I talk about fear and bravery a lot because they’re big parts of my writing life—and not just because I write horror. I encourage writers (including myself) to be brave and take risks. Ideally the groundwork of education, hard work, and patience is already laid so they’re smart risks. But once it is, we can’t get anywhere truly special without facing down fear and going for it. I believe that down to my bones.
And yet, sometimes risks don’t pay off. Sometimes we face fear only to fail. Sometimes boldness and bravery still aren’t enough.
What do we do when risks go wrong?
This is something I’ve struggled with quite often, I’m afraid. Part of being a big dreamer and a big risk-taker is failing a lot. There are all kinds of trite sayings about how failing just proves you tried, that it’s one step closer to succeeding, etc., but those things aren’t very comforting to me when I’m in that heartache phase. Not much is, to be honest.
That’s why I’m a big believer in giving myself time to grieve. When a risk goes wrong, I let myself take time to mourn the loss. Depending on exactly how big that risk was, that might mean taking a few moments with tears stinging my eyes or it might mean a week of changing course or it might even mean months of licking my wounds. I don’t mean that I throw an epic pity party or wallow in it just for the sake of wallowing; I just mean that I respect my emotions. They’re an unavoidable human reaction. Why pretend we can stop them?
Of course that also entails understanding when to move on. Some hurts can be kept fresh for far longer than they need to be, and that doesn’t benefit anyone. I wish there was a formula or some easy wisdom on this one, but if there is, I haven’t found it yet. All I know is that at some point, we need to move forward.
Often, moving forward means making new plans and/or setting new goals and accepting that these, too, come with inherent risk. If they’re worth anything, they have to. No risk, no gain, right? But how do we let ourselves risk again when we know how badly it can hurt when it goes wrong? [Read more…]