Write great protagonists!
I'll be at Storymakers
Tips organized by topic
Read about me
Editing Services
Read Testimonials
Learn the "bones" of story

Monday, January 14, 2019

Taking Risks as Part of the Creative Lifestyle

Months ago, I did something scary that I didn't originally tell many people about. I quit my job to pursue my own writing and freelance editing full-time. Even though it was something planned for months, I felt uneasy when the moment arrived. Despite having prepared, saved money (I've worked extra the last year), and knowing it was the right decision for me to make, I still felt a somewhat irrational illness about it. When I got home, I hopped on Facebook only to read another writer I know preparing to do the same thing and quit her job as a teacher. She said she was both excited and terrified.

I got to thinking how these two emotions seem to be regular company for the writer--and frankly, probably any creative.

In reality, creatives have to deal with a lot of risks. Here are some to consider:

- When you start writing, you may fear that you won't be able to complete a story or meet a goal. What if you get writer's block? What if you are cliche? What if you are horrible? You may fear personal failure. But you keep writing--after all, isn't that what you want to do?

- When you finish a story, you may fear that it's not good enough, doesn't measure up, that no one will want to read it, that people will hate it. You may fear that it was a waste of time, and that you could have done something more productive with your time. You take those risks simply by creating and sharing the manuscript.

- When you send it out for feedback, you have to take the risk of having to endure criticism that at least some part of you doesn't want to hear. In some cases, you might be told that your fears were right--this is not a great story. You used too many cliches. And worst of all, it's boring.

- When you revise and edit a manuscript, you might fear you won't be able to fix the problems and make it better. It might feel impossible. You may wonder if you are making the wrong choices. But you take those risks.

- When you send it out to agents or editors, you again take risks. Will anyone want to represent or publish it? What if I put in all this work, and energy, and stress, and worry in and nothing happens?

- It gets published, but what if "no one reads it"? What if it doesn't get marketed right? What if someone online, maybe a "social justice warrior" tears it down, hurting sells before it has the chance to take off?

- What if (more like when) it gets stolen and put up online everywhere for free, and you lose sales, hurting your career?

- What if you can't write another book as good as your first? Let alone better? What if you can't do it again?

As creatives, we deal with a whole slew of fears--some legitimate and some perceived, but all powerful.

We have to risk feeling afraid, and we have to risk what we fear time and time again.

Being a writer and a creative is all about risks of one sort or another.

I think this is one reason why writers can sometimes seem rather emotional about their work and career. One second they are on top of the world, and the next they think they are being crushed by it never to surface.

When we hear "risks" we usually think of someone chopping and coloring their hair into something wild, embarking on a big and scary financial venture, moving to another country, or skydiving. But most risks are far less obvious. The majority probably happen within ourselves.

A couple of months ago, I heard an author describe her writing journey as humiliating. I think all of us have probably felt like we have had eggs on our faces, felt like we were imposters, even failures, at some point in time. Trust me, you are not alone.

All of these thoughts and feelings are completely normal.

Last year, I went to a panel were an artist talked about what actors (apparently) call the "yabba yabba." He explained that the yabba yabba is that voice in your head that tells you those fears and doubts and warns you of risks. The yabba yabba is not inherently a bad thing. It keeps us alive and safe. If I think of driving off a cliff, the yabba yabba is going to tell me I really shouldn't do that. Without the yabba yabba, we'd all be dead.

Some people get upset and even angry with that voice. They may reprimand it. But it is not inherently bad. Rather than have a war with it, simply acknowledge it, and move on--take that risk.

The yabba yabba is afraid of risks, because they aren't safe. But that doesn't mean they are wrong.

Write that novel. Send it to that agent. As Jim Carrey famously said in a commencement speech, "Risk being seen in all your glory."

It's scary to do that, but it's okay to do that.

And it's 100% okay to feel scared--but do it anyway.

I once heard someone say that if your dreams don't scare you, they aren't big enough. So sally up with your buddies Excitement and Terror and take those risks.

Living the creative lifestyle can seem like the best and worst idea you've ever had. But if you never take those risks, you never have a chance of getting those amazing rewards. As the maxim goes, "You miss every shot you don't take."

Do you want to know what's more scary than taking those risks?

Living a life of unfulfilled dreams.


Post a Comment

I love comments :)