Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ready to Take a Risk?

By: Marie Force
I just got back from a conference in Phoenix put on by the company I work for by day, a membership organization a lot like RWA only we support government finance professionals rather than romance writers. Our conference was on internal control & fraud—not how to do it but how to find it and stop it. I enjoy this annual conference because I find the stupid schemes people try to pull off and think they'll get away with to be endlessly entertaining. Anyway, I met a guy named Greg from Atlanta who said something that really got me thinking. After the conference, Greg and his girlfriend were heading to Sedona for a few days. One of the things they planned to do there was a hot air balloon ride. Greg had never done this before and wasn't sure he really wanted to. "I'm not opposed to the height," he said. "I'm opposed to the risk." Spoken like a true auditor!

However, his comical comment got me thinking about all the risks each of us had to take to get to the place we're at today—with either books on the shelves or books working their way to publication over the next year. For many of us, just sitting down to write the book in the first place was a big gamble. Can I? Can't I? If I do, will anyone like it? Will it ever sell? It was a big risk to put ourselves and our work out there for consideration by industry professionals. Do you remember sending that first query and hoping you'd be one of the lucky ones snapped up by the first agent you queried? Most of knew we were in for a lot of rejection, but we took the risk anyway. How does one ever prepare for the sheer volume of rejection we face in this business? Just like no one can adequately prepare you for the impact of having a child, rejection is something you have to live through to fully appreciate.

I'm amazed by how many people are afraid to take any of these risks. They say they've always wanted to be a writer, but haven't actually tried it. I ask why not? Unlike medicine or law, you don't need an advanced degree. A pen and a pad of paper works just as well as a computer if that's all you have handy. I've also been amazed by people who ask me how to get published. My first question is usually, what do you write? To which the answer is most often, I haven't written anything yet. Hmm, well, it's hard to publish something that doesn't exist. Nora Roberts says it best: You can't edit a blank page. Amen.

I took the risk. My Casa sisters took the risk. We committed parts and pieces of ourselves to stories that we then put forth so they could be rejected and reviewed. We thickened our skin and refused to give up. We wrote new things and took new risks. I took a risk by writing a book about a subject outside my comfort zone—football—and that book turned out to be my ticket into the club.

Unlike my auditor friend, I'm okay with the risk. I'm not, however, all that wild about heights. How about you?

23 comments:

  1. I'm with your auditor friend, Marie. I don't like heights! Your blog makes a nice companion piece to MM's from yesterday, and I'll say again what I said before. Writing is the easy part. Letting other people read, edit, correct, filet, annihilate, reject and dismiss your writing is hard, hard, hard. The thing that pulls is through the when the rewards outweigh the risks, and in this case, they do.

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  2. I always wanted to take a hot air balloon ride - right up until I had kids. Kids smack you in the face with your mortality. I decided the risk wasn't worth it. Besides, I'm not afraid of heights; it's that landing thing - the unplanned kind that puts a damper on it. LOL.

    I think I didn't have a clue as to the amount of rejection, but I doubt that would have stopped me. I've been writing for, like, EVER, so I'd like to see someone try to stop me.

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  3. Christina,
    You are so right about the writing being the easy part, and for most of us the only part of this crazy ride we truly enjoy. The rest is noise. The writing is bliss!

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  4. Judi,
    I am with you on minimizing risk since I've had my kids. Ironically, my issues with flying got a lot worse after my kids were born. But I'm amazed by how many people write books but then don't have the "stuff" to put them out there and take that risk. Sure it's painful, but as Christina said, the rewards are so worth it!

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  5. HI Marie

    LOL Great post.

    I always find it ironic that as a person with 'rejection' issues I chose a profession where I'll constantly face rejection.

    Ah well, that's life I guess

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  6. Nancy,
    Perhaps at the end of the day we're all just gluttons for punishment, huh? I love the visual of having a stack of rejections in one hand and in the other hand? A single piece of paper that says YES. It's so true--it only takes one yes.

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  7. I can handle the height, and I'm willing to take the occasional risk, but I'm not real twerked up about the pain.

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  8. There must be some sort of saying somewhere like, if it's not risky, it's not worth doing. lol

    I found the rejections helpful. They toughen you up for the next stage - the reviews. Rejections are nice private affairs.

    Publishing a book is a huge personal risk because it is you the author who is out there. Not the editor or the publishing house, but the writer. There is no one to hide behind. No corporate face to take the criticism about the work.

    Just yours. On the back cover or the flyleaf.

    Hot air balloons and flying are a breeze by comparison. -- Not that you'd ever get me in a basket with a naked flame. I did see a balloon land in the parking lot where I worked once, on its side in the dingweed. Made for a bit of excitement in an otherwise dull day at the office.

    Cool thoughtful post.

