Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.
– T.S. Eliot
The word “risk” may evoke something terrifying, or give a feeling of repulsion. When you say something’s risky, or that undertaking a particular thing is a risk, you can get the impression that the negatives are heavy and substantial that they may possibly – probably – balance out, or even outweigh, the positives of a particular undertaking. “Too risky” would mean the odds are stacked against you, and therefore undertaking a particular activity may just be your downfall. Sometimes risks are worth taking, but then it takes some sort of courage to tackle them.
Risks sound monumental – applicable to certain life-changing decisions that can significantly alter outcomes, so it might be a little trite – perhaps it might even trivialize the idea of a risk – if one were to connect it with writing. What is it about writing that’s risky? Certainly there doesn’t seem to be anything evident, at least immediately, that can make writing – the act of it – risky enough. Perhaps undertaking a career in writing is risky, or writing letters to particular individuals is a risky act, but then those are altogether different beasts, too large to take on now.
The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.
– Mark Zuckerberg
What we can look at, in terms of writing and risks, is trying out different styles. Of course, it does not really sound so problematic – people tell you to change your writing style, and on a whim, you can. It would be easy, wouldn’t it? Just like changing clothes? Except writing – especially when it comes to creative writing – has no rules, and certain styles and voices just click. So it will prove difficult for one to move from one writing style to another. Experimenting, certainly, will yield some interesting results – but the degree of how interesting, or “interesting,” some writing experiment is, will be left for judgment.
So one can write, and one can experiment, but then comes the tricky part – the risk. If you are comfortable with a particular writing style, a particular voice, and you are completely convinced that you can write a winner with the voice you have, then that’s nice. But once you are told to venture out of your comfort zone, or once you gather the courage to do so, then that’s another thing entirely – there seems to be such a vastness in terms of writing that there are infinite possibilities and writing combinations. One can join a particular tense – say, the past tense – with a particular point of view and take off from there, and then pitch in the genre or the style of writing – dialogue, text wall, what have you – and mix all these ingredients together. But of course, the catch is whether or not it will click. So, like cooking, writing involves experimentation, getting out of your comfort zone, cooking, so to speak, new dishes – that might fail at the first try, or that might just hit the spot.
The risk that comes with this is, of course, whether or not you can actually pull off writing in different styles. You might end up frustrated that something isn’t working like you want it to work, that your characters don’t mesh well with the kind of tense you’re writing them in, that your events feel disjointed with the points of view that you implement in your writing. Things might feel confusing, especially if you put on your own restrictions – trying to focus on writing the dialogue, or trying to focus on making an evocative atmosphere that transports your reader to the world you are building – but these are alright. You are, anyway, experimenting, and the beauty of experimentation – despite (or is that especially because of?) the risks – is that you form your own rules and restrictions – or do away with them entirely and go wild.
Certainly, you can stay in your comfort zone – but if you decide to submit your pieces and are asked to submit something that demonstrates the range of your writing skill, pieces that all dwell in your comfort zone will not, potentially, give you as much of an edge as if you’d had a set of pieces that show how versatile you are, or potentially are, as a writer.
So chase the risks in writing, and find new ways you can pin down words. At the very least, there’s very little in terms of potential casualties that you encounter when undertaking risks in writing – and even then, these potential casualties will eventually add up to your experience as a writer.
Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.
– e.e. cummings