Why being a writer is a lot like being a rodeo clown

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mirkmirk/5001675252

What Does a rodeo clown do?

A rodeo clown consciously makes himself look ridiculous and places himself in the path of large, wild, pissed off farm animals just to save the heroic cowboys who just got bucked off.

We writers do this every day. Symbolically, of course (although sometimes, it’s quite literal).

In order to get new material to ‘save’ you — the reader (aka, the ‘cowboy’ in this example) — we must live what we write about. At least a little.

The stories we’ve lived are the stories and messages that get through. These are the stories that we’ve birthed, not just been passive midwives to or read about or heard some TED speaker rant about.

These are the stories where we’ve sacrificed getting a proverbial horn in our ass in order to get to the truth of the matter.

Writers are the rodeo clowns and readers are our cowboys.

See, we writers are hyper-aware of our surroundings. We pull our material from the fabric of our daily lives. We go deeper than most because this is where the good stuff is.

When you cut us off in traffic or call our mothers fat, we don’t just glaze over it like mere mortals. No. We go towards the danger. We engage — if not directly, then indirectly. Long after you’ve gone to sleep and forgotten about us, we’re sitting there in the arena of the page, hashing it out. Reliving it. Getting down to the essence of it.

I live by my wits and started at an early age to inject myself into the act, as a clown does in the ring.
-E.B. White

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been standing at the edge of a situation — be it a personal challenge, an awkward conversation, a dark alley, etc. — where a safe, responsible part of me tried to pull me away from it, but the writer in me knew that if I stepped forward, it’d make a hell of a great story.

When we fall, we fall in front of you. When we get horned, we do it in public. When a bull’s ass smacks us in the cheek and smears the paint across our face, everyone laughs, and even though it hurts, we know it was worth it. Because without us, that moment we captured in time for you would not be shared. And the cowboy remains safe another day, thanks to our insanity.

It’s silly. It’s not healthy. But it’s a rodeo.

Always a rodeo.


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