Who wrote “Risk”? Is the mystery solved?

Have we solved the mystery of who wrote the popular poem attributed to Anais Nin, known as “Risk”?

I can say this: Since posting this mystery a few years ago, nowhere has its source been found in any of Anais Nin’s oeuvre. So how did it come to be attributed to her?

That remains a mystery.

However, Elizabeth Appell has come forward with a compelling case that may hold the answer of who, if not Anais, actually wrote the poem:

What I’m about to tell you is going to seem strange and maybe even impossible, but it is the truth. I wrote the quote, “And the day came when the risk to remain closed in a bud became more painful that the risk it took to blossom.”

I wrote it in 1979. I was Director of Public Relations for John F. Kennedy University in Orinda. One of my responsibilities was to write, edit, and publish the class schedule which included events, news, and class information for the up-coming quarter. The target market for the university was and still is, adults going back to school. Every quarter I came up with a theme meant to inspire and motivate.

BrochureI believe it was January when I started on the spring schedule. Up against a deadline, I quickly jotted down the line, and shared it by my colleague, Jerry Skibbins, Vice President of Development. He liked it so we ran with it. Consequently it went out to thousands of households in the East Bay. We also published a poster and put it on BART trains. This was a very wide distribution. As far as I know, attribution was given to the artists who illustrated the designs, but I never thought to attribute myself regarding the poem. My name appeared only as “Editor.”

Another wrinkle: at the time I was using my nickname, “Lassie” as well as my first husband’s last name, Benton. I was known as Lassie Benton. Since then I gave up the nickname to use my given name, Elizabeth, and remarried Allen Appell, hence Elizabeth Appell.

From the beginning the school got a huge response from the poem. I started seeing it woven into tapestries, and then printed on posters, cards and in books. At first the attribution was “Lassie Benton.” One afternoon I attended a calligraphy show at the San Francisco Library. There was the poem, but now the attribution was “Anonymous.” Sometime in the 80’s I found a card using the poem. I bought because it was attributed to Anais Nin. I wrote to the publisher of the card, but received no response. I just let it go.

Recently I gave a reading in Nevada City, California as a part of a women’s writing salon. The woman who read before me began her piece with the poem. I smiled. “What do you know, it still lives.” She was shocked when I told her I’d written it. She suggested I Google the poem to see that always it is attributed to Anais Nin. I did. I am astounded at how it has proliferated the internet, almost always attributed to Anais Nin.

I say almost because I found a life coach in Arizona who uses the poem on her home page. There it is attributed to “Lassie Benton.” She tells me her web page went up in 2006, but she can’t remember where she found the poem.

Yesterday two of my friends brought me copies of their newly published books. Yes, in both books, up front, there it is. The poem. And of course it’s attributed to Anais Nin. That pushed me over to take action.

I wrote the poem in 1979. I am the author of the poem. I’m extremely honored to have written something that has touched so many people.

Elizabeth kindly produced the 1979 brochure on which the poem is printed, as seen above. Judge for yourselves, folks, but it seems that this mystery may be solved.

For a reliable source of Anais Nin quotes, get THE QUOTABLE ANAIS NIN: 365 Quotations with Citations.

Want to catch up with Anais Nin? THE PORTABLE ANAIS NIN contains nearly 300 pages of her best work.

Long-lost Anais Nin erotica discovered and published: AULETRIS: EROTICA.

The newest Nin diary is here! TRAPEZE: THE UNEXPURGATED DIARY OF ANAIS NIN, 1947-1955.

Join the Conversation


  1. Anais created so many myths that have become the reality – when I first visited her in her NYC residence the concierge of the building did not “register” the name Anais Nin and told me no one by that name lived there – and then…..”Ah! You mean Mrs. Guiler!”
    “Lassie’s” tale (no pun) rings true.
    Things and words had a way of “belonging to” Anais.
    I was recording one her University talks after having had dinner with her.
    She began:
    “We are here to celebrate the REFUSAL TO DESPAIR.”
    Although she had written to me saying “I am taking your phrase ‘refusal to despair’ with me on my tour, I was startled to hear it so beautifully, powerfully, and softly uttered.
    I never told her it was not “mine” but “belonged to” the American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce. No doubt it is now hers.
    Please excuse any typos – thumbnailed on my blackberry
    Thanks4 keeping Anais’s memory green

  2. Thank you for sharing this information. I’m so glad I read the “disputed” section on the wiki post (http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Ana%C3%AFs_Nin#Disputed) that led me here.

