I’ve never been much of a risk taker. I don’t buy lottery tickets, for example; I’d rather keep my dollar, thank you very much. Even roller skating on the fourth grade class field trip to Star Skate was a stretch for me. Wheels on my feet sounded scary. I generally like my feet just fine on the ground.
But when it comes to my writing, I live dangerously. Each time I write, it’s as if I’m leaping off the edge of something. Writing, as I’ve said before, is an act of faith. One of my favorite quotes is by John Burroughs: “Leap, and the net will appear.” For me, this describes the writing process perfectly.
There’s an even bigger risk, though, that scrawling my most intimate thoughts across a cold blank page, even than sending them into cyberspace. That risk would be to write “safe.”
I could compose nice little articles about nice little people. Other nice people would read them and say that they were “nice.” I could then smile and think, “Yes, I’ve always been good at telling people what they want to hear.”
Now there’s a truly frightening idea: to take my unique writing voice and use it to say something mundane, something forgettable. Something I think people want to hear. Something that doesn’t feel real to me.
This page, or this “slot in cyberspace,” or whatever it is, it is my space. My writing time is my time. It feels important to use this space, and this time, to say something true.
So the real irony is that when I take risks with my writing, I am actually playing it safe. Honest writing still feels like a risk, but in fact I know the net is always there.
I just have to leap before I can see it.