Monday, June 9, 2008

Taking Risks vs. Riding The Brakes

"Don't be afraid to go out on a limb. That's where the fruit is." –H. Jackson Browne

Last weekend, hubby and I were jamming on guitars. It's something we love to do, sip a little wine and play our favorite songs. He paused and looked over at me, saying, "Don't hold back. Hit those strings like you mean it."

I needed the reminder. His next comment though struck home. "You need to let go of that tendency to ride the brakes all the time."

Bam. Wow. The thought reeled in my mind. The visual image meshed beautifully with the startling realization of my own tentative nature. You can bet I did play more aggressively for the remainder of the evening and loved it. Woo-hoo!

"There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." –Anais Nin

The next day I studied those words I'd scribbled down with such haste. Riding the Brakes. Being a writer is all about risk. Sure, just about anyone can string words together into the semblance of a sentence. Writing a story can be as simplistic as See Jane Run. Yet as readers, we know the difference between a story that merely connects the dots and one that sweeps us into an enchanted world. No matter the genre, whether commercial or literary, the writer who pushes past the boundaries makes us gasp with delight or sit stunned as a revelation resonates within our hearts.

I want to be that writer. *smile* Don't you?

"Sometimes when you think you are done, it is just the edge of beginning. Probably that's why we decide we're done. It's getting too scary. We are touching down onto something real. It is beyond the point when you think you are done that often something strong comes out." --Natalie Goldberg

Taking Risks vs. Riding the Brakes. Writing isn't an easy task. Which is why we heave a sigh of relief when finished and often eye revisions with the same enthusiasm with which we might face a cluttered, spider-infested garage. Ewwwwww…. But… I'm all done! WAH!


Part of why the task can feel so onerous is simple. If our story isn't touching our soul, rattling our bones, clenching our fists, touching our heart, we may simply be bored. *gulp* We need to dig deeper. Take our foot of the brake. Take A Chance.

If you're feeling stuck with a passage, pull up a separate document and write the three WILDEST, most preposterous ways to take your scene. Then write three more. Feel that tingle of excitement knowing You Can Write Anything. Anything at all! Anything you damn well please! That's right. It's YOUR STORY. If you're bored or beleaguered, feeling overwhelmed or burnt out, why not twist into a direction you absolutely would never consider? Take a chance. Whether or not you continue in that direction is irrelevant to your process of writing. Shaking up the map will often reveal roads you never would have seen otherwise.

"One doesn't discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time." –Andre Gide

Writing is a voyage of discovery. We must take risks in order to find not only an incredible story, but also our self within each page. Those amazing revelations that leave you gasping will strike your readers too.

"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart... Write from the soul, not from some notion what you think the marketplace wants. The market is fickle; the soul is eternal." --William Wordsworth

Write the story you've always dreamt of. Write a paragraph without worrying how it will fit in (remember our mantra—It's Only A First Draft!). Write from your heart and soul. Let the words flow from you like a burst of spontaneous laughter. *grin*

We all have goals and deadlines. We are Writers. We write. By page count and word count. Yet let's make another goal. To dig a little deeper and remember WHY we write. To experience that tingle of delight, that shiver of excitement, that gasp of awe.

You know what? YOU can do it. YOU are a writer. Feeling a little fear at pushing yourself? Trust me, it's natural. That, my friend, is adrenalin coursing through you. YOU Are An Adventurer! About to leap off a cliff into the unknown, you can trust your wings to carry you off to new lands. You Are A Writer…

So… let's set some goals!

I'm shaking things up this week. *smile*

My goals:

15-25 pages on WIP.
Weekly Essay to post on blog.
Expand outline on NF idea.
PUSH myself to "close my eyes and leap" into my story.

How's about you? Ready to take some risks? Ready to Write??

Let's hear those goals!!




Inspire said...