    I would like to share with Elizabeth Appell, fka Lassie Benton, that many Sales Directors in Mary Kay use her quote (and attribute it to Anais) with those who make the decision to become new Independent Beauty Consultants. It was very meaningful to me when I became a consultant 17years ago. And I think of it often when making decisions in my life… I will do what I can to correct the source credits in my Mary Kay world.

  3. i read this qoute (with the rose illustration) in 1979 at a time when I was in need of a major life change.
    It prompted me to enroll in John F Kennedy school of Consciousness Studies. I received my Master’s degree there a few years later.
    The quote carried me through a time of doubt and fear… allowing me to take the risk to open myself to my unknown future.
    Grateful to Elizabeth Appell for the inspiration, I am using it again at another time of need.
    Many thanks!

  4. Elizabeth Appell/Lassie Benton: If you truly wrote the quote, you may want to touch base with Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra as they are crediting Anais Nin in their Meditation series: Getting Unstuck: Welcoming Change is Natural Day 12. I love your quote, “Risk.” I wrote it down to cite it on my blog and discovered there was an issue with the author. Peace always, ~dp.

  5. This quote is part a much longer paragraph and I do not believe Ms. Appell wrote it. This quote can be found long before 1979. Ms. Appell is not the only person claiming to have written this quote.

    A quote standing on its own does not begin with “and.” It follows the sentence before it.

    “Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death. And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” -Anais Nin

  6. Can you tell us where the quote as part of a longer paragraph written before 1979 is found? Appell has evidence that seems pretty solid, and without the same, it’s pretty hard to dispute that she is the author. Would love to see more about this.

  7. @Sky Blue Press Editor: The quote cited by @Lola is found in many website disgorging quotes without proper reference. It is also incorrect : the first three sentences of the purported quote are indeed from Anaïs Nin in her book _D.H. Lawrence: An Unprofessional Study_ (p11) ; however, the fourth sentence does *not* follow the preceding ones. That quote has been manufactured.

    Whether or not the last sentence indeed comes from Nin is likely to remain a point of contention, but the proliferation of fake quotes –as the one in question– and the JFKU brochure and website claims of Mrs Appell ought to result in the serious consideration of her claims.

  8. Regardless of author, the quote has always held special meaning to me. I am male to female transgender, and that is exactly how transition happens. The risk is great. The reward is great. Unfortunately, the pain is also great. Ms. Appell; the quote is both amazing, and inspiring.

  9. I was Bill Pinckard’s first wife. He was a profoundly decent man and he did, from time to time, refer fondly to Anais Nin. Of course, at the time they met, he was still an adolescent and though he very much admired her, he was simply not ready for a serious relationship with a mature woman. Bill, the son of a president of a major oil company, was totally disinterested in commerce and passionately involved in Eastern studies. He was fluent in Japanese and could read Sanscrit. It was his deep intellect and profound sensitivity which made our marriage untenable. I was an international folk singer at the time and David Van Ronk meant much more to than Buddha. Bill eventually joined a buddhist monastery in Japan, but at the time he felt that as a Caucasian he was not welcome there. Eventually. he returned to the states and spent his life devoted to Japanese art and to a successful second marriage He died several years ago, leaving behind his children, daughters, I believe. It’s been fitfy years since we spoke, but he remains in my mind as one of the most honorable and intelligent men I’ve ever known.

  10. I am questioning this remarkable story…although I have heard many great speakers & read authors books express another persons work as their own (my own actually right in front of me!) they say first attribute to the person, then say I once heard, then just say it…sadly the originator is not credited.

    It is an inspiring quote who ever wrote it, thank you, whomever shares it thank you…

    yet I was given an Anais Nin book many years ago for a holiday trip & I remember reading this in the book…..
    It was the only time I had read her works & many years ago so I no idea of the title….

    Peace to everyone

  11. I very much appreciate this discussion. As an academic, it is most important to cite sources appropriately. I would like to to know how the author wishes to be acknowledged: Elizabeth Appell or Lassie Benton? There doesn’t appear to be a publication date on the artifact shown above. Finally, would John F. Kennedy University be the appropriate publishing body?

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