Monday, 6 August 2012

Zero risk?

One thing I’ve noticed from the Olympics (particularly in things like the judo, fencing and Greco-Roman wrestling, but also in a lot of other things) is that the emphasis at that top level is often not on what you’d think. When we think of top level sports people, don’t we think of them doing brilliant things? Performing impossibly high level skills that we couldn’t hope to emulate? Yet often their focus is more on simply not making any mistakes.

The theory is simple. In an interactive sport, rather than one where you just go as fast as you can over a distance, generally, there are limits to the amazing things you can do, and by going for those amazing things, you open yourself up to being beaten. What is the result though? Generally, it’s stalling, or dull uninteresting play.

Which is why we need to take a very different approach while writing. It’s possible to concentrate on not making mistakes while writing, keeping an inner editor looking over your shoulder for structure and content the whole time, and it’s likely that by doing that you won’t break any of the ‘rules’ of writing. The trouble is, it’s also likely that you will simply produce the same book everyone else is producing.

We don’t want to play things that safe as writers. We’re aiming to produce something beautiful and spectacular, and that is only possible when we also free ourselves up to the possibility of producing something not very good. Because the alternative is trying to write with our inner editor on full, and that simply doesn’t work well.

Now, if only I could persuade some of the people in the Olympics of the same thing.


Jeremy Bates said...

I agree. Although I have watched some of the Olympics, I find the summer games to be a tad boring. Now, when compared to the Winter Olympics, there's a vast dichotomy.

That's where writers should live.

Julie Luekenga said...

Hi Stu--
This post hit a nerve with me. I'm in your Amen Choir. I wrote about something similar in June (Rules, Writing and Being Audacious) in my blog. Sometimes I have to cover my ears, and just block out all the noise of the writing "shoulds". I have to quit reading the books, magazines and yes, sometimes even blogs, and just write with audacious boldness. Otherwise I get self-conscious and stymied in all the rules. I start writing from a safe zone-- it's all too nice. Thanks for reiterating what I keep trying to remind myself. Julie

stu said...

Julie, I'm glad you liked it. Jeremy, on a tea tray sliding down a mountain?

April said...

Great blog post! I hope you don't mind, but I linked to it from my blog as well.

April said...

A link to it, that is ;)