Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Play it Safe or Take Risks? #IWSG



Welcome, Insecure Writer's Support Group peeps!

Recently, I was with my sixteen-year-old son and two of his friends. We were breaking a teeny tiny little rule. I swear it was small. But still, breaking this little rule made me very nervous. One of my son's friends asked, "Mrs. Musil, did you ever get in trouble in high school?"

My honest answer? No. There were plenty of things I did wrong--I even broke some minor rules--but trouble? Definitely not.

I realized then that I've always played it safe and stayed out of trouble. I have a strong aversion to risk. I'll never be a Steve Jobs, who took huge risks with big failures and grand successes. I've taken small risks with small failures and successes.

In the publishing world, aversion to risk can hurt a writer. And different choices carry different risks: traditional, small pub, indie. Are play-it-safe writers destined to fail?

No.

Here's the way I see it: even if you're not taking gravity-defying leaps, you're likely taking huge risks for you.
  • Do you write and let other people see your words? HUGE leap. 
  • Are you creating new material and revising previous manuscripts, despite setbacks and rejections? HUGE leap. 
  • Do you send work out, despite the stomach-clenching fear? HUGE leap.
Each time we step outside our comfort zones, we're making progress. And as long as we're making progress, success will come. It might just take play-it-safe writers longer. As Frederick B. Wilcox said, "Progress always involves risks. You can't steal second base and keep your foot on first."

If you're like me--afraid to take risks--do it anyway. Even if the risks are small. Need inspiration? Check out these cool quotes I came across while writing this post.

"When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth. So what the hell, leap." -- Cynthia Heimel, Lower Manhattan Survival Tactics

"Many great ideas have been lost because the people who had them could not stand being laughed at." -- Author Unknown

"Yes, risk taking is inherently failure-prone. Otherwise, it would be called sure-thing-taking." -- Tim McMahon

"I dip my pen in the blackest ink, because I'm not afraid of falling into my inkpot." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Why not go out on a limb? Isn't that where the fruit is?" -- Frank Scully

Do you boldly take risks, or do you play it safe? If you've taken publishing risks, was it difficult to step out of your comfort zone?

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38 comments:

  1. What a great post! I love the quotes. You never know how far you can go if you don't take risks.

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    1. So true! That's something I'm learning as I get *cough* older.

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  2. I like this post, and I like the quotes too. I have a journal where I collect interesting quotes, so I'm going to write these down later. I took a risk by going to graduate school and working on my PhD; I turned down more than one job in order to become a teacher instead. Sometimes I that I wouldn't have been forced to become a workaholic and I would have a lot more money if I hadn't become a teacher. But I still love teaching; I don't think I would have loved those jobs.

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    1. And you know what? Loving what you're doing is SO much more important. Imagine the impact you're having on kids' lives!

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  3. My husband and I are both risk takers. We get along well and try to keep each other in balance. I can't imagine how dull life would be to always play it safe. I had to laugh at your experience with your son and how you "broke one little rule"-- reminded me of the time I took one of my sons to the DMV to get his license. The date on his permit where the instructor had written it in was a month behind, and to avoid problems with getting his license that day, I just tweaked it a little with the same color pen to make it fit the timeline requirements. My son was practically freaking out like someone was going to come arrest us or something. Now 7 years later he still tells people about that experience, how his mom changed the date on his driving permit while waiting at the DMV.

    Sorry for this long comment, Julie, but your stories about your sons always make me smile and remind me of the good times I had with my own. Golly, I miss those days!

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    1. OMG Karen that is SOOO funny! Tough to break those rules with little eyes watching. Your experiences remind me to savor every moment with our sons, because they'll grow up far too soon.

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  4. Writing is all about risk taking. Trying a new perspective. Letting strangers read what you wrote. Bravery is a key element in a writer's life. Be brave! Take risks!

    Happy two years IWSG!

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    1. And the beauty of it is this: we're being brave and don't even realize it!

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  5. Some days I wonder, what is a comfort zone? I've left my family behind on the other side of the country, moved without employment, had children when uncertain how we would pay, led groups of people before knowing exactly what I was doing, and now, made the jump into publishing with the total summum bonum of my personal studies.

    Every risk teaches us something new, eh? Every stretch allows us to become something stronger, faster, better. (Love this post!)

