Too often we tend to play it safe when we compose. Sometimes we do this accidentally--we may have discovered several techniques or strategies that we know will "work" and we rely on these while expanding our ideas somewhat conservatively. Alexandra Gardner recently wrote an excellent article for NewMusicBox in which she called on all of us to be willing to take greater risks and to accept greater challenges, with the idea that our compositional skills will grow in leaps and bounds if we do so.
I absolutely agree with the importance of risk-taking--it is, I think, one of the most necessary aspects of compositional education and growth. Sometimes I worry, however, that our institutions, ensembles, and pedagogical tactics operate in ways that are actually antithetical to risk-taking.