Springing Forward, Falling…Sometimes

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(c) Davies Up North on Flickr

We’re all a little groggy from the time change, I suspect. Welcome to Daylight Saving Time, 2014. Woo. Look at all that daylight we’re saving. Oh, wait, my eyes won’t stay open.

In honor of the leaping forward we’re all doing today, time lord-like, let’s talk about times we’ve taken a leap into the void.

I’m not a very good jumper. When it comes to taking risks—look, I won’t even play the board game Risk. It sounds too…risky. But I’ve taken a chance a couple of times.

Like the time I ran for senior class president—and won. What the hell was I thinking? I’d never been a class officer before, and that little victory also meant I had to speak at my high school graduation ceremony in front of hundreds of people. Public speaking and I are only now, none-of-your-business years later, on good terms. But being senior class president (job for life) has paid off, because I’ve been able to stay connected with lots of friends in ways it would have been hard to do otherwise. I have an excuse to track people down and talk them into joining Facebook, and now I get to hear about their kids, their (gulp) grandkids, and keep other classmates connected, too.

I also took the leap into full-time graduate school not once, but twice. The first time, the leap was the point. I was ready to make some progress, any progress, in my life, and finishing up my journalism grad degree in a short, low-paid year was a way to make a big change and get unstuck. The second time was scarier. I was more established in my career, and the degree was in creative writing. Not exactly a career jumpstart—unless your life’s dream was to write a book, hello. And if I went kersplat trying to go after my life’s dream? Well, it’s the thing nightmares are made of. But I had to try.

So it turns out I’m more of a jumping bean than I’ve given myself credit for.

The thing is, writing itself is a leap into the unknown. Even after you’ve done it a while, and successfully, it’s fraught with peril. Uh, a writer’s form of peril, which is less like leaping over a pit of alligators and more like that game we all played as kids where we just pretended there were alligators as we leapt from couch cushion to armchair, trying not to touch the ground. But still: the peril of having to scrap hours and hours of work if things go sideways. The peril of having a side character take over and start bossing you, the author, around. Each writing session starts with a leap of faith that the words will come, that you’ll have the follow-through to get all the way to the end and somehow make your steaming pile of first draft into something someone else might want to read.

And then do it again, even if the first time didn’t work out. (See: book in drawer syndrome.)

And publishing? Oh, don’t get me started.

So let’s get to jumping, beans. Whether our eyes are open or not.

What’s the next leap you’d like to make?

 

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Lori Rader-Day is the author of the mystery THE BLACK HOUR (Seventh Street Books, July 2014). She grew up in central Indiana, but now lives in Chicago with her husband and very spoiled dog.

13 thoughts on “Springing Forward, Falling…Sometimes

  1. I thought at first (leaping to a conclusion 🙂 ) that you were going to talk about springing forward and falling back in storytelling — all the ways you can tell a story that are not strictly chronological. That would be an interesting topic, too.

    Leaping into the void is a good point for stories as well. My last story started out with a pretty standard YA-ish setup: a teenage girl running away from her small town. Her initial motivation was mostly fear (well founded), but I thought it was important to shift (gradually, but fairly promptly) to a more positive motivation, that she’s not only running away from something scary but also running toward doing something positive, something that in fact nobody else had ever done. That seemed to make a much better story than just run-run-run, fear-fear-fear.

    • Maybe one of the other Debs will do nonchron storytelling as their topic. You never know with us.

      I agree with you. Your protagonist needs to want something, and it can’t just be to survive.

  2. The writing leap is huge, just huge. We should all give ourselves credit and kudos for that one. I had to take that one in mini-leaps because it was so scary. It still is too scary! Somehow I’m doing it anyhow.

    Next leap? My launch party. For some reason it’s freaking me out. Man, do I NOT liking being the center of attention.

    • I’m starting to hyperventilate about the next two weeks of my life. Two conferences, a bookstore event for my publisher, dinner with friends like I have all the time in the world WHAT WAS I THINKING?

  3. My next leap will be getting back to working on the WIP! Because it’s a new leap every time, no matter how many times you’ve lept before.

    And I TOTALLY know what you mean about launch parties. I’m trying to plan mine right now and it’s stressing me out so much. There are so many details to think about, when all I want to do is work on this next story.

    • I’m blocked about the event I want to have back in my hometown. The problem? No bookstores. Also, very few restaurants and almost no bars you’d actually want to sit down in. Still working out that one.

  4. Love the reference to the couch cushion game. Yes, life can be a lot like that. Leaping and not looking down.

  5. I am nervous about taking the leap into freelance writing for magazines. Why? I’ve written for TV, newspapers, 3 national blogs, a decent book draft is under my belt… this is the week, though! Prayers welcome, light and love, fingers crossed, good lucks… all appreciated! Time to, as my daughter always says, “BRING IT.”

  6. And I thought you were going to talk about actual falling, like down the stairs, up the stairs…

  7. Leaping is scary, but it’s something I find myself doing often for some reason…I like adventure and thrill at possibilities. I will say this, they scare me half to death while I’m doing them, but I try to live by this motto and my favorite quote:
    “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” –Helen Keller

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