In order to grow as a writer, you must take risks. “Why?” you ask. “Why can’t I just stay all cozy and protected here behind my desk and computer screen?” Lots of people do that. I did for a long time. I was super safe in my office, wearing my sweatpants, hanging out with my dog. No one could criticize me. But as a writer, I was completely inert. Without readers to engage with my words, they were dead on the page. And in a way, so was I.
In order for you to grow in your craft, you must put yourself in peril.
Here are some specific “risky” things you should be doing to thrive and develop.
1. Commit to writing for one to two hours per day, even though you may not get paid.
2. Reveal the tender, most broken part of your heart.
3. Leave the beaten path taken by other writers, the one that is well trod and generic, and create your own path—the one with purple trees and a green sky.
4. Embrace looking stupid.
5. Accept being judged.
6. Trust your voice.
7. When multiple people you respect tell you your beautiful tower of words doesn’t work, tear that sucker down. Brick by brick. And rebuild it, totally new.
8. Have faith that the universe supports you.
9. Write only stories that make you scared. And if they don’t scare you, MAKE them scare you. Trust me, those caves are dark, but they hold the treasure.
Several years ago, I attended a performance of Tracy Letts’ play BUG, in New York. From the moment the lights came up onstage, I felt like I’d been shoved off a cliff by a voice I’d never heard before. I experienced myself “falling” throughout the entire performance, wondering of the action and intensity of the storytelling, “How is this even possible?” Watching the play’s final image– Michael Shannon standing nude, center stage, bombarded by lights– my relationship with theater was forever changed. Letts walked a highwire, and damn, did it pay off.
Take action. Make a wild bet on yourself– work hard at your craft for no pay. Push yourself to places beyond your comfort zone. Expose your deepest heart.
Embrace uncertainty, and control the only thing that you can—what time and where you sit down each day to write.
Oh yeah, and breathe.
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