Taking Chances

Good writers are risk takers. They’re not timid or bashful. they take chances. There’s no other way to grow. Creativity is always risky. If you are afraid to try new things, your writing will be safe and boring.

Did you ever notice that writers and artists tend to be a little crazy? A bit quirky? They are just a step out of sync with the world around them. They don’t think like everybody else.

Why is this? Writing that grabs hold and moves people must be fresh, original, and alive. It should startle, delight and intrigue us. It takes courage to write this way. It means trying new approaches, experimenting with words. It means being willing to go where others won't.

To grow as a writer, you have to stretch yourself. You need the confidence to try an unusual word, expression, or figure of speech. You also have to be willing to fail. Sometimes it won't work. Your attempt at new and creative might end up weird and confusing. That's what risky means. But when it pays off--when you write something new and powerful and fresh, it will be worth it.

Our writing coaches agree. We get lots of papers that are mechanically sound, clearly expressed, and logically organized. Those papers get high assessment scores. And yawns. Sometimes, however, we get papers that are messy and rough, but full of lively, original ideas, and surprising, colorful words. Those are fun. They might take more work to tidy up, but we’d prefer that to the bland and the ordinary.

Here are some tendencies of risk-taking writers that you should try to develop:

  • Write what you like. A writer must be confident in his or her tastes and preferences. If you are unsure of yourself, it will be obvious in your writing. Learn to develop and trust your instincts. Write the kind of papers you’d like to read.
  • Think outside the box. Try to view everything you write from different angles and perspectives. Think about how most people would approach a writing assignment, and then do something else!
  • Experiment with words and sentences. Particularly when it comes to nouns and verbs, avoid the ordinary. Flee the mundane. Look for interesting, new, and unusual ways of getting your point across.
  • Revise ruthlessly. This is where the courageous writer proves his mettle. All the writing coaches at WriteAtHome love to see students make radical changes to their papers from draft to draft. The tendency of the timid is to simply modify a word, a punctuation mark, a sentence here and there. Risk takers play around with the whole paper — deleting and inserting whole paragraphs, changing the organization, point of view, or tone of the whole shebang. They are not afraid to scrap a bad idea and start all over. We love that. Be willing to roll the dice when it comes to making changes.

You natural risk-takers may read this lesson and feel a surge of enthusiasm, a new sense of freedom to try the things you’ve been holding back on. Good for you. If, however, you are the mild-mannered bashful, insecure, or color-inside-the-lines type, you might be a little nervous. Relax. Loosen up. Have fun.

Keep these four suggestions in mind for the paper you are working on this week. Trust your instincts, and go for it.