CSI, Bones, etc.), and really took to writing stories around my favourite characters within those. And it served me really well for years as I found my footing as a writer and pinned down a style for myself.
The problem was however that I got so used to writing those cop dramas/action-adventures/comedies that after a while I found I had a hard time thinking in other terms; I had found a lovely comfort zone, and gotten good at it, and gotten better and better feedback and stuck with it for a long time because of that, but in consequence, I hit a block when I tried to branch back out to working with strictly my own characters and scenarios.
The answer? I had to use what I had learned, and carve out new avenues for myself to write my way down. Time and time again since then, I've found myself writing just one type of story for so long, that when that one type runs dry, I find myself stuck on where to go - and again, I have to purposely change direction to kick-start my little writing engine once more.
Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The best thing you can do for yourself at that point is to deliberately step outside your comfort zone and explore other directions; when writing muscles hit a plateau, switch up your routine - if you only ever write short stories, try writing a novella/novel, or vice versa; if you only ever write gritty dramas, try for a comedy; if you're used to strictly doing action-driven work, try exploring more character studies; or any combination thereof.
Even if you try one or even a dozen avenues that don't work out for you, or if you never quite find another good fit, the efforts to write outside what you know will help you develop new skills, build on those little writer's muscles in a way that you can incorporate into your pre-existing niche to drive your writing to new heights.
What've you got to lose? Go. Caffeinate. Pump literary iron. Be writing-buff. Chicks (and dudes) dig that.