Writing and Risk Taking
Languishing in Your Comfort Zone
Are those not beautiful quotes? So what do they have to do with writing?
It is my belief, as an observer of life and as a former teacher, that many people (not just writers) are more than happy to stay in their comfort zones and not face the risk of failure. I suppose complacency has something to do with that because let’s face it, it requires a little hard work to leave our comfort zones, and dammit, that comfort zone is….well….comfortable.
I also believe fear plays a large part in this “stay comfortable syndrome.” We don’t know what is beyond the next door, and who knows what will happen if we open that door?
However, I believe it is imperative for a writer to take risks.
Writers are an interesting group of people. We write with our imaginations and whatever talent that we have. We create fiction and write about wondrous events in far-off places. Our characters take chances and leap into fiery buildings, and our heroes are bigger than life.
All the while we are safely locked into our writer’s studio without a chance of risk overwhelming us. Many of us were the boring kids who sat off by ourselves and never rocked the establishment boat. We got decent grades while others were going downhill skiing. We read National Geographic while others were on trekking the mountains of Nepal. We paid our taxes on time and we always drove the speed limit.
Yes, we were, and are at times, boring, and that is a danger for a writer.
Some of the great writers in history believed that you have to experience life in order to write about it. I believe William Faulkner said: “A writer needs three things…..experience, observation and imagination….any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of others.”
There is an authenticity that becomes apparent when a writer has experienced that which he/she is writing about, and I believe that authenticity is crucial for a writer. I have written often about alcoholism, and I believe the fact that I am an alcoholic gives me credibility to the reader. Now that is a risk I would not suggest to others, but the fact remains that getting out of our comfort zone and taking some risks are necessary to keep us from becoming stale in our writing.
So what can you do to accomplish this task? Well read on and find out! Take what you need and leave the rest for those following you.
Face Your Fears
Fear is an emotion that can be defeated, but it takes a willingness to accomplish that feat.
What are your fears? Are you afraid to write a novel? Are you afraid of joining a writing community like HubPages? Maybe your fears are more basic, like the fear of darkness or the fear of snakes. Whatever the fear may be, if you face it you will have opened up a new avenue on which to travel with your writing. What a great article that would be, if you were afraid of snakes and then went out and held one, or if you were afraid of entering a writing contest but then entered one. We need to extend ourselves as writers and facing fears is one way to do so.
Experience Life with a Backstage Pass
It has been said often that the world is a stage, so why not get yourself a backstage pass and experience some of life? Get out there and live life, and then write about the experiences. Travel more; take on new challenges; push yourself in areas you have never considered before.
Interview people who are risk-takers and find out what makes them tick. Go for a hike in the mountains, or start rock climbing at the local YMCA. Ride around with a cop or an ambulance driver. There are so many things you could be doing, things that will give you a seemingly unlimited pool of information to write about.
Be Willing to Leave the Cocoon
Yes, there is safety and comfort in that cocoon, but is that really what life is all about? If safety and comfort become synonymous for stale then you really need to consider stretching your arms and breaking free of that damn cocoon.
If you are comfortable writing SEO articles for a content mill, then consider writing a novel, or consider entering writing contests. If all you have done is blogging, then consider finding another venue for your writing and then learn how to do that well. Remember that diversification is another notch in your professional belt, and the more you can do the more attractive you will be to possible employers, agents and publishers.
Learn and Keep Learning
I have always been of the belief that you can never have too much education or experience, and knowledge can never be taken away from you.
Take an extension course and learn a new subject. Go online and enroll in some course, or go to the local library and sit in on some lectures. Keep learning! Keep expanding your knowledge! Each and every piece of information that you can gather can only help you in your writing.
Put Your Senses to Work
How much do you really use your senses? That’s not a trick question. It is estimated that the average human being only uses about 18% of the capabilities of their senses. I wonder how much you would have to write about if you were working at 75% capacity?
Go sit in the backyard, close your eyes, and allow your hearing to be your eyes. Put ear plugs in your ears and walk around deaf for a day. Go for a walk and touch everything you see. Feel the texture of a leaf and pick up the first frog you see. Walk barefoot on that walk and enjoy the sensations. Stop and smell every flower you see on a half-hour walk. Taste a snowflake and a red hot pepper, and if you have never smoked a cigar then do so. Remember that we are trying to expand our horizons as writers, and each and every experience helps us to do so.
Take the Road Less Traveled
Do not, and I repeat this emphatically….DO NOT FOLLOW THE CROWD! You are your own unique writer so act like it. Develop the writing voice that only you can have, and quit trying to write like some writer you read in Good Housekeeping.
How many writers are there in the world? Millions for sure, and what a boring world it would be if every writer tried to be like every other writer. Your style of writing is a compilation of your life and your experiences. You are unique in the world of literature, so call on that uniqueness and be the best you that you can be.
If there are trends then don’t follow them. Establish your own trend and let others follow you. Find out what nobody else is writing about and then write about it. Sheep have never known the thrill of flying with eagles, and you will never know the thrill of flight if you don’t first spread your wings.
Do you take risks as a writer or play it safe?
So There You Have It
It is time for each of you to jump off that cliff and start building wings during the fall.
I have always had a fascination with speed. When I was in my early twenties I saved up my money and bought my dream car, a Porsche 911. I took it on a road trip back to North Dakota to visit my sister. On the way, on a lonely stretch of I-90 in Montana, I decided to find out just how fast that car would go. I hit the gas and started shifting….first gear, second, third, fourth….finally I was doing 130 mph and the world was a blur and yes, my heart was in my throat and I was sweating bullets. I remember thinking that all it would take is a jackrabbit to cross the road and me to hit it, and I would be airborne and then dead. You know what? I didn’t care! There was such a rush….such a mind-blowing escape in traveling that fast….that for a few minutes I was willing to risk it all to experience it.
That is what I wish for you all. I want each and every one of you to experience the thrill of writing incredible poetry or prose based on your own experiences. I want you to risk comfort and safety so that you can finally understand that quote by Ray Bradbury.
Go find your own personal cliff and then figure out how you are going to survive the jump.
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
"Helping writers to spread their wings and fly."