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  9. Actually, I have experienced so little rejection as a writer, that I almost have the opposite problem. I keep doing better than I expect--which totally screws with my efforts to be realistic about a very tough field.:-)

    As a result I tend to think about risk versus luck. There's virtually a one hundred percent chance that any manuscript will be rejected by someone, so sending it out isn't taking a chance on rejection at all. The risk, if there is one, is that you'll get lucky, and your ms will be seen by exactly the person who is looking for it.

    We all overcame tremendous odds, and yet, here we are. Rejection is certain, but still acceptance happens. For years I kept on my refrigerator a quote from that great American philosopher, Woody Allen. "Eighty percent of success is showing up."

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  10. Hey Cheryl,
    No pain, no gain! LOL! You certainly show no fear of risk with your saucy books. Congrats on getting your author copies of Warrior along with some good UPS eye candy!

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  11. Michele,
    You are so right on how the rejections prime you for reviews. And you are also right about the personal risk involved in publishing a book. That's so true. It's your name that's all over it.

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  12. Mary Margaret,
    You are lucky to not have experienced much rejection. I wish you nothing but the best in continuing that lucky streak!

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  13. LOL! I think I need to put that Woody Allen quote on my fridge, too!
    And thanks, Marie! I'm HAPPY! The rejections and the editing can't get me now--unless, of course, I check my email!

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  14. When I gave my first talk as a published writer my editor told me I made it sound too easy. My problem was, and sometimes still is, it's easier to write than explain the process even in terms of blood, sweat, tears and laughter. Thank goodness for the latter!

    Linda

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  15. If you want to talk about a wild hot air ballon excursion, think of living in your brand new tract home, in the new unfinished tract, shades are up in your second story bedroom, you hear a strange noise early one Sunday morning and a hot air balloon breezes past your bedroom window! It landed in one of the unfinished house pads nearby.

    Linda

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  16. No kidding, Linda! I've thought that often over the last month where it seems like there's good news every day. NO ONE but ME truly knows how much it cost me to get here. NO ONE. But it was worth it. Every bit of it was worth it.

    Funny about the hot air balloon!

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  17. See, I can totally understand why some people do not take the risk, or give up after a short time. Maybe for some it is cowardice, or some other 'weakness' if you will. But, some people are just not able to handle the pain that comes with this business. I struggle with that every day. The accolades and praise, the joy of writing, the glimmer of hope in a future success....those things keep me strong and keep me going. But the negativism, nastiness of faceless people, personal assaults, and loss of control are very hard for me to take. Sorry to be so glum! Overall I am overjoyed and willing to persevere, seeing it as a challenge to overcome. But it sure is agonizing at times. Often I look at it as a scale with the balance quite precarious. Most days the balance is in my favor, thank God! Those days I am feeling good, feeling ready to take on the world no matter what! But there are those days when the scale is tipping into the negative and I have to wonder if my sensitive soul can take it. I am not generally a risk taker. I would never go up in a balloon! I am more of a grounded individual, so the sheer unknown is an uncomfortable place for me. Probably a GOOD place for me! Gets me rattled up! Ha!! But, I can completely empathize with someone who chooses not to put themselves on the line.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post Marie!

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  18. Sharon,
    I would never EVER want to go in a hot air balloon. Nothing about that appeals to me. In fact, that five hours I spent on an airplane yesterday coming home from Phoenix was UTTER TORTURE for me. I hate it! However, some risks are just worth taking but the more you go through the rejection and weather the storm the more equipped you'll be for future dust-ups. At least that's the goal!

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  19. I think rejection is tough in any kind of situation--so I can see why so many people might have these great ideas that they speak so highly of, but then are scared to put it in front of the people that matter most!

    So, I commend all of you for taking those risks and doing what you've always set out to do :)

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  20. Hmm... Marie, I'm definitely not big on heights, and I not sure I'm big on risk either... I've always been relatively cautious, but everyone says that if you don't take a risk, you aren't going to get the reward! For you writers, I'm one thankful reader that you've all gone for it! Keep pursuing your dreams! :) I'll be rooting for you from my easy chair with a stack of books within easy reach :)

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  21. LOL, Fedora, we are HAPPY to populate that TBR pile for you!!

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  22. I'm with you, Marie...I HATE flying. And heights. I am not a hot air balloon person.

    Love this post! You captured pretty much everything I worried over when I finally decided to glue my butt to the chair and take the plunge. My "learning book" never made it into the light, and I shed my share of tears about it. But eventually, the rejections (especially the encouraging, non-xeroxed ones) made me even more determined. Technically I am a grown-up, but I still don't care for the word "no":-) Great post!

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  23. Thanks Kendra. I hear you on the word NO. I think we all probably have that in common. We have a few other things in common, too, or we wouldn't have gotten this far without throwing in the towel, right?

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