The awesome co-hosts for the April 7 posting of the IWSG are PK Hrezo, Pat Garcia, SE White, Lisa Buie Collard, and Diane Burton!
April 7 question – Are you a risk-taker when writing? Do you try something radically different in style/POV/etc. or add controversial topics to your work?
True confession, I wrote a way too long version of this post, edited it multiple times, deleted it, and am now rewriting it from scratch on Wednesday morning.
Chaos and creative chaos are my natural state of being. Curbing that into “safe” fiction people can read is the hard part. If there is some out there way of writing and I have thought of it, I have probably tried it. As a friend once told me: Anne, you have a lot of great ideas but if no one can understand them what’s the point?
This month is autism awareness month. For the past few months, I have been reading a lot of literature and talking to a lot of people, exploring whether I might be on the spectrum. I might be. Maybe that’s why this month’s optional questions threw my brain for a loop. What do you mean by risk? What does POV have to do with that? How is that a risk? I associate risk with things like running into a burning building to save a child or sharing details about yourself people may not understand. I’m not saying it’s wrong to associate experimental writing with risk and controversy. I simply don’t understand, personally, how the two connect.
Two writers came to mind. Rebecca Roanhorse and Lil Nas X.
Rebecca Roanhorse because her Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience is my go-to anytime people ask me questions like this, the kind of question where my brain is like – why are you asking? In her story she is a native writer writing about a native writer who may be selling pieces of his fictional soul to create art for people.
That’s how I feel all the time as a writer. What do you want me to say? What will make sense? Is it okay if I take a break in the middle of figuring that out to go be quietly, uniquely crazy? Thanks.
Lil Nas X is starting to be associated in my brain (is it just me?) with an artist where being controversial might actually be part of his public image in this crazy meta way. It works for him. A few points that stick with me from the song and video Montero (Call Me By Your Name.) I’m pretty sure he is deconstructing his own image in much the same way as Roanhorse was deconstructing what it means to ask a native writer, to give someone an “authentic native experience.”
He names the song for his real name (Montero),and he references a gay film Call Me By Your Name where the main characters use each other’s names as a kind of code for when they’re apart.
There is so much to unpack there, but the main thing I got from it is that some people think because he’s gay, he is going to hell. They also think because he is a rock star, he must be on drugs. He’s calling out these stereotypes. Scanning the lines (reading the poetry and breaking it down) I am especially impressed by this part of the chorus: “I cannot pretend/I’m not fazed, only here to sin.” A line-break and double negative trap. He is fazed. He is not here to sin. He can’t even pretend otherwise. But, it doesn’t matter. People see what they expect to see. He still cares for his lover, but until that lover gets Eve (temptation, pretending to be something you’re not) out of the garden. Lose his number. Montero is that kind of person. Because he loves the guy too much to enable OR abandon him. That is deep.
That’s how I feel in writing all the time. It helps to simultaneously keep in mind that sex sells, thrills sell. So does deep and honest reflection, but not too deep or too honest, just enough so readers don’t have to navigate ALL the halls of my complex brain, but they get a peek in the foyer. A work of art is not the same thing as an actual person. It is only as Stephen King put it, a “Bag of Bones,” an outline of reality. That’s all it is. So, risk taking? This honest answer is my honest answer to the question. It probably goes beyond the boundary of what the asker meant. I’m probably “over-sharing.” But that’s okay. I suspect no matter what I say, I’m going to be over-sharing or under-sharing, anyway. Might as well share some of my favorite reads while I do it. No harm in that.
16 thoughts on “Happy IWSG Day! Risk-taking”
I like your complex answer. The question is more complex than I first thought it would be. What seems normal to one person could be controversal to another. Keep writing and sharing.
Mary at Play off the Page
Sometimes, when I’m not sure if it’s a risk or if I’m under sharing or oversharing, I just put it out there and let the reader decide. Not that they’re right, but I like to see where their heads are. Especially when I haven’t a clue where mine is.
I feel putting anything out there into the world is taking risk. The risk of being judged. That’s probably what it means or maybe asking whether you like to tread safe waters. I enjoyed reading your post. A different perspective.
We all have our own styles and stories and that is the BEST part of creativity. It would be so dull if we were all the same. Keep exploring!
Your ‘confession’ sounds like my approach to a lot of writing projects!
Love the honesty and vulnerability of this post. I think all of writing is a risk, because we open ourselves up to judgement.
Putting pen to paper – or finger to keyboard – then releasing the words that emerge to the world … that is the ‘risk’. The risk of the world pushing back and finding that we may not like that pushing. Then again, it is that pushing that can help us become more honest with ourselves and the output improves and grows as a result. This is the craft of writing… YAM xx
This is one of the most fascinating answers I’ve read to this month’s question. I love how you unpacked Lil Nas X. Certainly made me think about it differently than if I had just looked at it on a surface level. Thanks for the recommendation on Rebecca Roanhorse. Definitely want to check her out.
A link to the Roanhorse story if you’re interested. (It’s free to read and won a LOT of awards in the year it was eligible.) Thanks so much.
Complex answers are good. They invite people to think, to find their own answers, which is what writers are supposed to do.
You’re not wrong. Writing is sharing and that in itself is taking a risk. But some share more deeply and with more emotion than others. Or risk their persona by trying something completely out of character.
To each their own. 🙂
Anna from elements of emaginette
This reminds of me of that quote from Robert Frost: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” There’s a naked vulnerability in writing. @samanthabwriter from
I love the authenticity of your post – open, honest, direct and vulnerable.
I often write big long posts then erase them and start over because I feel like I might be oversharing. Because there are so many ways to answer any questions really. I love your introspective approach.