Is it necessary to take risks in order to write? Is there a way to reduce the risks we take as writers?
Taking a risk
As a University student, I fell in love with the history of Northern Ireland. It became an obsession. I thought if I travelled there for a vacation, do as much sight-seeing I could possibly squeeze into three weeks, I’d have my fill and be done with the place. Get on with my life.
Just the opposite happened, of course.
There was a moment, on my second day in Belfast, where I stopped to look around and knew at my core, that I was home. I belonged there.
I’m not Irish, and I know there is no possible way there could be a drop of Irish, British, Scottish, or Welsh blood in me. Yet Belfast was home. I needed to do everything possible to get back there, permanently.
It took years, a couple of short-term visits, and a lot of figuratively knocking on doors. It wasn’t easy, and there was a lot of pain and frustration, but I finally got my chance.
I moved to Belfast, Northern Ireland. Not permanently, unfortunately, but for a year. As much as I still wish I could have stayed longer, I am forever grateful for the time I spent there.
In order to go, I had to quit my job, give up my pet rabbit, put everything in storage, and sell my condo.
Giving everything up here to go, wasn’t the risk. Going into the unknown, was the risk I had to take. I knew where I would be living, I knew the name of the place where I would be working. That was all.
As much as I had no idea what I was really getting into and could have been hesitant, every day was an adventure, the chance of a lifetime I had to take advantage of.
The risks we take of as writers
The moment we decide what to do with a completed manuscript, we are taking a risk, making a leap of faith into the unknown.
Will an agent like it enough to represent it? Will there be an editor out there who will love it enough to offer a contract? If we decide to publish it ourselves, will we find our readers and build a dedicated reading audience?
In whatever way we’re putting our work out into the world, the world will offer its opinions. Whether people love our writing or not, they will tell us. While being told they love our stories is amazing and totally affirms our decisions, critique or criticism feels like it isn’t our stories that are being hated on, but ourselves: our hearts, our beliefs, our dreams. It is scary, and a risk we take.
Far too often, we let these unknowns stop us.
As we’re writing, we worry the story isn’t marketable enough, will anyone want to read it, and we question our very ability to write a story. These doubts hold us back from writing. Days pass and turn into weeks and months that we haven’t written.
We don’t ask for feedback on our stories because we don’t want to hear anything negative. Instead, we submit our work without without making it as good as it could possibly be.
Or, we get the feedback and don’t take the time to edit. The critiques received means we have a lot of work to fix the novel, and it becomes an insurmountable obstacle. We put the story aside and start something new. This means we never truly finish a manuscript and put it out into the world.
We can mitigate the risks we take as writers
Yes, we take risks as writers, but we aren’t jumping into this without a safety net. We just can’t always see it.
If we don’t know how to fix or edit a story, or there is an element of the story telling we struggle with, we can take classes and read books and learn and grow. And, should an agent or editor not offer a contract, self-publishing is an equally viable and respected option. The readers are out there, and self-publishing may mean you need to learn some marketing skills, but it is possible to do.
So, if we have a safety net, are we really taking risks as writers?
I think so. It is still the unknown, after all. We don’t necessarily want to use our safety net.
The only thing that is stopping you, then, is your own hesitation to take that chance on yourself, and your writing.
It is scary. Of course it is. We wouldn’t need safety nets if it weren’t.
But you can let your hesitation hold you back, or you can embrace the adventure, take a chance, and leap into the unknown.
It is when we take that risk and leap into the unknown, we will be amazed and what we are able to accomplish.
What is holding you back from taking that writing risk?
Until next time…