Friday, November 6, 2009

Writing on the Edge

All right, so in keeping with my self-proclaimed title of world's biggest reality TV addict, I was watching Dancing With the Stars this past week. And Carrie Ann Inaba said something to one of the celebrities that set me thinking.

She said, "You always dance right on the edge. I never know which way it's gonna go." (Okay, that shouldn't be in quotes, because I'm pretty sure that's not word for word. But you get the gist.)

And I actually hit the pause button. (DVR, baby.)

Because it's the mantra for my life. I feel like I'm living on the edge in most of what I do. So I said something to my DH about it, and thankfully he confirmed my psychosis, er, theory. He said, "That's how people learn. You have to challenge them to the point that they're on the edge of their knowledge."

Thank you, Dr. J. (No, he's not a real doctor. I just like to pretend. He is a teacher, and he knows how people learn.)

So in my writing, I've decided to write on the edge. Right at the cusp of "Holy cow this is wicked amazing!" but in which I'm right on the edge of the precipice of "Oh, man, this is the world's biggest train wreck. backspace...backspace...apple+a - delete..."

And so I'm writing on the edge.

What do you think? Do you think you need to be pushed right up to the edge of your abilities to get better? Have you ever been pushed that far? Did you learn what you needed to?

27 comments:

Bethany Wiggins said...

It is the same on Project Runway. If the designers play it safe, they are out. The edge is precarious place to balance, especially the creative edge. I am ever searching for that balance without going overboard. Or falling back into safety.

Scott said...

I think when we write on the edge, we do the best writing possible.

I always wrote safe. I wrote what I believed people wanted to read, what society would accept . . . and I wrote some pretty good stuff.

Pretty good.

I've written - at least in my opinion - some pretty amazing stuff when I pushed the limits of my writing, wrote about what I wante to write about, and just took the chances I never took in my earlier writing.

So, step as close to the edge as possible. Dare to try something different. Dare to follow you imagination as far as you can, and then go a step farther.

Great post!

S

abrokenlaptop said...

I don't think there's anything wrong with safety and writing what you know and feel comfortable with. It's fun and we get into our little groove. That said, our groove doesn't help us grow and explore. When I undertake a project and say, "Whew boy, I've never done anything like this before!" that's how I improve. Whether I succeed or fail spectacularly, and least I know that "spectacularly" will be the key word. :)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

That is something to chew on. What your husband says once again makes me think he is an amazing teacher. I think one reason bright kids are bored a lot in school is they don't get pushed to the edge--they have already processed what the rest of the class hasn't. Hopefully, they will get good teachers who give them something that does it.
From snippet I've read of your writing and from your awesome NaNo word count, I'm thinking you naturally gravitate to the creative edge. Keep working it!

christine said...

I love this - and yeah, I absolutely think you need to write on the edge. I have a sign in my office that says "Chaos - where brilliant dreams are born". It sortof sums up my creative process - because for all my plotting and planning - the characters are always the "REAL" ones in control!

WindyA said...

Yes and yes. and Yes. Was that enough Yeses?

And I agree with the great wisdome of your husband-teacher person. I think being right on the edge can bring about things you've never thought about - put you in a position to think outside the box and push the envelope.

B.J. Anderson said...

Yes, I love writing on the edge!! :D Great post. Now I better go write.

Melanie Avila said...

This is so true! My good blog friend Janna posted something similar on Wednesday

http://somethingshewrote.blogspot.com/2009/11/quote-to-consider.html

Tara said...

I love DVR!!! I'm not sure I've found the edge yet. Maybe for me it will be like sailing--you can never quite reach the horizon. Have a great weekend.

ali said...

Absolutely. Totally. 100% Fer Shur.

My whole life has been one big push to the edge--and the choice always is, do I jump? Or build a bridge?

Since I'm still here, you can probably guess that I'm a bridge builder. But I haven't finished a bridge yet. I just stand on this really creaky precipice between one bridge stone and another but the gap is too big to jump so . . .

I guess the answer to your question is: "When haven't I been pushed to the edge?"

Em-Musing said...

On the edge? I've been sitting on the edge so long my tush hurts. I just wonder . . .
What's beyond?

Suzyhayze said...

oh my gosh i just fell off.....

Jen Chandler said...

The edge is a scary place to be. On one side you see all you long for, on the other, everything you don't. You teeter between that which frightens you and that which is comfortable.

No matter what happens, if you write (live?) on the edge, you'll develop your own style, your own voice, your own unique way of doing things. And that is how we get noticed, and remembered.

Happy Weekend!
Jen

Lisa and Laura said...

Oh man, we are completely living on the edge right now. The first half of our WIP is a work of art (well, at least we think it is) and the second half? Crap. The second half needs work. Serious work. A depressing amount of work. So yeah, we're walking the edge right there with you.

Jenn Wilks said...

This reminds me of that feeling you have when you're sprinting and you feel like you're right on the edge of your abilities and if you push a single smidgen harder, you're gonna fall smack on your face. But you can't slow down because there's that big, barking dog behind you. So you keep going forward. You never hit delete. Especially not apple+a - delete. At least not during the month of November. :-D (I just love a good mixed metaphor, don't you?)

Stephanie L. McGee said...

Proud acrophobic over here! LOL

But I do think it's a good concept to keep in mind as far as writing's concerned.

Jaime Theler said...

I exist on the edge of insanity, does that count?

I need to go for it more in my writing. I know I do. Time to start thinking "edgy."

Cheree said...

I agree that writing on the edge is one way to grow. You never know what you can achive unless you push past what you already know and not fear failing.

Solvang Sherrie said...

I like that...writing on the edge. I have my days where I push myself and feel thrilled with the results. Looking over the precipice can be exciting that way :)

J. Lea Lopez said...

oi, yes, definitely! remember when i was workshopping Charlotte and I posted a sex scene that robb complimented? that was definitely my moment. i had been trying to play it safe, keep everything on the PG side, etc. but having someone telling me i was good at writing the naughty bits (lol) in a way that was not only steamy, but meaningful, i thought hey, why not step up that edge and see what i can do?

and because of that, my book took a dramatic turn, and i'm now actually writing erotica..... er, trying to a least. it's slow going haha. but i think about that every time i write now - whether i'm pushing myself and the story the way i should, or if i'm just playing it safe.

Secretia said...

Yes I have been and I did learn what I neeeded. A blade is sharpest at the edge.

Jemi Fraser said...

I do try to live on the edge with my writing. I like trying new things, new genres, new voices. It adds to the fun for me :)

Robin said...

I agree with Bethany that this comes up on Project Runway. I love listening to the judges comments and reasons for choosing the winner. It's not always the one who executes it perfectly, it's often the one who took a chance and made it work.

So I like the idea of taking a chance...but it's such a fine line between being bad-ass and being just bad.

Great topic for discussion!

Jessica said...

I've been pushed to the edge of my patience... LOL

I hope I push the edges with my writing. Maybe not genre edges, but emotional ones.

Carolyn V. said...

I don't know if I have to be pushed to the edge, I just know I need to listen to my critique buddies to get better. They are awesome!

Terresa said...

Sorry, but at the moment, "Livin' on the edge" by Aerosmith comes to mind {love that song!!}.

Writing on the edge, too, can be a good thing. It can bring out some crazy fine writing.

L.T. Elliot said...

I'm currently trying to push myself and I'm finding that I'm not doing as poorly as I imagined. I'd like to think I write edgy and new and fun but I don't know that I'm very prolific.

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