Take Risks, Take It To The Edge by Beth Barany

Take Risks, Take It To The Edge by Beth BaranyEdge.

On the edge.

At the edge.


What’s over the cliff?

Can you poke your nose over and see the depths of the potential fall?

Being a creative isn’t about playing it safe; it’s about taking risks that flare fear deep in your belly.

When I was starting as a novelist, just declaring that I’d write “this” novel no matter what, was enough of a risk. I had no idea how to do it; I had no idea how to craft a story, no idea beyond starting.

I dove into my commitment, trusting I’d figure it out as I went.

Sometime in January 1998, I sat at a little cafe on Telegraph Avenue right where Oakland started and Berkeley ended (the borderlands) and wrote my first scene.

It was so hard. It seemed like I wrote forever, but it was only maybe 30 or 40 minutes. When I finally looked up from the page and noticed the time and how much I’d written, I was dismayed. It had felt like I’d gone into my story, feeling it, seeing it, disappearing into another world — what a glorious feeling! — but I’d only written about half a scene.
Holy moly. This writing a novel was hard and took a lot longer than I expected.

Flashback: As a child, I’d lay awake at night staring at the ceiling and wishing that there was a machine up there that could transcribe my thoughts — a device like the ones that recorded earthquakes, taking down my thoughts word for word.

Writing by hand is so much harder than using my imaginary thought-transcribing machine.

Back to the little café on Telegraph Ave. I leaned back in the café chair on that sunny afternoon in January and decided then and there that I’d write this book, no matter what, no matter the growth and learning it would demand of me. No matter how long it took to write a scene. (A long time.)

Of course, I had no idea what the work would really entail, nor that it would take me five years to write this first novel — more of an experiment in writing a novel than writing a creation with any kind of clear vision.

Looking back at that time 20 years ago, I am so grateful that I embraced this path. I went from learning the ABCs of writing fiction to a sense of mastery with 16 books written and more on the way.

I’m at a new stage of growth and learning and I continue to peek over the cliff, scared deep in my belly to see what’s there.

And what’s there is the unknown.

But that is where I must go.

Staying here is boring, even though it’s cozy and safe.

I want to stretch and grow as a writer.

I want to surprise myself and my readers.

I want to imagine new worlds. That takes risk, leaping into the unknown, and getting scared.

What scared me at the start of my fiction writing journey is not the same as what scares me now.

Then, I was afraid of having bad things happen to my dear characters. It was painful. I didn’t know how to write conflict. I didn’t even understand what conflict was. Or plot.

I still write crappy conflict sometimes in my first drafts, but I’m no longer afraid of having bad things happen to my dear characters. And I understand plot and story structure, character development, and powerful language, point of view, and so much more.

I also know how to edit, how to fix bad scenes, and how to map out a story without throttling my creativity. I trust myself to write a messy first draft and how to find a way through it and polish it to the gem of a final, publishable version — ready for my readers.

Take Risks, Take It To The Edge by Beth BaranyNow I feel like a mad scientist rubbing her hands in glee, figuring out new ways to further torture my dear characters, and keep my readers at the edge of their seats, turning pages into the wee hours of the night.

Other things frighten me now. Like: How can I reveal the truth about myself that’s useful to my readers and doesn’t completely shut me down? Also, what is the truth here? How do I really feel? And how can I put that into my stories in a compelling way? I’m also wondering how I can envision a new society that reflects the best of humanity and put that into my stories. Writing science fiction allows me to explore these questions I don’t yet have any answers to. Again, I’m at that cliff’s edge.

Now it’s your turn to explore where your edge is, where the risk lives for you.


What is risky for you?

I’m not talking about being reckless. I’m talking about the next step of risk, your next edge. What’s scary to you right now?

Take a moment to reflect on these questions. Note down some thoughts, if you want to.

If you need some help, try these questions on:
— How can you look at what’s risky for you, or even to just peek at it?
— How can you edge up to it with your eyes closed? Or have a tiny nibble of it? Or touch it for only a second?

The goal here isn’t to shut down your creative impulses. The goal here is to stretch into newness and then bring that new awareness into your creative work.

— How can you bring what’s at your edge into your writing?
— What does that mean for you?

Feel free to share your discoveries in the comment section below. I am curious to hear and see what you uncover.

And I’ll be right there with you, reporting from the edge.





Beth Barany, Creativity Coach for WritersHi! I’m Beth Barany, an award-winning novelist, master neurolinguistic programming practitioner, and certified creativity coach for writers.

Through my courses, programs, workshops and consultations, I specialize in helping writers experience clarity, so they can write, revise, and proudly publish their novels to the delight of their readers.

All my courses are packed with useful hands-on information that you can implement right away. I run an online school for fiction writers here and a 12-month group coaching program to help novelists get published here. I also offer consultations for writers here.

Get started with a free mini-course on your Writing Discovery here.

I do live workshops and presentations too. Contact me if you’d like me to speak to your group. Many of my past events are listed here.

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