Guest Post: Taking Risks in Your Writing

So as some of you may or may not know, I spent all of Friday moving to get ready to start my MFA program on Monday (AHHHHHHHH) and as such I have a special treat for you…. A guest post from the amazing Laura who blogs over at Laura + the voices. Laura is a fantastic writer, friend and blogger so I’m thrilled to have her. Now, without further delay, here is a great post from Laura about taking risks in your writing.

 


Last semester, I went to my poetry professor to talk about my writing. One of the things she said during this brief conference was, “you take risks and experiment with your writing.” At the time, my insides did a little happy dance.

 

A few months later, looking over the embarrassing contents of my freshman poetry portfolio, I realized that that may not have been a good thing.

 

There were maybe one or two poems I could salvage. The rest would require serious reworking—and some would have to be scrapped entirely. As a whole, the portfolio had no continuity except that the poems shared an author. There was no uniformity of style. The predominant voice was either overblown and optimistic or sarcastically self-conscious. A few poems were painfully personal whereas others read with a “you-made-me-write-this-well-here’s-what-you-get” snarkiness, or worse, an apathetic-attempt-to-complete-a-homework-assignment monotone. What my professor had termed as “taking risks” was looking more and more like flights of fancy to me.

 

Was this a bad thing?

 

The poems were definitely experimental—in form, subject, style, diction, and just about everything else you could think of. But while my experiments had produced a few Frankenstein’s monsters, I’d also gotten some good poems out of the mess.

 

Perhaps what my professor had meant by “you take risks” was that I had not yet settled. Rather than finding something that worked and repeating it over and over, I was trying on different hats. Adding new analogies to my wardrobe. A few years later, some of these articles won’t fit, some will be out of fashion, and some were just bad purchases in the first place. But others will last years, and some may still be wearable with a little touch-up.

 

The point being that if you don’t experiment in the first place, you’ll never know. I’m still new to this poetry thing; it would be very unusual indeed if I had a developed, established style and voice. Finding that voice means taking some risks. This doesn’t just apply to me, either—you are never too old, too experienced, too established, or too settled to take risks. Step out of your comfort zone—you might be surprised by what you find there.

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