My daughter approached me with a devious smile on her face.
“What’s up,” I asked.
”Do you know what I did yesterday?”
Having no idea, I shook my head.
”I went skydiving.”
I nearly fell off my seat. She only told me afterwards because she knew I’d try to talk her out of such a crazy stunt. Skydiving is something I’d do as last resort, like if my plane had lost a wing and was going down in flames. And yet as shocked as I was, I was also secretly proud of her for challenging herself.
It was a reminder that sometimes in life we need to take risks. Now, I’m not necessarily talking about jumping out of planes or bungeeing off cliffs. Sometimes the risks we take in life can be elsewhere, concentrated, subtle. As a writer, it’s almost required to sometimes go out on a limb.
i’ve taken a few risks in my writing career, from switching genres to plotting farfetched narratives that went beyond the pale. Sometimes it worked. Other times it didn’t. Each time I ventured out there, I’ve learned something about myself. Failure has emboldened me. In fact, I’ve failed so many times in my writing career that failure feels like a close friend. Not actually a friend but the enemy of my enemy. I still fear failure as much as always, but I’ve also come to accept it as necessary part of the creative—the growth—process. It’s the difference between the younger me and the current version.
Adrian McKinty, the 51-year-old Irish crime novelist, had given up writing in 2017 because of tepid sales. Despite penning a dozen award-winning, literary crime novels, and gaining fans and notoriety, his books failed to reach a wider audience. He lost his house. Money was right. So he took up bartending. Encouraged by some writing friends and an enthusiastic L.A. agent, he stepped out on a limb and wrote THE CHAIN, a gripping page-turner quite different from his brooding, literary novels. It’s an ingenious plot, risky and inventive, and quite a harrowing read. I devoured it in a day. The result: THE CHAIN became a New York Times bestseller and Paramount bought the film rights.
Embrace risk-taking. I don’t like failure as much as the next person, but failure can help you improve in life—in all aspects of life—and force you tosee where you went wrong.
When you get knocked down, pick yourself up off the floor. Wipe the dirt off your ass and prepare yourself to kick ass. Then go out on a limb. Take that one chance you’ve been waiting for. You never know, that next book you write could be the big blockbuster. That risky decision my get you promoted. That new recipe might land you your own food show.
Just don’t ask me to jump out of a plane.