The Good, the Bad, and the Scary: Taking Risks in Your Writing
When I was in my teens and twenties, I was obsessed with bold, cutting-edge haircuts. Short, piecey, layered works of art that always required a lot of blow-drying, product, and maintenance. Never mind that these sassy cuts didn’t really suit my face or lifestyle. Or that my hair back then was straight and thin and therefore required an unnatural boost, usually in the form of perms (UGH). As a grown adult who can no longer deal with high maintenance hair, I’ve stared at old photos in the past and wondered: What was I doing?
Today as a writer, it dawns on me: it was the risk that drew me. What easier way to indulge in risk than a cool cut?
I loved the sense of possibility as I perused magazines in search of that funky new style. I loved the rush of sitting in the hairdresser’s chair with fragrant, salon-washed hair, my heart hammering as the shears snipped away my locks. I once chased down a woman in the street to inquire who cut her hair, so smitten I was by its funky, irreverent style. Now that I think of it, the process of getting a new haircut had all the makings of a great story: intrigue, bravery, falling in love, reimagining, a reckoning with identity…
Taking risks is actually a huge part of being a writer. Each time you sit down to write, you are taking a risk. You risk seeing your deepest thoughts splayed out on the page. You risk feeling. You risk the reality of exploring everything dark and honest that burns within you. You risk others observing and judging that honesty, that darkness, those inner truths. You risk letting people into your heart.
Writing AMERICAN BETIYA definitely felt risky. It’s a story that I wrote at first for myself, one that challenges preconceived ideas about immigrants and the diaspora, sexuality, stereotypes, and identity. It is also the book I wished I had when I was a teen.
Now that I’m in its revising and editing stage, it’s transforming from a piece written for myself to one written for you. I can’t wait to introduce you to the fictional world of Rani, her family, and Oliver—one I hope will resonate with you.
In the writing of AMERICAN BETIYA, I’ve utilized the insights of my amazing editor and her assistant at Knopf, my stellar writing group, and several thoughtful sensitivity readers. All offered different queries and perspectives. All encouraged me to further examine my motivations, the responsibility of cultural representation (which I will explore in an upcoming post), and the nuanced themes filtering through this story. All have encouraged me to continue taking risks in my writing.
Risk-taking in your creative pursuits can be terrifying and filled with angst, but is also a straight up dopamine-flooded rush. Pushing past perceived boundaries—whether content-wise or style-wise— underscores what’s really happening beneath the surface of your personal experiences. Risk-taking in your work reveals your hopes, your fears, your pain, your joy, your redemption. It means producing pieces that are iconoclastic and fresh, and founded in personal truths.
So I advise that you take risks in your creative endeavors. Dig deep. And if that sounds too terrifying and you need to go baby steps, maybe start with a hip new haircut.
Happiest of holidays to you,