Sunday, August 23, 2009

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, Jr.

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 really struck home. "You need to let go of that tendency to ride the brakes all the time."


Wow... The thought reverberated in my head. 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. 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 awakening our souls, rattling our bones, clenching our fists, touching our hearts, we may simply be bored. *gulp* We need to dig deeper. Take the foot off the brake. Take A Chance.

If you're feeling stuck with a passage, pull up a separate document. Now, give yourself free rein. Let loose and explore by writing the three wildest, most preposterous (or provocative *wink*) scenes that you can yank out of your imagination. Remember, this isn't part of your story so you can get as crazy as you want. When you're done, try three more. Let yourself Feel that tingle of excitement knowing You Can Write Anything.

Anything at all.

In fact, you can write 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 discover 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 composing. 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.

We all have chosen goals and nagging deadlines. After all, We are Writers. We write. By page count and word count. Today, 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 can do it. You are a writer. Feeling a little fear at the mere thought of pushing yourself? Trust me, it's natural. That, my friend, is a shot of pure adrenalin. You are an adventurer, about to leap off a cliff into the unknown. Trust in the wings of imagination to whisk you away to undiscovered lands. Breathe in the sweet breeze and let your spirit soar.

You, my friend, are a writer… *wink*

Tell me, are you a Risk-Taker by nature or do you tend to Ride The Brakes? How have you encouraged yourself to push beyond your own boundaries?

--Chiron O'Keefe

Also featured at Pop Culture Divas and Between The Lines.


Cate Masters said...

Great quotes, Chiron! I especially love the Jackson Browne one.
I agree, it's so important when writing to lock that inner critic in a soundproof room and just write away. Revision is where you can tweak the words and let the real story shine through. Another great quote I love (forget which author though): You can't edit a blank page. :)

Sandy said...

Great post, Chiron.

I know all about putting the brakes on and not digging deep enough.

I love doing revisions because that's when I know I'm really close to the end. Smile

Donna Marie Rogers said...

I had no idea you played guitar, Chiron. Very cool. :-)

I'm another who enjoys doing revisions.

Kathy Holmes said...

I discovered the same thing when taking voice lessons - I was holding back and feeling even more vulnerable than when writing.

Funny you should quite Anais Nin - my character quotes her in my wip.

But I'm feeling so drained editing this wip - this story does that to me but need to work through this for requested submission.

Your post will spur me on - similar to a Radney Foster song about risking it all if you want to touch the sky - you gotta dream big and not be afraid to fall.

Thanks for this week's inspiration - I know just where to go. :)

Natalie Acres said...

I enjoyed your post. Thank you for sharing these inspirational quotes.

Cowboy Love,
Natalie Acres

Kate Sheeran said...

Hi Chiron! Thanks for a great essay, as always!

I've nominated you for a Kreativ Blogger award, details on my blog. Thanks for all the inspiration!

Chiron said...

Hi Cate!

I love that: "You can't edit a blank page." Yup. So true.

While researching procrastination for another essay earlier this month, I clarified a common block. Simply put, the fear of screwing up. *laughs*

What if I write it WRONG???

Yup, lock the critic up and write away. There's no such thing as a 'word-wreck', we can always revise. *wink*

Thanks for stopping by!


Chiron said...

Hi there Sandy,

I think most writers can relate to those brakes. *smile* Revisions are good, the final edit is better though!

Thanks for your comment!


Chiron said...

Hey Donna!

Yup. I've been playing guitar for going on too many years. *grin* Started at age fifteen and my first song was an old (really old now) Stones song.

Revisions, yes! I love the crafting the best.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Donna!!


Chiron said...


I'm so glad the essay gave you a boost. Even happier to hear you have a request!! Excellent! Do keep me posted.

Love that... "You gotta dream big and not be afraid to fall."

I still remember a quote from childhood: "You can try and possibly fail or give up and be assured of failure."

Those words had such an impact on me. Why not try? Why not Reach For The Stars?

Thanks for reading, Kathy. Here's seeing you Touching the Sky!


Chiron said...

Hello Natalie!

Thanks so much for your lovely comments. I do appreciate you stopping by!


Chiron said...

Hey Kate!

Wow. Thanks so much. To be considered in the same league as you and Penney is mind-boggling. You gals are fuuunny. Yup.

I'll be coming up with my own list sometime next week, hopefully. Again, THANKS, this is a lovely honor!


Celia Yeary said...

CHIRON--"You can write anything." This jumped out at me. I'm actually going to try that--just sit down and start writing without really thinking, just write something that pops in my head. I often do write "riding the brakes", because I always have that thought stuck in the back of my mind--"an editor will only red-line that--better not try it." Negative thinking. Thanks--Celia

Ann Victor said...

Some more motivations to add to my collection! I've definitely been a "braker"-type of writing, but the WIP I'm currently finishing is - like to think - the first of my writing from the heart. I'm going to remember your hubby's words "hit those strings like you mean it!" and will write those words like Imean it!! A lovely inspiring post, thanks, Chiron!

Here's another quote which may inspire:

"The torment of precautions often exceeds the dangers to be avoided. It is sometimes better to abandon one's self to destiny."

Napoleon Bonaparte

Ladyauthor2b said...

This is the 2nd blog I've come across that you've written and I find you absolutely refreshing and so inspirational. I love the quotes you sprinkle in here and there. I so appreicate your uplifting message of lifting those darn brakes! You go girl! :)

Chiron said...

Hi Celia!

Good for you on releasing the hand-brake. *grin* The good news is, unlike marble sculptures, words can be changed at any point. So, as you pointed out, why not experiment?

Wishing you insights and new directions!


Chiron said...

Hi Ann!

How exciting for you, writing your 'novel from the heart'. I'm excited for you. And I absolutely love that quote. Very intense. Very true. In reality, the fear (and anticipation of doom) is usually much worse than the actual outcome.

In fact, they even did a study and found that those who anticipate pain actually DO feel more pain than those who aren't expecting it. Hmmm... *grin*

Thanks for stopping by, Ann!!


Chiron said...

Hello LadyAuthor2be!

What a lovely thing to hear. Thanks so very much for your kind words!

The quotes are fun, aren't they? Sometimes they take over and just insist I write an essay just so they can be heard! *laughs*

Again, thanks so much, I appreciate you stopping by!