I grew up a bit unclear about what is considered acceptable risk.
My mom was an early adopter of the entire “don’t run with scissors” canon. And my dad regularly told us about his teenage antics blowing things up and catching rattlesnakes.
Finding the balancing point between taking risks and staying safe proved a little confusing for me.
It continues to be something I meet up with whenever I do classroom writing workshops. Some students jump into wild creativity without hearing a single warning rattle. Others stop to look both ways so often that they never successfully make it across the writing street.
The truth is that both approaches serve students well at different stages of the writing process. During the early brainstorming and drafting stages, it’s best to surge forward without overthinking the fact that a writing project can blow up in your face at any moment. And especially during the later writing stages, students need to take the rules of writing into account. Yes, writers can and do break those rules. But it is best to do it with appropriate caution, only crossing that street if they have considered both ways and determined that their decision best serves their readers.
No wonder some young writers are confused! I’ve seen those who are unable to create early drafts because they’re so worried about breaking the writing rules. And I’ve seen those who are unable to take the appropriate care and concern with their work in the later stages, so that they can’t create something that translates for an audience.
Despite their risk-taking differences, my parents managed to create a harmonious household. Work to help your young writers see that they can bring a harmonious balance to their writing by learning to look both ways: there is a time for taking risks and a time for letting the rules rule.