I am not what you would call a risk-taker. Even as a child, I didn’t play all rough-and-tumble, pedal through rain puddles, and the one time I made a prank call I got in so much trouble I never, ever, ever did it again. I always said please and thank you, said my prayers, was obedient and a peacemaker in a turbulent household.
As a child I was fearful of these things:
- Being wrong
- Getting lost
- Not fitting in
- Looking foolish
- Standing out
Writing stories helped me through much of those harrowing feelings that come with growing up and searching for self. I was a late bloomer and not a quick study. I daydreamed way too much, partly because I have a short attention span, and partly because I’m a writer through and through.
For that reason, writing was my escape, my calling, my sanctuary. The more I indulged, the more it fulfilled me.
Until I became fearful of these things:
- Writing a grammatically incorrect sentence
- Dumb story ideas
- Sharing my writing
- Boring plotlines
- Flopped comedy
- Dull drama
- Annoying characters
- Literary agents
- Sounding like my favorite authors
- Copycatting my favorite authors
- Calling myself a writer
Sometimes I feel that being creative is a curse. And I’m talking about the kind of creativity that fills our lungs instead of oxygen, runs through our veins instead of blood, fires in our brains instead of synapses.
The kind of creativity you can’t live without, but at the same time difficult to figure out how to live with. It keeps you up at night with worry. It clings to you by day, refusing to let you forget that at one point you used to like it a lot.
Creativity comes in all shapes, sizes, and strengths. I try harder than most people who say they want to write—and I don’t say that proudly because it means I haven’t achieved my ultimate goals. I have endured more rejections and disappointments than most other writers I know. I have hit rock-bottom and given up—not every writer can say that. I’ve also come back swinging with both fists—not every writer can say that, either.
I have celebrated some small wins, all of which are hugely important to me, because they are mine. I’m the one who accomplished them, and I had scrabbled, bloody-knuckled, to make them happen.
I can distinctly remember the day I got a message from a small publication telling me my story was a semi-finalist in a contest. I fell to my knees and sobbed in gratefulness. That’s how bad I wanted that win.
When I think about what I did right, to reach my goals, there is one common denominator.
I took a risk.
And the one common denominator in all my failures, setbacks, and rejections?
I took a risk.
Sending a query letter out was as nerve-rattling as learning how to drive a stick. It took me months to even learn how to write one, months to endure cutting criticism from forum trolls, and then months gathering the courage to send the first round out. Joining a writers’ group, knowing I’d be sharing my story, Ms. Bossy, sent me into sweaty panic.
You can’t believe the number of ideas swimming around my head, things I want to try as a story coach, as an author, and as a blogger. But that inner critic in me, Eris, enjoys making me feel unworthy of such ideas, opportunities, risks. I wasn’t given many tools as a kid to build my self-confidence, so I’m trying to learn as an adult. Ugh. Don’t try this at home, folks!
My overarcing plan this year is to make risky writing goals. I get a bonus if I achieve any of them, like pizza with anchovies. No, I’m not kidding. What determines the level of risk depends on what is already in motion or what I am aiming for. But the key is that if it makes me cringe inside and makes Eris automatically say “You can’t do that!” or “That won’t work!” or “There’s no way!” then I know it’s a risk.
This week, set yourself a risk (a healthy risk, people, I don’t want to even hear about you texting and unicycling out there!), and try to meet it. Even if you don’t make magic, the important part is trying a risk. Not only is it an over-the-counter med for feeling younger and braver, but it is amazing for stretching your boundaries.