Monday, April 18, 2011

Writing and Risk

“Follow your passion. Figure out what you love to do, then find a way to make money doing it.” We’ve all heard this wisdom before. Easier said than done when you discover your passion is writing—a highly competitive and slow-moving business that takes years of practice and learning the craft before earning a penny.

And I’m the wrong person to ask about the money part because to date I’ve cashed one measly check from a contest win and received a handful of fancy certificates. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very proud of those accomplishments because I love writing and couldn’t stop if I wanted to. But my point is; to get anything you want in life, you have to take risks. You have to be willing to face brutal honesty, rejection, and acquire a taste for patience.

Originally on Monday, when I started working on this post, it was going in the direction of this upbeat ‘just do it’ kind of rambling. I didn’t exactly know where I was going with it, and to be honest it wasn’t all that interesting. Then my dad came over to deliver my dead dog. He’d just run over our adorable little Jack Russell Terrier, Dodger. I was devastated, and still am.

At first, I was angry at myself. I knew it was going to happen because of past experiences. Since childhood, I can’t even count the number of dogs I’ve had that have gotten killed. Living on a farm and always having lots of pets, it seemed one of them was always getting run over or injured. After our last dog was killed, I vowed we'd never get another one.

So when my nine-year-old son came to me with his birthday list--which included only one item--I was prepared with my list of valid reasons to not get a puppy. I didn’t have time to potty train, didn’t want dog hair in the house, the expense, or crap in the yard… In my heart, I knew there was a bigger reason—I didn’t want to fall in love only to have my heart broken when it died.

But eventually, my son's big blue eyes got to me, and we ended up with Dodger. When Dodger hopped across the yard like a rabbit, flipped on his back for a belly rub, or fell asleep on the couch with the kids, my original arguments for not wanting a dog dissolved, and my attempt at not getting too attached failed miserably. I was in love with this funny little dog and I tried not to worry when he started playing tag with the cows or wandering to the neighbors’. But he was a curious puppy who loved to be outdoors, and on Monday, my worst fear came true.

Nearly a week later, after much thought, self-therapy, and a knot in my throat the size of Montana, I look at his empty dog bed and feel sad and disappointed and frustrated. But I won’t tell my kids we were unlucky or that we’ll never get another dog. I’ll say we were lucky to have him because of the joy he brought to our family. I’ll tell them yes; eventually we’ll get another one because loving and losing him was worth the risk.

And on this writing journey, when I receive another rejection or brutal critique, I’ll probably feel sad and disappointed and frustrated, but I won’t say I’m unlucky and quit. I’ll say I’m lucky because that agent or editor wasn’t the right match for me anyway. Then I’ll pick myself up, work harder, and send out again because the passion I feel for writing is worth the risk.

It makes no difference whether it’s pursuing your passion or the decision whether to bring a new pet into your life; love is always worth the risk.


Kurt Hampe said...


Sorry, again, about your son's dog. The story is sad, but I have to say, you wrote it well. If I didn't know you, I'd still have the complete picture. You contrasted your internal emotion with your external action in a way that speaks volumes--without writing them. Clearly you have a passion.


Katie McGarry said...


You've hit the emotion dead on. Pursing publication is a hard road. Keep on pursing your goal! I believe in you!


Tracy Bilen said...

A beautiful story and so true - it captures the essence of writing! It may be painful but we love it anyhow!

Kristen Simmons said...

Thank you for sharing this, Colette. Putting yourself out there is always a risk - the more the emotional investment, the deeper the hurt. But that's how we know we're doing the right thing, right? Because it makes us FEEL so much!

Lisa Tapp said...

Had to take a moment to cuddle my dog before I could respond. Yes, Colette, the love/passion is huge for pets, family . . . and writing. Passion is the reason we keep getting back up after we're knocked down, and it's what will see us to success.

Colette Ballard said...

Thanks guys for your comments. Your words were compassionate and encouraging--so nice to be connected to people who love what they do as much as I do! Our blog team rocks!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Sorry about your dog. We'll probably take a risk and get a dog in the next six months--my first.

And yes, we must take the risk and pick ourselves up when we get those discouraging rejection letters.

Kristin Lenz said...

You wrote from your heart... So sorry to hear about your dog. Thank you for taking another risk and sharing with us. Be good to yourself this week!

Colette Ballard said...

thanks Natalie and good luck with your dog shopping: )

Thanks Kristen--does being good to myself include eating too much of my kids' Easter candy?