Risk is not necessarily a part of writing, but it is a part of publishing. There's a difference, because while most people equate writing with diaries, emails, and "that book they're going to write when they retire," writing purposed toward being published entails more risk due to the exposure involved. You're letting it all hang out there, whether it's something small like a community newspaper, something larger like a high-circulation magazine, or even larger, like a book with both international and digital availability. Exposure is part of writing because the writer's ideals become owned on paper; they can't just hide what they say by ignoring it like is possible in verbal conversation. When you write you own, tracing everything back to little old you.
Exposure in any medium involves different forms of stressors; the active form--direct pushback--manifests via criticism or critique toward you in particular, and the passive form--ambient resistance--involves simply the natural and ambient stressors which present themselves when engaging in an activity that isn't you-centered. Publishing by definition isn't you-centered because you're sending your work out into the world, whereas a diary or email or "that book" exists solely in your private world, or imagination.
Writers respond to each of these stressors differently, and these responses indicate their writing values and goals. (This risk-exposure paradigm isn't exclusive to writers, they're just historically met with impressive resistance from the concrete world). Orwell cited how the writer Chesterton was bold in his work, sacrificing his popularity for his art, yet writers "Beachcomber" and "Timothy Shy" took no risks in possibly damaging their popularity. They used kid-gloves. Thus, they were always at the whim of the populace, instead of channeling their art through their own vision. All three of these writers were subject to the ambient resistance since they all published, but you can distinguish their writing values and goals via how they responded to the direct pushback. Chesterton knew--at least on some level--that courage is really just the willingness to hold and express an unpopular opinion. (Orwell is clear that Chesterton wasn't the best writer, wasn't always truthful, but had courage).
These two types of responses have starkly different practical values and implications. Someone bold like Chesterton would be more inclined to have less intellectual boundaries in his art, because he's not operating out of fear, or pandering to the public. He can thus access parts of our social construct otherwise inaccessible, even if he's not the most talented or intelligent writer. Beachcomber and Timothy Shy set up intellectual boundaries and limitations to fortify social pillars and "truths." How deep can a writer dig, and how far can they see, if they're concerned about the majority's reaction?
It just goes to show that one doesn't have to be the most naturally talented or insightful to be effective.
Click the RSS FEED button below to receive notification of new Orwell 365 posts.