Why Writers Should Take More Risks This Year

by Colleen M. Story

It’s the start of a new year. Are you ready to take the next step in your writing career?

If not, that’s okay. Do it anyway.

Because no writer ever got anywhere waiting until she was “ready.”

5 Advantages Risk Takers Have Over Writers Who Play It Safe

Look around and you’ll see—successful writers are risk-takers.

That means they do things before they feel completely “ready” to do them.

Writers are often by nature a cautious bunch. We like to make sure everything is right before we take that leap. That’s usually a good approach when it comes to the writing itself, but it can stunt your growth in the rest of your writing career.

1. Risk Takers Are Smarter

In 2015, researchers reported on a study in which they used MRI scans to compare the brains of risk-takers with play-it-safers. They found the risk-takers had more white matter in their brains—the area responsible for sending messages back and forth.

Why would this be? It seems the more risks a person takes, the more he/she learns about various situations, which helps the brain grow. Ergo, risk takers are smarter!

2. Risk Takers are Optimists

Risk takers are optimists by nature. They’re more willing to take a risk because they have a positive outlook. “It will be great!” they say, whereas the play-it-safers are more likely to list all the ways things will go wrong. (One of the reasons they hesitate.)

Risk takers have the right attitude when it comes to taking chances. They know things may not always work out perfectly, but they feel confident they’ll be able to handle whatever challenges may come their way.

3. Risk Takers Learn More

It’s one thing to “think about” trying something new. Take self-publishing a book, for example. You can imagine all the steps you need to take, but the process of actually taking them will teach you far more.

4. Risk Takers Overcome Fear of Failure

Play-it-safers fear failure. It’s the main reason why they avoid taking risks. After all, if you never submit to a publisher, you never have to suffer through a rejection.

The writer who takes the risk of submitting again and again eventually overcomes that fear of failure. It doesn’t mean rejections don’t sting. It just means the writer has developed the skill to manage it.

5. Risk Takers are Happier

In one study involving more than 20,000 interviews, researchers found that people who enjoyed taking risks were more content with their lives as they got older.

Here’s another interesting finding: Those more likely to take risks were also more likely to be self-employed. (Hello authorpreneurs!)

How to Take Smart Risk in Your Writing Career

This year, why not take a few more risks in your writing life? You may fail a time or two, but you’ll build your confidence and learn a lot on the way

Just remember two things:

1. It will never feel comfortable. There will always be an element of the unknown in any risk you take—that’s what makes it exciting! So expect a few butterflies and proceed anyway.

2. Take smart risks. I’m not saying quit your day job tomorrow and go off to Hawaii to write. It’s important to stack the odds in your favor before you take that leap.

How do you do that?

Answer three questions. Here’s an example for you.

Let’s say you’re thinking of self-publishing a book this year for the first time. (You can use any example you like from your writing life.)

First, write down all the potential problems that could occur.

For example:

  • The cover may not work for your target audience.
  • The book may contain errors.
  • You may have poor sales.
  • You may get bad reviews.

Next, put on your problem-solving hat. How can you reduce the odds that these negative outcomes will occur?

  • Research covers that sell in your genre and hire a professional cover designer.
  • Hire a proficient editor and proofreader.
  • Put together a plan for a successful book launch.
  • Make your book as good as you can, then offer it to your followers to review.

The problem-solving step is critical when it comes to taking risks. It not only improves the odds your risk will pay off, but it also pushes you to innovate in ways you may not have otherwise. 

Consider the writer who has a small subscriber list and is worried about having a lackluster book launch. Problem-solving compels her to grow that list before her book comes out.

By doing so, she solves her launch problem and expands her author business.

Finally, ask yourself the question most writers miss: What will it cost you NOT to take this risk?

  • My work remains in the desk drawer and never sees the light of day.
  • I continue to stagnate as a writer, rather than progressing.
  • My author business struggles.
  • I become a discouraged writer.

Play-it-safers benefit most from this step because it shows the very real cost of NOT taking a risk. Oftentimes, when looking at your writing career as a whole, this is a much more damaging option than taking a risk might be. 

Ready to Take That Leap?

Once you’ve answered all of the questions above, it’s time to take that leap. Hold your breath and jump, and have faith that it will work out.

If you’re still not sure, I offer you this quote by actor Hugh Laurie (“House”) as inspiration:

“It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There’s almost no such thing as ready. There’s only now. And you may as well do it now. I mean, I say that confidently as if I’m about to go bungee jumping or something — I’m not. I’m not a crazed risk taker. But I do think that, generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.”

Get help setting inspiring goals this year with Colleen’s FREE “Start the Year Off Right” bundle, available here!


Colleen M. Story

Resident Writing Coach

Colleen inspires writers to overcome modern-day challenges and find creative fulfillment in their work. Her latest release, Writer Get Noticed!, was a gold-medal winner in the Reader’s Favorite Book Awards. Overwhelmed Writer Rescue was named Book by Book Publicity’s Best Writing/Publishing Book in 2018. Colleen frequently serves as a workshop leader and motivational speaker.
Writing and Wellness | Author Site | Twitter

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This entry was posted in Business Plan, Focus, Goal and Milestones, Goal Setting, Motivational, The Business of Writing, Time Management, Uncategorized, Writer's Attitude. Bookmark the permalink.
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Tyrean A Martinson
7 days ago

Thank you for the reminder and the encouragement to become a risk-taker!

Karen Lange
20 days ago

Thanks for the encouragement, Colleen! I needed this to start off the new year. 🙂

20 days ago
Reply to  Karen Lange

My pleasure, Karen! Wishing you a great writing year. :O)

20 days ago

This is such a great blog post for the new year, when most people are establishing goals and resetting at work. It’s especially timely for Angela and me as we’re stepping wayyyy out of our comfort zones this year in business steering and decision making. Thanks for the shot in the arm, Colleen!

20 days ago

Wow, sounds exciting, Becca! Can’t wait to see what you mean. Thanks for all you guys do here on Writers Helping Writers. :O)