Taking Risks…Come On, Just a Few

I am by nature an extremely cautious person. I’m also not so good with change. 38 years later, I’m still not so sure my family needed to sell our smallish tract home and move to the much bigger house, on the top of a hill, with an ocean view and a bedroom for each kid, that my parents had designed and built just for us. Really.

‘Cause you know, why swap out the old for a new? Why take the chance, when where you’re headed might be worse than where you are?

Well, obviously, because it also might be a lot better. Or just really, really good and mesh in beautifully with the happy life you already have.

The last few years, I’ve taken more risks. Nothing huge, from a lot of people’s perspectives, but from Little Miss “Okay, Mom, I’ll get nine books I’ve already read from the library and one new one,” some of the choices I’ve made have been a big deal. And they’ve gotten me to some very good places, including the writing and soon-to-happen publication of The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide.

So, this week, with school starting, more time to focus, and a year ahead in which I want things to be different, I’m putting myself out there. I’m digging deeper into my WIP, reminding myself how important this story—and my fiction—are to me. I’m working on a couple of basic pitches for two nonfiction projects, to send to my agent. I sent an email off for some consulting work. I’ve got a list o children’s nonfiction-book publishers that I’m going to contact.

You can see where the risk comes in. These are all projects I’m qualified to do, and they’re all things I really love doing. But, yes, it’s a lot. The old me would say I was insane, diving head first into all these options, instead of maybe sticking a toe (or just the tip of a toe) into that water. The new me takes a look at the possibility of insanity and does some reassuring. Here’s what I tell myself:

  • You can do these.  You can. [Sigh.] Yes, honestly.
  • None of these are sure bets. To be realistic, some—if not many—are longshots. The odds of you getting to do all of them—get real. You’re not that good. (Yes, sometimes, a big of ego-deflation is actually necessary these days. When did that happen?!)
  • They won’t all happen at the same time. Projects take weeks, months, even years to come to fruition. You’ll probably be bored, waiting for anything to do.
  • A full, exciting life is better than a quiet, dull one.
  • “Yes,” is better than “No,” much of the time. And for your writing path, just about all of the time.

Do I still get nervous? Of course. Do I let that stop me, as it would have when I was young, from reaching out, from stretching myself for the things I really want. Not any more. I may not race ahead and grab it at full-speed just yet. I do, however, hold out my hand and say, “Please.”

What about you? What risks have you taken, or are you facing, that can add to your writing path, bring you more of the happiness that it already gives you?


  1. Tanya Richards Daigle says:

    Thank you. This was just what I needed to hear right now.


  2. I have always been timid by nature, so risks are tough. I admire your plan for fall! I try to throw out — not far, weak arm — a few things, and hope that one or two get tossed back. For me, I need to talk myself into trying because not all attempts are going to happen.

    Adjunct contracts cancelled for fall due to budget cuts, but things are stabilizing, and I’ll be teaching at least children’s lit in spring. I’m trying to use the big open space of fall to really focus on writing and some marketing things.


    • beckylevine says:

      Selfishly, I’m going to miss your posts about the books and your classes. 🙂 Yes, things seem to be stabilizing, glad you’re seeing it there.

      And, wow, writing time! Hoping you can fill the space with lots of creativity and peace.


  3. Vivian says:

    I can’t believe all these great posts I’ve missed while i’ve been on vacation!

    I’ll be sending more query letters out this fall, so we’ll see where that takes PB! Great post!


    • beckylevine says:

      Vivian, it’s just so hard to keep up with all the blogs, isn’t it! Hope you had a great vacation, and yay! (and good luck!) for the queries. 🙂


  4. Oh man, I got nervous just looking at your list! My risk for this next week is sending out queries to four agents. Yikes! Wish me luck…


  5. beth says:

    This is so cute! I can just see you not willing to check out new books in the library 🙂

    I’m…actually the opposite. When I’m scared to do something, I take it as a challenge and MAKE myself do it. It usually works out OK, but sometimes it means I wind up eating octopus tentacles or driving to Miami for the weekend on a whim…


  6. Barrie Summy says:

    Public speaking. Yikes! In September, I’m doing 4 school talks and one panel. YIKES!


  7. Amy G. says:

    Applauding madly from the corner!

    Me, I’m feeling a little risk-averse at the moment. Working on a novel while also raising a toddler and undertaking an overseas move is about as much as I can handle!


    • beckylevine says:

      I don’t think ANYTHING you’re doing is risk-averse, and when you add them up all together…!!! 🙂


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