“But what I hope is that Jacob sees his parents doing what they love, doing what they must. Every day is different. Surprises happen. In our household, it’s feaast or famine. All this may want him to be a fishmonger when he grows up. He may long for security and consistency. And who could blame him? But if he is an artist – if he possesses that fusion of gift, hunger, endurability, and, finally, a willingness to embrace risk – he won’t have much choice in the matter. This life chooses us.” Dani Shapiro, from Still Writing
“Everyone has a talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark places where it leads.” Erica Jong
When I read Dani Shapiro’s words, her comment about embracing risk as part of the writer’s life leaped out at me. When I think of risk-taking, I think of entrepreneurs boldly launching a business in an uncertain economy or of dare-devil, go-for-broke Olympic athletes careening down a ski slope leaving it all on the field and taking the quickest, riskiest line to get to the bottom.
Writer as risk-takers. Mmmmm…. At first glance, this notion may seem odd. But the more I’ve pondered it, the more fond I’ve become of it. Here are a few thoughts on why, we, too, who sit at our computers or pick up our pens are risk-takers:
We take a risk every time we sit down to a blank page – this may be the day where we come up totally empty or down on that page something that isn’t right or true.
We take a risk every time we expose ourselves and our deepest fears, longings, insecurities, and weaknesses by sharing our lives and struggles in memoirs.
We take a risk whenever we decide that what we’ve put down on the page can be better, stronger, truer – and jettison all or some of it and start over.
We take a risk whenever we decide to write a novel or long-form fiction or narrative non-fiction. What if we run out of ideas and there isn’t enough to say to sustain it?
We take a risk when we decide that our work is polished enough to send it our into the world to editors and publishers who have power to decide if it’s print-worthy.
We take a risk whenever we decide to go into the dark places of life and shine a light on them so that we and others can find our way and come back stronger.
Wow! I could go on, but I’ll stop here. If life gave out medals for boldness, my guess is we’d all be Olympians! Writing is joyful and fun and satisfying. But it’s also risky. But then again, what endeavor worth doing isn’t? Write on!