16 thoughts on “Reader Friday: Risk

  1. The riskiest thing, I’ve done in my life is also one of the most recent. This is starting my own business called “Optimist Writer”, which is about writing and consulting, 1.5 years ago.
    It is still scary, but utterly exciting.
    I used to think that I was rather a safety-seeking person. Then I thought that I was a very spontaneous person. The truth is that I can be both, depending on circumstances and whether or not I succumb to my fear. Because fear can both lead us to not daring something, and also daring something we regret in retrospect because we do something we don’t really want to do due to the fear of missing something.
    So, I am taking now little steps every day in many of my projects, playing my favorite game “5 Minute Perseverance Game”, that is doing each project for at least 5 minutes every day (and giving myself a point for this) and often forget that many of those projects I pursue, might be seen by others as risky.
    Sometimes I am reminded of this “riskiness”, but this adds to the overall excitement. 🙂
    Thank you for asking this question, Jim, and inviting us to contemplate on this.

  2. The riskiest thing I’ve ever done? I’m generally a shy, anxious type of person. There were many things I didn’t do when I was younger because I was risk-averse. When I realized that was keeping me from doing many things I wanted to, I decided that had to change.

    I took controlled risks. I spoke in front of people, representing organizations I belonged to. I joined a choir, then another (singing into a microphone? Scary.) I began sending my otherwise sheltered writing out into the world. I got on a plane for the first time, all by myself, when I was 40, and went to NYC. I started going to writers’ conferences and workshops, getting out among writers, actually talking to agents and editors. This all took a lot of effort – at first.

    I’ve been singing in choirs now for about 25 years, and I’m even confident enough to sing solos into a microphone (though sometimes my hands shake a lot). I’ve been querying and pitching a long time (I won’t say how long.) I’ve been going to the Surrey International Writers Conference every year but one since 2005, and have gone to other conferences and workshops, meeting more and more people. I’ve pitched editors and agents nearly every one of those years. It does get easier.

    Does this show up in my writing? I don’t know about the risk aversion, to tell you the truth. I do hope that the immense stubbornness it took to face all these challenges shows, though. The ‘I’m-scared-out-of-my-wits-but-I’m-going-to-do-this-anyway’ attitude I use when doing anything uncomfortable now. I think I’ve infused my characters with some of this attitude. I’ve tried to. It’s a family trait, passed down from my grandfather (a quiet, unassuming man who did what seemed right, no matter how he felt) to my father (a less quiet, more confident man who bucked precedent to do what he knew to be the right thing, the thing that would be best for the organization/community/family), to myself (a completely impractical, over-scared, over-worried person who refused to let that keep me from doing what I most wanted to do – write.)

  3. I moved to Alaska & lived there for 10 years, taking on countless risks with outdoor adventures that I’m lucky to have survived. Some of my friends did the same and didn’t survive.

    “There but for the grace of God…”

    I take risks in my writing by trying different genres or seeking challenges to write in ways that aren’t ‘conservative or safe,’ like trying different ways to plot or tell a story. If someone claims a writing ‘rule,’ I try to break that rule in an effective way for the challenge of it.

    I’ve also done things for research that aren’t safe, like ride alongs with police on night shifts. The adrenaline rush of a traffic stop, when your author brain imagines terrible scenarios, can put you on edge and get your heart pumping. Those are the moments I want to remember and put in my writing.

  4. Asking my boss at a large aerospace firm where I was a systems engineer to put my name on the layoff list and take a younger, newer employee off it. With my severance package for the twenty years I’d been working there, I moved my mother and myself back to her hometown and started an aromatherapy business. Wrong time, wrong small, rural town. So I stepped into my writing and editing shoes and moved forward. Has it been easy? Never. Was it worth that one “Oh my God, what did I just say/am I insane?” moment right after the words left my mouth? Absolutely!

  5. I met a guy on an employer-sponsored, poetry bulletin board. We sent poems back and forth for six weeks before meeting in person. Six weeks after we met in person, we got engaged.

    The risky aspect: he is twelve years younger than me. I remember fixating on the fact that when he was starting first grade, I was starting my sophomore year of college. But I married him anyway.

    On May 3rd we will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.

    None of this has shown up in my writing, yet, but it will.

  6. I walked away from a high-paying, but soul-suckingly boring, job to attend law school. Helped my late husband launch a toy business that I’m still running (albeit slowly closing down.)

    On a scale of 1-10 from being too timidly cautious to a brazen daredevil, I’m about a 7. I don’t like change just for the sake of change, but am not afraid to embrace it. I’m not a thrill junkie.

    As for my writing, I stick to fairly tried and true structure. My books have 3 definable acts and fairly conventional POV/tense structures. But, I’m not afraid to make my characters unconventional or have a less than happy ending. I’ll also try new genres if I think I have something worth saying.

    I’m a firm believer that, with only a few exceptions, that you regret the things you don’t do more than those you do.


  7. Thrill-seeker here. Among other things, I’ve been racing motorcycles for about 45 years, and yes, still at it. Also downhill skiing, running (trails instead of streets, given any kind of choice), hot air balloons, etc.

    I enjoy and seek out new experiences, new sports. I fit these experiences and the terminology into stories and books and the characters that populate them.

  8. I have never ridden motorcycles, or gone sky or scuba diving…but I have skied really fast, got clocked on a metal runner sled at nearly 40mph face down four inches from the ground racing down an ice road on a forest hill, went fast on a snowmachine I didn’t own, stood ten feet from a bear who didn’t know I was there, and got into a stare down with a couple biker types in an illegal after-hours speakeasy and had guns pointed in my specific direction on a couple occasions

    All that said, the riskiest endeavour I have ever …um… endeavoured upon, is actually my current novel series. Writing the scenes of ICE HAMMER as if the main characters were/are my actual wife and kids and myself experiencing the terror, violence, and hardship of a military invasion and the real life decisions each would have to make to survive.

    Why is that risky? While it is not physically risky, it is very much emotionally risky. Because in writing this series, more than any other I have written, I am baring my soul to myself in a sort of, “What would you really do? No, really, what would you Basil Sands, overweight computer nerd and actor, actually do if you lost or thought you’d lost your family in war?” way.

    When writing straight thriller fiction, while the stories have emotion in them, they register in my mind simply as what they are, a made up story. As I finish up the second novel in the ICE HAMMER series in the coming weeks, I find myself raw to the core, even troubled by some of the things coming out of my own head, because this story I cannot simply dismiss as fiction when I see myself and my real family in the lead roles.

  9. I once allowed myself to be bolted into a compartment of a ship that had just undergone a major dry-dock overhaul. I was in there with an enormous flashlight, looking for leaks in the huge hull weld seams as the dock was filled with water.

    I was well below the water line.

    I remember wondering how fast the water would come rushing into the space from the outside if one of the seams failed, and if I’d have time to get out… if I’d be allowed out (It was a military situation – that’s why I was bolted in – things more valuable than an E2 were in the compartment on the other side of the bolted hatch).

    Does this qualify as risk? I wasn’t really given a choice. But disobeying an order is still a choice.

    Perhaps needless to say, the welds held.

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