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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Risk Is My Middle Name

I've been taking risks all my life.

The first risk I took was in not taking my parents fervent wishes seriously about taking my education past the two year degree that I received with the double major of Art and English to the next level. I did not really like formal education, not being very good at studying and preparing for work by deadlines (a still serious flaw of mine if you will). That did not stop me from studying till this very day, but I don't like to do anything formally, much less the gathering of knowledge.

I told them at the time (I was sure) that I could starve just as easily (being an artist) on a two year degree as much as a four or six-year set of degrees. My next youngest brother has three degrees — none of which he seems to be using in his current job (well, maybe parts of his MBA). I don't even remember what degree my sister got, and my youngest brother inherited even less of an aptitude for formalized education than I did.

The second risk that I took was baring more than my soul for art classes by being an art model. Yes, of the nude variety. It helped to pay the rent, and out of modeling for one class at a nearby community college not of my childhood county (which I would never have gone to for studying), I learned the Old Masters technique known as Egg Tempura Crosshatch. This method was from the Middle Ages, and involved mixing pigment with egg yolk.

It started me on a medium that, although I didn't keep up for too many years (it's a tedious application of painting, requiring the buildup of many hundreds or thousands of layers, stroke by laborious stroke) led me into the derivative style of drawing using the same technique but with colored pencils that I have used till this very day, (When I have the time to draw that is. I have long since tired of trying to earn a living at it, but hope to pick that business up again when my money is coming in. More later.)

If I hadn't taken that 'risk' (baring all), I wouldn't have been exposed to that technique and my art would have been the less focused for it.

The third risk that I undertook was when I was twenty-four (and this was the most major risk that I've taken in my life). I decided to try my hand at the then current mode of travel accessed by sticking my thumb out on the side of a highway and accepting the graciousness of random strangers. I learned many things at the risk of this, and thereafter called myself a roads scholar. I had many experiences that I would not have had otherwise.

Out of the experiences I had On The Road, I've written two screenplays, one of which is quickly becoming my second finished novel. I had experiences that both broadened my life, and in some cases felt like it was also going to be the end of it as well. But that obviously didn't happen.

I have also taken the risk of my life in driving cab for a living (much more lucrative on the East Coast than here), as well as having moved all the way to Los Angeles (for the second time) to try to make my mark in both acting and screenwriting.  Hope springs eternal; rent due arrives each month.

I have in the last two years also been living close to the edge, spending a lot of it couch surfing (sleeping on a variety of friends couches), and also having the most productive two years of my life at the risk of writing (large amounts of time in solitary confinement with just me and my computer). Unless you're writing solely short stories for your livelihood, writing scripts (I've finished six and written on portions of twenty-two others), or writing as a journalist, writing is not a short term solution to riches and happiness. If I could write a horror movie script that had all the elements I abhor in movies, I might have made those thousands of dollars.

Now I am taking the risk of converting those finished scripts into novel form. The longer form not only takes much more time than a script, but may be equally unsold at the end of it all.

Recently, I took another risk. I enrolled in, and attended, a weekend seminar in real estate investment. I spent (in monthly installments I am still paying off) what for me was a huge sum of money, with the hopes and dreams of making a living doing something that all of my friends and family wished me a very hesitant "good luck" in (to which my business partners and myself are still hoping to make our first sale in).

Life is full off risks. You can think that you're not taking risks, but every day you step outside the door to your dwelling, you never know where that day will take you. It might just be shopping, or then again it might be to the end of your life (as happened for five people yesterday in Arizona). You never know. "One never knows the hour or the day" that one is going to be called from this life. But everyone is always risking; some great risks, and others everyday risks. Simply by crossing the street these days you can be risking taking your life in somebody else's hands. 

With Great Risks, come Great Rewards. At least I'm hoping so.

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