Monday, December 2, 2013

No Risk, No Reward

Yes, that title could apply to Black Friday shopping!  However, I've been thinking about this a lot in terms of writing lately.

In the last few years, for me, the focus has been on practicality.  Bills stacking up, personal matters requiring attention to the point of becoming all-consuming at times.  Writing seemed like an indulgence.  A luxury that I couldn't afford or justify.

I balanced the practicalities with tutoring and editorial/critique services, and occasionally pulled together enough time to work on a project or polish something off.  I went with sure things instead of labors of love so that I could justify the investments of my time.

Through tutoring, I eventually taught myself the biggest lesson that anyone could take away from a writing course.  In the end, the only way you will succeed in this business is if you step out on your own.  Nobody inherits the family business of writing.  In the end, readers will decide what's great and what's garbage, and no matter whether you get an editor on sub 1 or sub 331, you still have to satisfy the reading public.

So many writers play it safe.  They cling to the security of their amateur writing group.  They hang with those who talk about trying to write, but don't actually do it.  They dabble with something and call it done, but won't submit to editors and agents.  They like the idea of writing.

Some like the idea of someone carrying them, and think they'll be handed a golden ticket so they don't have to take any chances on their own.

In the end, it's down to you and the keyboard and the ideas you execute.  There are no sure things, no guarantees.  You have to step out, on your own, and take the plunge.  If you're working without an editor or agent, that means again and again and again, until the project is completed.  Even if you have editors and agents you work with already, you work alone, with the added pressure of trying to satisfy the people who invest in you and your work.

I was thinking about cutting the cord of my safety nets, stepping away from the regular paying jobs, and getting back to what I love.  Even with some successes behind you, there are always risks and fears.

But no risk, no reward.  For some, that means stepping away from a loved, successful series character.  For others, it means bringing a hugely successful series to an end.  This year, I've had a few firsts, including stepping outside my genre, and what it's taught me is that every risk I take brings a bigger payoff in the end than you can measure just in dollar signs, because it's inspired me to take different risks that pay off with work I might not have produced otherwise.

Don't pull your punches.  And don't play it safe.  The only way you'll ever know what you're capable of is if you step out on your own.  Take the risks today.  It may take years, but eventually, you'll reap the rewards.

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