Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Safe? Or Boring?

I recently witnessed a young woman taking a morning ride in a field. She was riding western and ponying two horses, one on each side. Also in the field were four to five other horses who were grazing. The young woman was not wearing a helmet, and was busy texting on her phone.

“Yikes!” I thought. “That is an accident waiting to happen.”

Not every scenario has to be so filled with safety hazards, but when it comes to horses, most of the people I know who have been on the injured list (myself included), were there because he or she failed to follow a basic safety principle. Stretch your arm away from your torso when longeing a horse, you might get a dislocated shoulder. Wear tennis shoes or (gasp) flip-flops in the barn, you might end up with mashed toes.

As a PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship) instructor, I am all about safety. Overly so, it must seem, to my non-therapeutic riding friends. But I am proud of being safety conscious, even if some people call me boring, and claim I am no fun to ride with.

However, when it comes to writing, and specifically writing about horses, it is a different story. As writers, we often need to throw safety to the wind and get on with the amazing stories we are compelled to tell. Every reader deserves that. Readers choose to spend their precious time reading what we write, so we had better deliver.

Last week I read a highly anticipated short story. Technically, it was brilliantly written. The dialogue flowed and the plot moved forward at a good pace. But when I was done reading, I felt empty. The writer had played it too safe and the result was that the story was predictable and boring.

Not every book, article, or story has to have a grandmother riding down Main Street on a hippopotamus to grab a reader’s attention. But, the dialogue does have to shine. The plot has to be intriguing, and in nonfiction, the facts have to be presented in a narrative that sparkles.

So when it comes to safe versus boring, I choose to stay very safe around my horses. I drive my truck within the speed limit, and with alertness and caution. But, I really, really hope my writing is never boring. That determination, though, is up to the reader.

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