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Taking Risks (with your writing) #TBT

I'm bringing back another post from Literary Coldcuts on Toasty Buns, because the project I'm about to dive into this coming week is...frightening. I'm scared of it. I don't think I'm ready to tackle it...and the thought of doing so fills me with so much anxiety that I kind of want to puke.
 
But, really? It's time. It is! For a variety of reasons, it's time to take this risk and just go for it. A few years ago I wrote the post below -- and for the life of me I can't remember what prompted me to write it -- but I'm finding it more relevant than ever today.
 
Again, this one is for the writers in the crowd. :)
 
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Taking Risks

Lately, I’ve been thinking about what it means to take more risks with my writing. I feel that I need to branch out, dive deep, and search the inner recesses of my psyche… I want to create stories that have purpose, writing that has meaning, ideas that comb the murky depths and make my readers gasp in horror, awe, delight, and disbelief. I want readers to think, "how could she write something like that?” while being compelled to turn the next page.

We’ve all read books like that. Those are the stories that we read and wonder how an author could put those words on the page without crumbling into a million pieces, or without falling prey to the dark void. The plot twists are unimaginable, the villains are truly evil, and the situations, setting, and action are all reflective of a realistic, very human, very harsh, very scrutinizing look at the world.

 
I am a pessimist by nature. For years, I looked out at the world with darkened eyes, seeing little that brought me true joy. This should have enabled me to create those riskier concepts that could have propelled my work forward, but at the time, I wasn’t ready to take my writing seriously. Many changes over the past few years, while not re-wiring my brain to negate the pessimistic outlook, have caused me to look at things differently. It takes work, but I try to see the good in people, places, situations, and circumstances.

Unfortunately, this has affected my creativity. How do I revert to that darker, riskier way of looking at the world? How can I make conflict real, how can I make my villains real, without it? I need to take more risks with my writing, but I don’t know how.

I found an article about risk-taking in writing by Judy Reeve, posted on her website, and I encourage you to head over there and read the whole thing (along with plenty more useful articles on the writing process!). For now, I want to share a few paragraphs that really spoke to what I’m trying to figure out for myself:

"If you’re not willing to take risks, chances are your writing will be bland, shallow and boring. Even to yourself.

So, what does it mean, taking risks in your writing?

This is where you move out of safe, familiar territory, into something that feels a little dangerous. Risk-taking differs from individual to individual, so it’s difficult to say exactly what "taking risks” means. One writer’s risk is another’s walk in the woods. And another writer’s walk in the woods feels damned risky to a third.

Following are some of the ways it might feel when you are taking risks in your writing: Maybe your hands tremble and your handwriting gets a little out of control. Maybe while you’re writing, your breathing becomes shallow. Or you stop breathing completely. Sometimes you can tell when you’re taking risks because this is where the censor will step in: "Hey, you can’t write that.” Or the critic: "That’s certainly not a nice thing to write.” Or the editor: "You might want to be a little less specific there, maybe use words that aren’t quite so… well, graphic.” Hearing these voices can almost guarantee you’re working in risky territory.

You may stop writing what you’re working on, or it may deviate off into some safer territory, meaningless details or worse, generalities. You may feel restless and want something – a cup of coffee, a cigarette (and you don’t even smoke), something to eat, anything to alter the direction of the writing and the way you feel.

Taking risks means telling the truth, whatever your truth is.”
 
 
 
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So...here's to taking risks and feeling uncomfortable during the writing process. Hopefully, in the end, it means a better book for everyone. Because that's what we're here to do, isn't it? Write the best book possible. And sticking with the same old, same old will never accomplish that.
 
May your risks be full of unexpected rewards, friends. :)

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