We had the good fortune of connecting with Allison Fallon and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Allison, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Most of what is said about “risk” in popular culture I find to be unhelpful. When we talk about risk, we tend to start with the principal that, “without risk, there is no reward.” Therefore the interpretation is that the more risks you take in your life, the more rewarded you’ll be. The problem is that what feels like a “risk” for one person might not be a risk for another. And arbitrarily taking risks in your life might not improve your quality of living at all. It might just give you more anxiety. Let me give you an example. I would consider myself a natural risk-taker. I’ve jumped off of waterfalls in Costa Rica, quit my job to go on a road trip to all 50 states, and written down my most vulnerable stories to publish on the internet. And yet when I was in the middle of making a huge decision several years ago, I found myself feeling a good bit of anxiety about the choice. It was risky. But I coached myself with the conventional wisdom about risk. I told myself that without risk there was no reward, and that I would grow as a person if I could dig deep and find the courage to take this risk. So I jumped in with both feet only to find that the risk didn’t improve my quality of life at all. In fact, the anxiety I felt about this choice was a warning signal – telling me that, in this case, the risk wasn’t at all worth the reward. To me, the conversation about risk needs to include a conversation about trust: how much do you trust yourself? When you have a gut feeling about something, do you trust it? If your life is feeling lackluster – and you’d like a little more adventure in your day to day – well then taking a risk for the sake of some adventure might be good for you. But just because bungee jumping is risky doesn’t mean that bungee jumping is good for everyone. The question, more than how much of a risk you should take, is: how much do you trust yourself? Do you talk yourself out of what you KNOW to be true – or do you lean into it and make decisions accordingly? For me, I take risks when I know I need to take them. I listen to those gut feelings. I try to remind myself that taking a risk doesn’t automatically mean I’ll be rewarded. It sometimes means I lose what I’ve put on the line. And if what I’m putting on the line isn’t something I’m willing to lose, then I don’t risk it. Ever. Not because I’m scared or I lack the bravery to do it but because I trust myself way too much.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My most recent book is called The Power of Writing it Down: A Simple Daily Habit to Unlock Your Brain and Reimagine Your Life and it’s a book for anyone who has ever considered writing but talks themselves out of it because they’re not a “real” writer. What I want these readers to know is that the very fears and insecurities they have about their art — worrying it won’t be any good, that no one else will care to read it, that the whole thing will be a waste of time — are the same fears and insecurities every writer has about their words, even if they’re quite skilled or accomplished. The invitation to write is not just an invitation to write. It’s an invitation to understand ourselves better, to go deeper in our lives, to take a risk on ourselves, to practice and play. So if you have the urge to write but you’re not a “real” writer and you swear you would never publish — maybe you have a great reason to write anyway. People who write regularly are healthier, they visit the doctor less often, their more likely to be hired and less likely to get fired, they’re more self-aware, they have deeper empathy, and their bodies heal from injury and disease faster than their non-writing counterparts. There are all kinds of reasons to write that don’t involve publishing. I wrote this book because everywhere I go I meet people who want to write but are talking themselves out of it and to me, that’s tragic. I hope as people read the book, they are willing to write, to take a chance on themselves, and in doing so realize they have so much more to offer to the world than they ever dreamed possible.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Should I be answering this question in a pre-Covid or post-Covid world? My husband and I have spent the past 2 years in a tiny little corner of South Pasadena that we love. Other than the fact that it’s too far from the water, it’s perfect. But if a friend came to town, we’d probably spend most of our time in our small corner of South Pass. We have a 6-month old daughter, so we do a lot of walking in the neighborhood. We stop regularly at Heirloom Bakery for coffee and their Spinach Muffins. We lay blankets in the grass at the library in Downtown S. Pasadena and soak in the sunshine. We grill burgers in our backyard and sit by the fire. We order Sushi pick-up from Tokoro down the street and open a bottle of wine at the house. Things are much slower now than they used to be but it’s really nice.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are two teachers who have played a key role in the work I do as a professional and as an author. One is Dr. James Pennebaker, a research professor and author who pioneered many of the studies about the power of writing for emotional and physical health. The second is Julia Cameron, author of several books including the infamous The Artist’s Way. My book The Power of Writing it Down is definitely born of each of these thinkers and writers and I credit much of my philosophy to each of them.
Nicola Hargar, Abbey Howe