Writing as Risk



She’s writing a memoir of that year in Paris to remember. He wrote the academic journal article on book preservation for professional advancement. She’s finishing a personal essay on that anxious stretch of time during her pregnancy for fun. He described how his dreams inform his painting for that college application essay. She wrote a summary of a medical journal article for a school assignment.  He’s putting the final touches on a collection of essays on family life that spans fifty years for posterity.

Writers bring their words to the page or screen for a range of reasons and in a multitude of forms. But with each project – work I’ve been witnessing from my private coaching clients – no matter what the mission, there is risk in the writing.

There’s so much at stake. Hurting someone’s feelings. Inaccuracy. Negative response. Rejection. Changing your mind. Putting your work out there. Getting your work out there, and not feeling seen or heard. Like taking a running leap from a lush green pasture into a white, open sky.

It’s easy to admire the risk takers who do their risk taking outside of the written word. The early Apple investors. Competitors in the X Games. Betty Friedan. The tenth grader who comes out to his parents.  Leif Erikson, the first European reported to land on US shores. The sixth grade girl who asks a boy to the dance. All the ones who did it first like the black senator who became president or Amelia Earhart. The parent who hands over the car keys to a 16-year-old.

A writer taking a risk with words isn’t much to look at. There isn’t much in the way of battle scars or blood. It’s a middle aged woman in a café sipping a latte with a pen in her hand and yellow legal pad on her lap. A college sophomore tapping the keys in his dorm room.  Thoughts or opinions are revealed. Masks removed. Veils lifted. Truths exposed. Feelings are made vulnerable.

Henry David Thoreau wrote:  “We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal and then leap in the dark to our success.”

I am humbled as I watch the writers in my life take these risks of the quieter, often invisible variety. They inspire me to take more.