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    1. Crystal, you are the definition of bravery! Wow. I've found that I'm most excited when I'm taking writing risks, because otherwise I feel stagnant.

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  6. It's hard to be a writer without taking some risks. I've never been much of a risk taker myself, but somehow I've gotten good at remaining oblivious to the risks when I'm writing.

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    1. Ken, that's funny! Yep, it's probably good that we're oblivious to those risks. Otherwise we might not take them!

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  7. Oh, GREAT post, Julie. I'm totally a risk taker. I know I wouldn't be where I am today without being brave and taking risks. And it's necessary as a writer--even if those risks *appear* to be small. Because really, even just sharing your work can be scary... but it's so essential!

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    1. Morgan, you're so right! The risks appear small, but really, they're huge! I envy your risk-takiness :)

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  8. Fab post, Julie. I am a risk taker in some ways. People have called me courageous for some of the choices I've made in my life. But I don't feel brave. Particularly writing fiction for the first time at 60+ years old. Thanks for those great quotes.

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    1. Karen, I think being 60+ makes you even MORE brave! Kudos to you.

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  9. Those by themselves are huge leaps of faith.
    I've never been a risk taker either, so I know how you feel.

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    1. Alex, I feel like such a wimp sometimes, but you know what? I've been embracing my inner risk taker lately ;)

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  10. I have taken some risks. I find the hardest risk to take to write about secrets. Uncovering the soul is a risk. Writers may be some of the most risk-seeking folk alive.
    Happy IWSG Birthday!

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    1. Ooooh, good one. Yes, baring our souls and secrets can be totally intimidating. I have to be careful not to edit myself too much.

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  11. Okay, I'll be honest and say I could not have answered that question like you did. Though now I don't take risks that much. Though you're write that putting your writing out there for others to see is a big leap, whether it's critique partners or querying.

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    1. Natalie, you brave thing you! Yes, even letting our critique parters/friends read our manuscripts takes huge amounts of courage.

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  12. Cynthia Heimel's quote is my fave. Thanks for the reminder that the rewards are often hiding behind the risk.

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    1. I adore that quote! I like thinking I'm either brilliant or a gigantic idiot. And who's to say there's even a line dividing the two?? Deep thoughts tonight. Deep thoughts.

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  13. Love the quotes!

    I have played both sides of the fence. There has been success, and also failures. I think we need to take risks every once in a while - like walking over a large creek, crossing it on a shaky log, suspended from one side to the other. We might fall in, and then again, we might reach the other side, and a whole new world.

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  14. One of the better side effects of aging is my ability to take more risks-- still not an easy thing for my planner personality (I like to KNOW what's going to happen), but I'm getting better. I think you're right, it's vital as a writer to get comfy with ...well... not being comfy!

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    1. LOL! Yep, age has a way of making us think, what the heck? What do I have to lose?

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  15. I like taking leaps, but sometimes I forget to try... LOL! I love those quotes too. Especially Emerson's.

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    1. Me too, Lisa! Thankfully nice writer friends remind each other to be brave ;)

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  16. Nice post, great blog, following :)

    Good Luck :)

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  17. Dear Julie, I think we owe it to ourselves to take risks. Even if they're just tiny little ones like getting published.

    Great post!

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    1. Joylene, so true. We DO owe it to ourselves. That way we have no regrets!

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  18. I found your blog through your IWSG hash tag on Twitter. Hello from IWSG!

    I've learned to take more risks with my writing through the years. I'm currently revising my WIP. Last night, I deleted an entire chapter I'd written. I consider deleting big chunks of my work being adventurous because this is probably the closest I'd ever come to time traveling.

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    1. Cynthia, deleting a whole chapter is BIG! Wow. I've done that before, but I'm neurotic and save it in an extra folder, just in case the manuscript can't live without it. Of course it's never needed!

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  19. Very true. Each has his/her path that is guided by his/her personality, tendencies, drive, etc... I believe there's positive in the diversity of people. What if we (as writers) were all major risk takers? What if we all were at the same time? Would it still be risky?

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  20. I take loads of risks in that I write what pleases me, rather than trying to figure out what the average person would want to read. The hard part of the risk taking is actually showing my work to others. What I'm doing about that is I'm starting to post small excerpts of my novel online so people can see it, and if I do that enough I may 'wear out' the fear reaction. After all, I'm not afraid to post my poetry online even though it can be quite odd.

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