Friday, October 16, 2015

Writing to Win

Shannon Dittemore is the author of the Angel Eyes trilogy. She has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and a love of all things literary. When she isn’t writing, she spends her days with her husband, Matt, imagining things unseen and chasing their two children around their home in Northern California. To connect with Shan, check out her website, FB, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest.

I read a quote last week--a quote that had absolutely nothing to do with writing--and it won't leave me alone. It crawled under my skin and set me itching until finally I let myself think on the words and their implications, and while it unsettled me, at first, I've come to appreciate the sentiment.

Now, don't laugh, my writer friends. But the quote came from ESPN reporter, Seth Wickersham. I'm a die-hard football fan and I stumbled across this thought on Seth's Twitter page. Here's what he said:


Without going into all the reasons this quote bothered me (said the 49ers fan), it's those two little words "mitigate risk" that dug their claws in and refused to let go. It's uncomfortable to imagine any professional sports team sitting around (oversimplification, I know) formulating a game plan simply to avoid screwing up. Cause that's what risk mitigation is: reducing exposure to risky things.

But what can we say about a coach who won't risk an interception for the very possibility of a big play? What is a football game if the team on the field isn't giving it everything they've got? It's boring. It's a losing season. It's a frustrated fan base and a locker room full of disgruntled athletes.

And the more I started thinking about this, the more I realized how right this Seth guy was. And not just about coaching philosophies.

In our lives, in our writing, are we playing to win or are we simply trying not to screw up?

It's worth stewing on, I think. Because the truth is, if you're not committed to a little risk in the things that matter, if you're just playing it safe, you may never establish yourself as an elite anything. If you're just trying not to tip the boat, you're never, ever going to get anywhere.

In my own writing, I've been standing at a crossroads. Do I go right or do I go left? Do I focus on this audience or that one? One direction is full of familiarity and comfort and the other direction, while stocked with opportunity, has me shaking in my slippers. It's unknowable. It's risky. Once I toss the ball up there, I have no idea where it'll land. And so, for ages, I've stood. Looking first down this road and then down that one. Terrified to make the wrong choice. Terrified to screw up.

Going nowhere.

And that is no way to live. It's certainly no way to write. There are enough obstacles along the way to frustrate an author. The last thing each of us need is to be fighting against the fear of failure.

Whatcha think? You want to join me in the fearless pursuit of elite status?

Okay, truth? We may never reach elite status, but we should always, always play (read: write) like we're elite. We should trust our voice and hone our craft. We should write without fear of what others will say when we're done. We should commit ourselves to writing through the risk because here's another truth: failure will come regardless. Even the elite of the elite fall flat on their faces sometimes. And so will we. It's how we handle those moments that will define our careers and flavor our stories.

So, from an optimistic 49ers fan to all of you, write to win today. Be true to the story trying to grow wings in your heart. And if the road is risky? If the journey scares you a little bit?

Throw it out there anyway. You never know where your story will land until you've given it everything you've got.

20 comments:

  1. This. Thank you so much for this post, Mrs. Dittemore. In writing, it's so necessary to always to the best you can, rather than just scraping by. Sometimes it's not the easiest thing to do, but in the end, it's always the best.

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    1. Easy is rarely best, huh? Easy to say, hard to remember when it counts.

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  2. This. Is. Awesome. I haven't been writing much lately (things slowed down after I finished my first draft), and I love this. Throw it out there!

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  3. Wow, so very timely for me and so well written. I let go of the familiar to take a step into the unknown just this week. Your post has encouraged me as well as confirmed what I had been wrestling with in my heart. Thank you for putting this into words!

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    1. Oh yay! I always wonder when I throw out an inspirational thought as opposed to an instructional one. So, thank you for the feedback and I wish you blessings on your journey.

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    2. Shannon, I love when you have inspirational thoughts! They're some of my favorite and they always make me want to write afterwards. Although I agree with what you say, I think that sometimes writing to win isn't as relevant - for example, I am in high school. My dad is always trying to tell me to edit my book and get it published.. he is slightly ignorant in the publishing business (I am too, but I'd say that he's more ignorant) and I always find it annoying that he won't just let me write for the pleasure of writing. Later in life, yes, I think it would be awesome to be able to write for a living but at this moment I think that although I do want to write as if I am published and try and develop writing as a skill as much as I can, I don't think I need to edit every book and try and get it published. I'm not sure what I want you to say about this and sorry for ranting :)

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    3. Lovely thoughts, Laurel. Truly. Not every THING we write is to published nor does it have to be perfect. We should feel free to write for ourselves however we want and whenever we want about the things that stir us. This post is more about choosing to be brave and face risk head on when the situation calls for it. As opposed to writing scared, you know? As opposed to trying to please everyone. So, maybe you and I are really saying the same things???? ;)

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    4. That sounds like what I was trying to say :) thanks for responding!

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  4. Love it, love it, love it!!!

    God bless, Anne Marie :)

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  5. Okay, wow. Wow. This is incredible. Thank you for sharing, I think I needed it this week. :)

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  6. As I write my novel, I keep having to remind myself that it's only a first draft and doesn't have to be perfect! There's still a lot of things I'm trying to figure out, but I have to remember that I can always go back and switch things around!

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    1. Absolutely! First drafts are first drafts. They are meant to be visited again and again.

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  7. Thank you so much for this post! It is amazing <3

    I've definitely struggled with writing the story of my heart because I feel like it's in a too unpopular genre, too different, to be successful. But it /is/ the story of my heart. So I think writing it, and writing it to win, is success in and of itself.

    Again, thanks for the awesome post! :D


    Alexa
    thessalexa.blogspot.com
    verbositybookreviwes.wordpress.com

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