Great post as usual. It prompted me to go to the journal I began when I started working on my work in progress. I was shocked to see I wrote the prologue and began chapter 1 in the autumn of 2002. I sat the whole thing aside while working on the edits and publication of two other historical novels until 2004.

I completed the rough draft by December 2005. Again more interruptions took me away from it. After an agent told me it wasn't ready I began another round of revisions. Then another agent suggested I bring the word count down and introduce the heroine earlier. More edits.

Looking at my journal, it caused my self confidence to plunge. I read about writers completing books in a matter of months, some a year. What's up with me taking so long? If I worked steady on it, it most likely would have taken a year. Still!

My goal this week is to finish revisions. I think this time is the last. However, I would love for an agent to get her hands on it, and push me to revise again and make it the best book I've ever written.

Chiron O'Keefe said...

I read that Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norell took ten years to complete. *smile*

It's true some writers can whip out an astonishing number of books. Noted author, Allison Brennan mentioned in one post that she can log up to forty page a day.


Not everyone can write that quickly. To me the story comes in ragged bits, torn from my soul a page at a time. I yearn for the kind of info dump that truly quick writers seem to possess but my brain doesn't seem wired that way. Yet.

The more we write, the quicker we will get.

What you are doing is exactly Write... er... RIGHT! *smile*

Happy editing with your revisions. I'll hold that vision in my heart, of the Perfect Agent giving you the Push AND opening the doors to new opportunities...

Smiles to you,

Renee Knowles said...

Great reminder, Chiron! I am a firm believer in taking risks with your writing--and your writing career. Whether that means not always following the "rules" or getting up in front of a group and speaking about your book, I think your risk will be rewarded big time.

Thanks for consistently helping me start my reading week off on the right foot :)



Chiron O'Keefe said...

Thanks, Renee!!

Hmmmm... that's a very good point. The daring leaps an author must take is not exclusive to writing.

An even better motivation to establish our sassy and bold selves right away!!


Stacey Joy Netzel said...

Chiron, Thanks for visiting over on the Orchard Hill Highlights Blog. This is such a great post, and so are some of the others that I've read lately.

I especially like your suggestion to write down outrageous paths to take your characters on, whether you actually write it or not. That'll get the creativity flowing. :)

Looking forward to next week's post. Have a good one!

Rita St. Claire said...


I'm "back," looking at blogs and websites again, and participating in e-mail loops, after several months working hard on revisions to a novel, AND a three week family vacation in Japan.

What a GREAT, INSPIRATIONAL blog entry yours is this week, a perfect thing for me to read as I come out of my cave and re-enter the world of the writing community. Thanks!

Chiron O'Keefe said...

Thanks so much for stopping by, Stacey!

Yes, anything that gets our creativity flowing is a good thing! With my writing I found that if I tried to THINK my way through a passage, my brain would hurt. *grin* However if I type my thoughts instead not only are they more organized, there's automatic retention. Win-WIN.

Two days ago I did it yet again, writing down the possibilities one at a time, brainstorming, until the fourth one zinged me just right.

The ah-ha factor is what writers live for!!


Chiron O'Keefe said...


Welcome Back!! It's so nice to *see* your smiling face again.

Thanks for your kind comments!


Tiffany James said...


Love this post! I am a brake riding gal myself, so I appreciated the reminder. The knowledge that I can write anything is at once gut-wrenchingly scary and ecstatically liberating. Today I choose liberation!

Thanks for a great post! I am looking forward to exploring more of your blog.


Chiron O'Keefe said...

Hello Tiffany!

Yay to Liberation! It truly is like jumping out of an airplane, isn't it? Woweeeeeee!


So glad you stopped by...


Debbie/Granny said...

Thank you. I came across your post and couldn't stop reading. It's just what I needed!

I'm going to let go of the brake on my current project and see where it takes me. Yahoo!

Thanks again.

Debbie S.

Chiron O'Keefe said...

Hello there, Debbie!

You're so welcome!

Keep that energy up and Go-go-GO!!

Happy writing...