I have been teaching Creative Writing to high school students for over a decade, and I have learned that risk is a key concept in understanding creativity.
In a writing classroom, there are two kinds of risk. One kind, emotional risk, involves writing honestly about subjects that are important to you personally. This often has little to do with revealing details of your personal life, but when you focus your attention on a certain subject matter long enough and intently enough, you are revealing that subject’s importance to you. Writing with integrity always involves allowing a glimpse into the inner self. The other kind of risk, artistic risk, means a willingness to try something you’ve never tried before, something that may be beyond your current capabilities.
I never ask anyone to take any risk they are unwilling to take, but I tell students at least once a semester that if what you are writing never feels like a risk to you, you are not trying hard enough.
All this consideration of the positive role of risk has been of great significance to me personally since I’ve decided to take this crazy plunge toward independent publishing. I’ve got a new novel. It’s written. The emotional and artistic risks involved with that have already been taken. But stepping out on my own to make a book: to fund and design and print and distribute and publicize — the truth is, I don’t know how to do any of these things. The truth is, I might fail. The truth is, if I fail, I will feel humiliation. This new enterprise is not one risk but many.
But I have great confidence. Not in my abilities, but in my persistence. Not in my aptitudes, but in my willingness to learn, my willingness to teach myself. I do not personally know a single other writer who has gone down this path, especially a writer who has already published two books the traditional way. So I’m very much blazing my own trail here. But there is a whole new wave of independent creative artists, mostly musicians and film-makers, who are using new technologies to reach audiences in numbers and in ways that have never been possible before. And the internet has not only made this new wave of independent creative artists possible, it’s made it inevitable. Publishing may be the last tower of creative distribution to be set wobbling by the winds of social networking change, but it’s teetering all right. I for one have felt the movement beneath my own feet.
The first small steps on this publishing project have already been taken. Plans are underway ‘behind the scenes,’ as they say. The first big step will be fundraising. If you’ve never heard of indiegogo, you can check it out here: http://www.indiegogo.com/ I’m going to be starting a campaign through that platform very soon. Keep your eyes open. Wish me luck.