First of all, let me clarify one thing: “Risk” will look different to everyone. Depending on where you are in your writing journey, taking a risk may be submitting the manuscript that has been sitting on your desk for years to a publisher, or it may look like trying to sit down and write a blog post for the first time.
Whatever risk may look like for you, I am here as your own personal cheerleader (pom-poms not included). You are not alone in this writing journey, friends, because I am learning how to take risks as well. That being said, why should we follow my advice and do that crazy, risky thing? Well, here are just a few reasons:
TAKING RISKS MEANS THAT YOU ARE WRITING
“Rejected pieces aren’t failure; unwritten pieces are.” -Greg Daugherty
“Just write.” For years, those words made my stomach turn. I’ve always had a love of words and a deep desire to write, but I was afraid that once I began writing I would discover that I was not enough. Writing in general is a risk. Preparing to write for the first time can be a terrifying experience. The idea that my words can be read and criticized by anyone still unsettles me from time to time, however there is one mantra that motivates me to stay out on that precarious limb: At least I am writing.
You will never know what kind of writer you are until you write. You will never be a writer at all until you write. Ask any published author, and they will tell you that there are two things all aspiring writers must do: Read and write. A lot. If you are taking any sort of risk as a writer, then you are following that advice. It means that you are writing something.
TAKING RISKS ALLOWS YOU TO EXPLORE AND GROW
“Write relentlessly until you find your voice. Then use it.” – David Sedaris
Can you imagine what Pride and Prejudice would have been like if Steven King had written it? Or what if J.K. Rowling tried to force herself to sound like Earnest Hemingway?
The similarity between these authors is that they discovered their own unique voice and stayed true to it. All great writers play to their strengths, which means that they are also aware of their weaknesses. Learning this about yourself takes time, exploration, and (you guessed it) lots of writing.
Take a risk with your writing. Try different styles, genres, and points of view. You may discover new lanes of writing that you wouldn’t have found had you played it safe. You will never grow if you write safe, so write dangerously.
TAKING RISKS WILL TEACH YOU WHAT TRUE FAILURE IS – AND ISN’T
“You only fail if you stop writing.” – Ray Bradbury
When I was in college, my biggest fear was writing something that wasn’t well-liked. Today, my biggest fear is waking up when I am seventy and realizing that I never gave writing a chance at all.
I still hate the idea of being rejected, of course, but I no longer see it as the definition of failure. I see rejection as a necessary part of honing my craft. True failure is never pursuing my craft at all.
When I am seventy, I will be able to say that I tried. I may never be a best-selling author, but I will never have to wonder what could have been. If you’ve ever wanted to write, then don’t wait until you are retired – start writing. Of all of the excuses you have to put off writing, how many of them will be worth it twenty years from now? Remember, we are writing dangerously TODAY, not sometime in the distant future.
TAKING RISKS WILL TEACH YOU HOW TO PERSEVERE
“Good stories are not written. They are rewritten.” – Phyllis Whitney
Being a writer means that you are a marathon runner, not a sprinter. Writing a novel from conception to publication can take years, while articles and blog posts take plenty of time and investment to grow. Writing is a huge investment that requires sacrifice and lots of perseverance.
There is also a certain amount of rejection that comes with writing, which means that there is a certain amount of stamina that must be built up as a writer. Taking risks with your writing will expose you to rejection more often, but remember that persevering in spite of rejection and critique is how you will become a good writer. I wish there was a way around it, but there’s really not. Instead, many writers wear their rejection as a badge of honor. It symbolizes the obstacles they had to work around in order to become successful, which truly is something to be proud of.
TAKING RISKS WILL MAKE YOU STOP WRITING FOR EVERYONE ELSE
“Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way.” – Ray Bradbury
Playing it safe with your writing may mean that you only write what you think will be successful. This is an easy mindset to fall into – it is hard to justify wasting your time on a piece that you believe will never work out.
I have a response to that: No time spent writing is ever wasted.
When I began writing I took the saying, “write what you know” very seriously – and very literally. I played it safe with my stories, and it showed in my writing. I became discouraged, and began to believe that I wasn’t meant to write. It wasn’t until later that I realized I was forcing myself into a specific genre that I thought would look more appealing, while the kinds of stories I really wanted to write didn’t fit there at all.
Of course, I am not telling everyone to throw all the rules window. What I am saying is that there are so many divers forms and genres of writing that it is worth taking the time to explore and discover what fits you best.
I don’t know if anyone else will like my current writing project, but if I dwell too much on that thought then I am much less likely to write anything at all. When we step beyond what we think we “should” write, we begin to write for ourselves. Approaching our stories and projects in this way can keep us from losing motivation, and help us write with our most authentic voice.