My husband and I spent the week before last helping my son and daughter-in-law move into their new house. New to them, that is. The house is close to 90 years old, and has many of the “glitches” you’d expect an old house to have. Maybe more than glitches in some cases.
I knew there was another house they’d looked at in the area and from what I recall from the Realtor’s photos, it was a newer, less glitchy home. I really liked the looks of that house and the fact that it was right next to a park. But when I asked my son about their choice between the top two, he said, “Well, there was the safe house, and there was the interesting house. We chose the interesting house.”
I bring this up because it made me think of the whole issue of taking risks, not only in life, but in writing. If I’d been the one choosing the house, I’m pretty darn sure I would have picked the “safe” house. Yes, it was more of a suburban tract home. It didn’t have much in the way of intriguing features (unlike the “interesting” house, which has wonderful windows, a stately entry and living room, and a dining room with a cool little built in china cabinet). The safe house looked comfortable, but it was a bit blah.
To connect this to my writing, what if I always chose the comfortable, but blah? Would I have ever sold a book, let alone the 20 that I’ve sold in my career? Would readers have eagerly looked for my books, read them with enjoyment, sighed with the satisfaction of experiencing a good story if I’d stayed “safe?” I’m thinking not. I’m thinking I’ve been better off taking the interesting road rather than the safe one.
How about you? Do you take risks in your writing? Do you create characters, scenes, stories that are safe, or are they interesting? It might end up being more work, a more difficult endeavor. But in the end, when you take the interesting path, you have a much better chance that the book you’ve written, the literary house you’ve built, will be wow and anything but blah.