I have this thing about safety and security, so risk isn’t exactly something I gravitate toward. When faced with a choice, my first impulse is to determine all the things that could possibly go wrong in each scenario and choose whichever one seems safest.
I used that approach for years in deciding whether to write, and more importantly, whether to share my words with the world.
And it was an easy choice. There is nothing about writing that is safe or secure, so I chose to keep my words to myself. There were too many risks.
Of course, there’s the obvious risk of failure. What if I put my writing out there and it got rejected? Or people hated what I had to say? The idea of failing at my most passionate dream was terrifying.
Then there was the financial risk; few people are able to make a living solely from writing. But if my writing was a side job, it meant finding extra time and energy to pour into it, on top of a regular job and all of the responsibilities of everyday life.
And finally there was the fact that my style of writing tends to be deeply personal. It seemed so risky to expose my true self on the page. I’d have to worry not only about what people thought of my writing, but also what they thought of me! How could I write without exposing secrets and the ugly side of myself that I’d rather hide? And how could I tell my own story without telling the stories of those nearest and dearest to me, risking their anger in the process?
There was nothing safe about writing.
Keeping my words bottled up inside me or hidden away in private journals seemed like the safe choice. But I didn’t realize there was a very real risk involved in not following my passion and not writing. I didn’t realize the power of those words clamoring to be heard.
As I fought to keep the words from bubbling to my surface, I became aware that I was dying a slow death. The withheld words turned to stone inside me. They dragged me down into the depths of depression. I shared their untimely demise.
Eventually, when it felt like I had nothing left to lose, I began to write anyway—just a little on the side. I published the words in venues where they were not likely to get much notice.
As I did so, I started to come back to life.
As the words flowed out, I began telling my secrets and exposing parts of me long hidden. People close to me sometimes became angry or uncomfortable with my writing, and I worked through it. Sometimes my work was rejected, and I kept on writing anyway. I survived. The more I wrote, the braver I got.
I began sharing my work with ever larger audiences, taking ever greater risks with my words, and taking my platform seriously.
Lately, I spend as much time and energy as I possibly can writing.
Now I understand that it never was a choice between risk and safety. It was actually a choice between two different kinds of risk. One risk felt scary but was ultimately life-giving; the other felt more comfortable but was ultimately death-dealing.
Writing is still scary. It’s still risky. There’s nothing about it that’s safe. But the “safe” choice of not writing proved to be an even greater risk.
Kenetha J. Stanton is a writer, artist, and healer who is passionate about the theme of finding beauty in our healed broken places. More of her writing and work can be found on her website, A Kintsugi Life. Kenetha will be attending the November 7, 2013, Spirit & Place event, The Risk of Pursuing Your Passion. The event is free and open to the public. It will be held at the First Mennonite Church, 4601 Knollton Rd, Indianapolis, IN, 46228. Doors open at 6:30 pm for pre-event activities and music by Michelle Qureshi. The event begins at 7:00 pm.