I’m going to put it right out there. I’m not a big risk-taker. I’ve always played it safe, a fact my son is almost ashamed of. And, if I’m being honest here, I am as well. Neither of my parents were comfortable with taking chances. They tended to walk the center line, neither too far to the left or to the right. If a risk was involved, they veered to the right. That was something I picked up on my relatively safe road to adulthood.
I have, of course, taken a few chances along the way. Some, potentially disastrous, but most proved to be wise decisions. Taking risks is part of living; whether to get married, if yes, then choosing the right partner, having children or not. All of these come with a certain amount of uncertainty, but to walk away might also end up a disappointment.
One of the risks I took later in life was to take a writing course. The description stated that writers will have the opportunity to share their writing with the class should they choose to do so. Alright, I told myself. That’s not so bad. It doesn’t say one HAS to share your writing, but the implication was clear. Still, I thought the risk outweighed the benefits. I was writing a book and I needed some help.
The class was not large, about ten adults, some my age, some much younger. All strangers, but friendly. Every week we wrote in class in response to a prompt. We had five minutes. and we could share if we wanted to. That didn’t feel intimidating and I found myself eager to share what I’d written. What I didn’t want to do was to share my book with anyone. A novel I had labored over for three years. However, as I sat in the class, I wondered how was I going to know if what I was writing was any good if I didn’t “put it out there.” It was a risk I knew I needed to take, so I volunteered to share five pages of my work with the class. It was easy to volunteer that. It was two weeks away. Maybe the class would be cancelled, maybe I would be hit by a car, not killed, just injured enough making me unable to get to class. Scenario after scenario flashed by, as I thought of ways to get out of doing exactly what I needed to do if I wanted to become a writer. And I did.
The following week I arrived at the school. I had not been struck by anything, other than nerves, the class hadn’t been cancelled and I knew I was doomed. I sat in class, thinking about what lie ahead of me. After the short break it would be my turn. When the break came, I dashed into the ladies’ room, sure that my stomach was going to release from captivity my evening’s dinner. It did not and I returned to the classroom – with sweaty palms and a heart pounding out of my chest.
The moment was at hand. It was my turn. I looked down at the pages and prayed my innards would behave and my voice would hold. I began reading and I soon forget where I was. And then it was over. I stopped and looked up. My classmates were smiling.
Thankfully, as the teacher went around the room asking for each person’s critique, the comments were mostly good. And even better, they wanted to hear more. When the class was over, my teacher asked me how it felt to share my writing. I told her, “terrifying, but good.” Better than good, I felt empowered, my inner writer set free.
Some of the comments were more critical, and while I loved the “this is great” ones, I didn’t learn as much from them as I did the critiquing of the others. That’s how you improve, from the “this is what didn’t work for me” comments. That’s where the learning takes place
I now love to share my work. It no longer bothers me. Of course, I love positive feedback, but when it’s the other way around, I take that and work with it. I have come to embrace the risks.