Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Taking Risks - Writing without a Net
Either I play too many board games or I just find they work into what I want to blog about.
Today I want to talk about taking risks. I find the actual word “risk” kind of...menacing. I don’t know why. It’s one syllable, it ends in sk. It’s short and like brisk, it’s cold. You could call my house and instead of breathing heavy or asking me trivia questions about my favorite scary movie, you could say “risk” and I’ll gasp, drop the phone, and run down the hall shrieking. I swear I won't fall. Hmm, sounds like I have a bit of a complex with the word risk. Even when I play the game Risk, I play it safe.
"You've gotta risk it to get the biscuit"
from the movie Fired Up
It's a catchy quote and very true. Sometimes you have to do what shakes you up and what freaks you right out.
When you put yourself out there, a shift happens. Old, stagnant energy gets stirred up and moving. Stagnant isn't good. It leaves you open and vulnerable. It leaves you less prepared to handle the unexpected. If you’re lying around like a pile of leaves and a big gust of wind comes along – you’re mobile, like it or not. You’re going to land somewhere new and have to figure out where to go from there. Learning to take risks and managing the fear behind taking risks will set you up for a better way of handling stress.
Say you want to try a new job. Maybe you don't have all the skills they're looking for, but you have other skills. That new job caught your attention and sounds promising, but you talk yourself out of it because you're used to being stagnant, and change sounds too much like work. You might be missing out on an exciting opportunity. Change really is good, and we’re all very adaptable about change even if we don't like to admit it.
When it comes to writing, the moment we put our work out there and share our creations, we take a risk. When it goes to publishers, editors, agents, reviewers, readers, and our families, we take a risk. But it can’t be too bad because we keep doing it. Maybe your creativity has fallen short...why not try a new genre? Look at the books in your bookshelf. What do you like to read most? Is that the genre you're writing in? See if writing something outside of your comfort box sparks new interest and creativity.
Don't get yourself so stuck that you believe you aren't capable of greatness. Comfortable is nice for a little while, but comfortable borderlines that easy thing, and often comes with a price.
The object of the game Risk is to conquer the world. You use strategy and create a game plan. You attack opponents and defend territories. Little by little you take over the next territory and the next territory. I'm not suggesting that you should go all Rambo, no need to get violent, but say you want to be on the NYT bestseller list, then you better know how to strategize, take charge, and prove your worth. You create a brand, make a business plan, and put your best work forward. You take all the necessary steps, even if they're scary, because you want the success.
Say you have to talk in front of a large group and you're shy. The thing is, you know what you're going to get up and talk about. You have the tools and skills behind you to back up each word. Stand up and say it. Your words may be of great value to someone else. Your experiences may be what propels someone into action when they've fallen stagnant.
Say you have a book to pitch to an agent and you believe that you'll freeze up. Take that risk. You wrote the book, you know it. The characters have slept at your place, ate dinner with you, and hung out to watch movies...though they mysteriously disappear when it's time to do the laundry or dishes. They've argued with you, ignored you, and played "let's hide the plot". You know the book - it's yours - lovingly created and crafted by YOU. YOU are the best spokesperson for your book!
Change can give you a personal, professional, and creative boost. Don't get so comfortable that you forget about that greatness in you. Start with small risks and work your way up. Little steps. Conquer the fear. Kick stagnant to the curb.
Take a risk - the outcome might be victorious :)