Taking Risks in Writing and in Life

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Writing is an act of discovery.

Writing can unearth truths you were afraid to face.

You think you know your subject or plot or characters, until the words begin to march to the beat of their own drum.

Sometimes you discover-perhaps from a trusted first reader–that your words fall flat. Or sound too familiar. Or leave too much white space. 

Something is missing.

To write compelling stories, we have to mine our minds and hearts. This requires a certain boldness.

In drafting a story or essay, or even a blog post, you encounter numerous choices. Which turn will you take?

Some choices seem riskier than others. 

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To write something meaningful that will resonate with readers, we must take risks. We must learn to write at the edge of what feels comfortable.

We have to ask: what am I holding back? Why? 

What do I fear by writing the truth, or exploring this matter?

Whenever I’ve pushed myself in this way, the net outcome was rewarding, whether yielding a stronger piece, satisfaction in my work, or publication. Rewards also come from the reader letters I receive.

The same can be said for our lives. Our limiting beliefs keep us from taking risks. So do our fears.

Fear of what others might think.

Fear of being uncomfortable.

Fear of facing certain feelings we’d rather keep ten feet away.

So we remain in the status quo. Settle into a comfortable routine. Stay inside our safety net—a wholly understandable choice in today’s upside down world.

Yet when we remain there, we miss so much. We miss experiences we can’t even yet imagine. 

Sometimes the risk we take is for another. To show up when we’d rather stay home. This, too, can bring unexpected rewards.

I decided that 2022 would be my year of saying “Yes”. 

Yes to new opportunities, relationships, experiences, challenges, and writing projects.  I chose this action not only to face fear but to feel more alive.  To have fewer regrets, even if the outcome isn’t what I hoped for.

But there was another driving factor in this shift: my continued awareness of the brevity of life and the uncertainty of tomorrow in our broken world.

 Bike_Maverick/iStock

I choose to say YES more often because next week, month, year, I may not have this choice. 

A most recent and life-changing Yes was traveling solo from Boston to Lake Atitlan, Guatemala for an 8 day writing retreat. In deciding whether or not to embark on such a trip–my first outside North America–I found several excuses to say No Not Now. (It helps to have a few cheerleaders on your side.)

Stay tuned for the full story…which I wasn’t sure I’d live to tell! 

Author: EvelynKrieger

I'm a people watcher and word crafter, author of fiction and essays. I also blog on living the creative life during hard times. When not writing, I work as a private educational consultant. Special interests: dance, the moon, astronauts, beaches, poetry, staying alive.

20 thoughts on “Taking Risks in Writing and in Life”

  1. This is a great post – I often try to stay in the safe zone when I write, but I agree with you that if you dig deeper into your self, that’s where the meaningful stuff is.

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  2. Sometimes we fear change as we feel safe with what and whom we know. Stepping out our comfort zones can be an exiting challenge 😊

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      1. Yes. Like we settle…settle for less or settle down. We need to be brave and broaden our horizons and get out there! Good post 👍🏻

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  3. Warriors should be brave so there’s your motivation! I have some fears and anxieties. Awareness, meditation and witty humor seem to help me a lot. And travelling. It makes one feel free like a bird in the sky.

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  4. I definitely belong in the group of writers who don’t take risks. That’s stifled my voice, to be honest, and I long to go back to my juvenile days when I could just take a stance without worrying of being ‘correct’ to everybody. Anyway, this was a thought-provoking post, so thanks for sharing!

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    1. I appreciate your comment, Stuart. I understand the sentiment and you have plenty of company among writers. Social media, online news/magazines, increasing sensitivities to language, along with vociferous commenters and trolls is enough to make any writer want to crawl in a hole sometimes. Still, I believe it’s best to tell the truth on the page, fiction included. One remedy is to write like no one is watching. Forget the critic over your shoulder. Then see what happens.

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  5. Sometimes we are so afraid of losing what we know because we think that by saying YES to new experiences we NO to what we know and love. But what if we say AND? Keep what is valuable to us AND add to it. It is scary I know, but what if?

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    1. I really like this perspective, Jenn, and truthfully never though about it in that way. Usually, it seems for every “yes” we are also saying “no” to something. For example, in choosing a partner, we are forgoing others (well, most of us!) In my case, I am trying to say “yes” to more thinks as a way of branching out of routine and comfort and FEAR. But I’m going to try that AND technique! Thanks.

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      1. My therapist taught me that perspective a few years ago. I also thought the same way many of us do. This perspective helps me navigate the complexities of life. I love how it increases my options

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        1. True, though I believe that married couples should be free to take solo trips or trips with a friend or family member. For instance, one may love backpacking or rough camping and the other hate it. So what’s wrong with one taking a few days to go off in hiking in the wilderness? This can get more complicated with young children in the picture, of course.

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