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.
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.