Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Writing Tip #324 - Take a Risk

Not that you need the visual, but I was standing in my shower this morning and the idea to write a horror movie flooded over me. I almost said out loud, “yeah, right!” I’m a person who does not do horror movies. I haven’t seen one since my boyfriend begged me to go with him to Nightmare on Elm Street when it was in the theatres. You do the math. I did accidentally see 28 Days Later (mostly with my hands over my face), but I’m told it is not really a horror movie, but more of a social commentary on world order… blah, blah, blah. I would like my social commentary with a little less zombies and gore. But I digress.

I shouldn’t be surprised that this seemingly random thought visited me this morning. Last night at mothertongue more than a few poets, who had taken a writing workshop with HBO Def Poet Regie Cabico, stated that they were sharing a poem that they were initially afraid to write (apparently a nudge from Regie). The one that struck me the most was from a Jewish poet who wrote a letter to her hometown (that turned out to be Israel) and ultimately a critique of their actions as it related to the Gaza Strip. The poem was devastating and raw and honest. By the last line I could absolutely see that this was a poem worth being afraid of, but the poet released it anyway and pushed it out into the world.

Now I know you are wondering why am I making such a big zombie mountain out of a horror movie molehill? Because writing is about taking yourself out of your comfort zone, about taking the risk and wrapping yourself around an idea that absolutely terrifies you. Maybe it’s a taboo subject or hits too close to home or you have to slip into some character’s skin that repulses you, but you feel compelled to tell his truth. Maybe the risk-taking will be a little more public: getting up on a stage and reading that poem that has been rattling around in your heart or finally sending out that manuscript that has been preened and perfected a hundred times.

What is the worse that can happen? In the nine years I have been going to poetry venues I have never heard an audience boo a new performer. In fact they have been over-the-top supportive of some poets that should never write another poem in their life! And if you are worrying about rejection from a publisher (including GirlChild Press), it is inevitable. Some of the most successful writers share how their work was initially dismissed with little fanfare or were encouraged to take up another vocation. But they kept plugging away, eventually broke through and now their publishers sit around hoping they’ll write another book.

Grab a piece of paper and make a quick list of all the artistic things you’ve been avoiding or at the very least hoping you would build up enough courage to try. Now make the commitment to try one of them on every week. I guarantee you will not get anywhere unless you put yourself out there.

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