Writers and Risk Taking: My Role Models of the Week


One of the most heartwarming discussions I have ever had on this blog was when I asked, “Is writing with vulnerability a sign of low self-concept?”  The comments from my readers were full of wisdom and insights.

I especially liked the way Shakira Dawud of DeliberateInk.com linked vulnerability and risk taking to humility. She said:

“When we show our vulnerability to others, they get a glimpse of how much we love what we’re doing, and how much we care that it be the best. They see that we don’t care how good they think we are—that we’re human, and we can be better. There’s something to admire in that kind of humility, I think.”

And my friend Beth Buelow over at The Introvert Entrepreneur felt that, on the contrary, vulnerability tells her that the writer has a good self concept. Beth said:

“IMHO, showing vulnerability is a sign of high self-esteem and confidence in one’s self. You know you’re opening yourself up to judgment, yet you know you can handle it. You’re secure in your experience and feelings. You’re grounded in your truth and are willing to share it with the world for mutual benefit. That makes thoughtful (not whiny) vulnerability an extremely powerful thing!”

So why, then, is it so hard to push that “publish” or “send” button? I think it might be because we are never totally happy with what we have produced.  We want to it be good—no, we want it to be the best.

And we want it now.

Lessons in Risk Taking

This week, two of my friends inspired me to take a long, hard look at vulnerability and risk taking. In their courage, they are role models for all of us.

My first teacher: Joan Rough


Joan Rough, a memoir writer I met through Dan Blank’s online Author Platform class, took the brave step of sending the rough draft of her lovely story, “Me, Myself and Mom,” to her beta readers, of which I am one.

I have done this before—granted it was a series of chapters and not the whole book—so I know how those pesky gremlins can perch on the shoulder and whisper in the ear, “It’s not good enough! What made you ever think you could write?”

As writers, sometimes we set such high standards that it would be impossible for anyone to meet them. Joan described her feelings in a blog post called “Doubt” :

“As I sent the last of my first draft manuscripts out to my beta readers and heard the whooshing sound, telling me it was sent, I had second thoughts. ‘Oh my God, what have I done? I should have rewritten it again. Everyone will see how badly I write and how boring I can be. I should have written it for myself and forgotten the publishing part.’”

I call it Naked Writer Syndrome. We spend hours—days, months—at a time, just our brains and our manuscripts.

Just the two of us.

 And the longer we stay in the cave, the harder it is to expose our manuscripts to the world and the more we freak out about the possible reactions of real people.

Of readers.

So my friend Joan offered a lesson in courage to me this week.

My second teacher: Kaarina Dillabough

kaarina dillaboughIn the same week, my friend Kaarina Dillabough from the Decide2Do blog stepped out of her comfort zone.

Not with writing fiction, which she has been doing for a while, but actually hitting publish for the first time.

Her beautiful story was called “The Winter of Her Life.”

When I congratulated her in the comments section, she said:

“Thanks so much. Although I thought I might throw up the moment I hit publish, I needed to take that first brave step and start writing what my heart yearns to write, without fear of ‘is it good enough?”.

These are the brave acts—Joan’s and Kaarina’s—that inspire us all. Not only to keep writing, but to share our stories with the world. I could not be any prouder of my two friends. It can only get easier from here on out.

What about you?

Are fears keeping you from showing your gifts to the world?

How do you fight the demons of doubt?

Make sure you don’t miss a post.


  1. Oz April 4, 2014 at 7:32 am #

    Very very interesting blogpost.

    One thing that I get from my stand-up class is: you will bomb, you MUST bomb because that’s the only way to get to a place where you bomb less. That’s a lesson that I take everywhere. It doesn’t make life easier but it’s a perspective that helps me push that “publish” button and move on.

    Never is it an excuse to publish crap. It’s a way to find satisfy multiple interests:
    – publishing good work
    – generating content
    – showing up in the world with consistency

    Showing vulnerability … that feels like such a loaded term. Showing ‘vulnerability’ can suggest that you’re ok crying in front of people. I’m no fan of that. But I think your blogpost is more in the vein of showing doubt.

    I like that because it does show a humanness. But what does show unhealthy self-doubt is the people who preface everything with an apology or a warning that they could be wrong. It’s either unhealthy self-doubt or disgusting false modesty.

    One thing that could be considered “exposure of vulnerability” is when we get to see behind the scenes:
    – How much work Dali, Picasso and Miro threw in the garbage before their greatest works were completed.
    – How hard Jerry Seinfeld has to work to get a 1-hour stand-up routine together.

    It’s a little bit of hope for those of us who are chasing a dream. The behind the scenes shows that, yes there some intellect, but there’s a whole lot of hard work, and hard work comes down to willingness.

    And, Judy, you do this too, by describing the writer’s block, and the doubt about having another good idea. I also get that it’s an exaggeration.

    Finally. When I read the blogpost title, I immediately thought of Charles Bukowski.
    One thing I love about him is that he does show a certain vulnerability in his writing. He doesn’t present himself as the example for all of humanity. Sure, he talks bad about other people. But he’ll turn on himself for being too fat or for being a poor father. He’ll describe some absurd situation he’s put himself in and it’s his own fault.

    That’s a very sober message saying that we’re all imperfect, trying to do the best we can to get through.


    • Judy Lee Dunn April 5, 2014 at 6:00 pm #


      Always enjoy your thoughtful comments. I guess I don’t see vulnerable as crying or whining. To me, it is presenting my imperfect self to the world.

      I think in stand-up (and acting), you do that all the time. Thanks for showing your authentic self to us.


  2. Kaarina Dillabough April 4, 2014 at 10:03 am #

    Judy, this brings tears to my eyes. I cannot tell you what an honour this is, and how fulfilled it makes me feel to have contributed in some small way to your journey. I am proud to be your friend. I’m overwhelmed by your kind words. I cannot wait to see where the next steps (and chapters:) of your life lead. Much love and gratitude, Kaarina xo


    • Judy Lee Dunn April 5, 2014 at 6:02 pm #

      You shared with us a part of you and if it was your first fiction piece that you published on your blog, well, then, that was wonderful. Looking forward to reading more!


  3. Hemu April 4, 2014 at 9:55 pm #

    i always want to write down short stories but back then when i used to think that i am not good enough like story writers, i decided to stick with technical writing because you don’t have something to really about it. All you need to publish reviews with little changes in template prescribed for a technical review. But i think, you need to start somewhere otherwise you will be stick to something that you never want to be.


    • Judy Lee Dunn April 5, 2014 at 6:05 pm #


      I wrote “technical”stuff for a long time. Any kind of writing gives you practice. I would encourage you to write more of your own stories. You should write something for yourself every single day.


  4. Joan Z. Rough April 6, 2014 at 12:35 pm #

    Thank you, dear friend. I can’t thank you enough for writing about my work and how hard it is to send it out into the world. I’m so grateful you agreed to be one of my beta readers. To have other writers give me honest comments and opinions on what I have spent so much time doing is beyond a blessing. Over time, we become too close to what we’re writing about and have difficulty seeing the forest for the trees. I’m happy we’re on this journey together and look forward to reading your book.


  5. Judy Lee Dunn April 7, 2014 at 1:02 pm #

    I know the feeling, Joan. Even if I have written what I think is a fairly good scene, I have worked with it so much that I can’t be objective any longer.

    I put your draft aside to let it marinate in my brain a while and will be pulling together my notes to send you. I really enjoyed your story!


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