I’m watching the Olympics tonight (this wasn’t my original post for today) and women’s figure skater Mao Asada from Japan just landed two triple axels in her long program, the first women in Olympic history to land one, let alone two in the same program. (And three in the same competition, since she’d done one in her short program.)
The thing is, her program came on the heels of the ovation that her main competitor, Kim Yun-na of South Korea, received for achieving a record Olympic score under the new scoring system. So, no pressure or anything.
The commentators had been talking during the warm up about whether Asada would do both triple axles. One was definite, the other an option. But the thing is, at that point, she had no reason not to go for it. Her best chance was to hold nothing back.
One of the things I’ve always done–and it’s one of the reasons that I had so many unfinished books before Prom Dates From Hell–is struggled with holding something back. If I have some big, huge idea, I have a tendency to hold back from it, to “save” it. For when I’m a better writer. For when I’m more established/famous/best-selling. For later in a series, for later in the book…
All those hypotheticals are about fear. Fear I’ll peak too soon, or leave myself nowhere to go, or no way to top it. But the biggest fear of all, of course, is that I’ll blow it somehow. That I won’t execute it properly, that it will seem hokey/stupid/silly/over the top. Or that my skills aren’t up to the task.
But when it comes to writing, the stakes have to be high. For your characters, and for yourself as a writer. You’re always trying to achieve that next step up on the figurative podium, whether it’s your first sale, your first award, or your first best seller. So commit to the big ideas, and throw your heart into them.
When I say “go big or go home” I mean within the scale of your story. “Big” can mean the scale of your fantasy battle, your villain’s villainy, or your heroine’s heartbreak. You have nothing to lose by committing fully. You should never hold back from your readers, or from your best writing–it’s not fair to your readers, or to yourself. Write every book as if you have nothing to lose.
And somehow, you’ll always think of something just as big for the next one. That’s what we writers do.