Last week Jessica Morrell blogged about taking risks in our writing. She reflected on conversations with writers who hesitated to write from their hearts – memoirs and edgy novels – because of what others, especially their families, might think of their words.
Her advice was “Just risk it. Go towards the hard truths, the pain, the sad, sore secrets, the heartbreak. Fortune sides with those who dare and this is especially true for writers and artists. Writing is an act of hope, of bravery, of necessity. Not only do we grapple with such things as structure and language, but also our doubts about what we write and why we write it. Writing is plunging inward, getting lost and tangled, sometimes finding our way, emerging full of pain and exaltation and fear. Writing requires making a mess, a loss of control. In other words, we learn how to write by writing. But if you spend too much energy on holding back and worrying about embarrassing your family and telling their secrets, the writing just might be doomed from the start.”
Boy, did this ever get me thinking! I don’t know if I could give the same advice. Oh, I write with honesty. Of course I do. I believe in telling the truth. I even let my characters run off at the mouth occasionally, without censoring.
The thing is, I don’t deliberately touch topics or mobilize the kind of characters that might take me past the boundaries of my personal standards. That kind of risk isn’t comfortable. It could mean I’d hurt feelings, shock sensitivities, reveal an ugliness better left hidden.
So, if I hold back in my writing am I not being as honest as I thought? If I don’t dig into the murky depths do I lie by omission? Is this a disservice to my readers?
Jessica says that writing with abandon, taking risks (or choosing not to) is dangerous. “Your life or cerebellum is not on the line, but your soul and heart are.”
Maybe it’s not readers that I’m denying, but myself.
Where do you stand when it comes to taking risks in your writing?