Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Leap of Faith

From when I was very little, I was protected from – or rather, deprived of – risk. Everything was dangerous and I was quickly scolded or stopped when I attempted something dangerous like doing a cartwheel. I was even steered clear of washing dishes until I was much older (Not that I complained).
All this built up the ruler which I live(d) life with. In an almost doctrine sort of way, I avoided most things that could lead to any sort of trouble or bad ending, resulting in many missed opportunities.
This was applicable to me up until a few years ago when I discovered that you can't go through life without taking risks – unless you live in a steel box wherein you grow your own food (And even that isn't foolproof).
But, even with my newly discovered epiphany, I was still mentally ingrained to avoid risk. So I started a plan to try and take one risk – no matter how small – every day.
Okay, enough soppy life stories and useless self-improvement advice. What the hell does this have to do with writing?
Well, besides a background story for a quirky character (don't say I never did anything for you), a whole lot, in fact.
Writing is all about taking risks. If you don't take risks, you'll end up unpublished. Let me explain.
Success comes with trying something new. And trying something new means putting your idea out there for people to reject or hopefully accept. Isaac Asimov deviated from the normal, as he calls it, “Frankenstein complex” robot stories of his time (stemming originally from Faust) and put his idea out there. What if the robot didn't turn on its maker in the end? What if robots were just servants? And from there sprang the three laws of robotics which basically defines robot stories these days.
Then again, you don't have to try something so radical to get published, but you still have to risk something. When you give your story – your soul on a page – to an agent or publisher, you risk rejection and the feeling of failure.
Risks are only stepping stones to success. You have to take risks in order to hit it big.
If you are, however, riskophobic (there's probably an actual word for it, but I'm too lazy to find it) like me, you should start small. If you're in the shower and you start thinking about what would happen if your protagonist's house blew up before he got home, don't simply dismiss the idea because you think it could be bad. Try it out. Same goes for if a character starts acting differently. Don't push him or her back in line. Try out the water, take a leap of faith. Though it will feel like you're taking a risk, you're really not. You can always just double back and try another route.
Make the jump, even if you think you might not make it. Your writing will thank you for it when you do.

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