“To hope is to risk pain. To try is to risk failure. But risk must be taken, because the greatest risk in life is to hazard nothing. The person who risks nothing does nothing, has nothing, and is nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn, feel, change, grow, live, or love. Chained by his addictions, he’s a slave.He has forfeited his greatest trait, and that is his individual freedom. Only the person who risks is free.” Leo Buscaglia, educator and writer
“Take the risk or lose the chance.” Romain Bardet, third place, 2017 Tour de France
The end of the Tour de France was a cliffhanger — it wrapped up with an individual time trial. The top contenders were separated by seconds and Romain Bardet was in danger of losing his spot on the podium. Right out of the gate, he took all kinds of risks, cutting a corner here and one there, careening down the course on a crazy mission to save his spot. In the end, he held on to his place by one second. That’s right, one second!
I know, I know! We’re not world-class athletes risking life and limb during three weeks of cycling over mountains in the burning sun or pouring rain. Our field is the page. Even so, taking risks is part of our game, just as it is in the Tour de France, because if we’re not taking risks, as our wise friend Leo says, we’re not learning or growing.
So let’s count the ways, we too, are risk-taking riders careening toward completion:
We take a risk when we start a new story that may not pan out, even though we invest serious time and energy in coaxing it into being.
We take a risk when we chase down an idea for a plot twist or a new character — a little wisp that may fizzle out and set us back instead of pushing us forward.
We take a risk when we try something new — when we play with a daring, provocative ending or jump genres instead of playing it safe.
We take a risk when we push ourselves beyond our comfort zone — when we challenge ourselves to improve our craft or deepen our story.
We take a risk when we put our words out into the world. Submitting to an agent or a publisher or a literary journal is risky. So is self-publishing our work.
So, let’s remember Romain’s courageous slogan: “Take the risk or lose the chance.” Let’s write dangerously: let’s be world-class writers and let’s be world-class risk-takers. Write on!