A few days ago, Julie Kazimer, author of The Body Dwellers (her link) commented on this site about writers wanting something so badly they’d kneecap someone to get it. I thought of Tonya Harding and how she risked everything to get what she wanted. She decided what stood in her way and took the tire iron to it. I am really sorry it was Nancy Kerrigan’s knee. Obviously, Tonya was sick and a criminal to boot, and I know we writers would never sabotage another writer to get a book deal, but what, I wondered, would I risk all for?
Today, one of my dearest friends told me the story of her son, who is a senior in high school. Aside from the test scores and grades that mark him as a brainiac, he’s also a stellar athlete and all around great kid. When applying for scholarships, he was asked to write an essay on a controversial topic such as, perhaps, striving for world peace. This was not some local couple of hundred of dollars, but a full ride to a prestigious university. He chose to write about LaBron James’ “Decision.” My friend tried to talk him out if it. Too risky, she said, for something so important. The young man felt strongly about his choice and went ahead. He won the scholarship.
He didn’t stop there. He sent the essay, along with news of his scholarship, to Mr. James. Again, my friend shrugged, thinking he’d be disappointed not to hear from the very busy superstar. A few days ago, not only did the young man receive an amazingly supportive letter from Mr. James, but a book bag, with a note from Mr. James saying he thought the young man would need something with which to haul his books.
No one likes to fail. To avoid that awful feeling, many of us avoid risks. Look at poor Tonya Harding. She risked, she failed and now her fame is tied to celebrity wrestling. But people do win. If my friend’s son hadn’t risked writing an unexpected essay, he wouldn’t have an excellent scholarship. And if he hadn’t risked rejection by a VIP, he’d never have the encouragement and congratulations, not to mention the really cool book bag.
I’m pretty risk averse. I have a 30-year mortgage instead of an ARM. I work for salary instead of being an entrepreneur. And yet, I get up at 4:30 most mornings to write with no guarantee the book will ever see the light of a publishing day. I have sent out hundreds, maybe thousands, of queries over the years, knowing that even though it only takes one yes, I will have to suffer agonizing no’s. I’ve given up weekends to edit manuscripts. And I’ve quit more times than I can count, only to get up the next day and try again. Maybe I’m not as attached to security as I think I am.
Why play it safe? Today I’m advocating we take big risks to achieve our dreams. Let’s start kneecapping everything that stands in our way. Like my friend’s son, let’s kneecap doubts, those inside us as well as those around us. Let’s kneecap fear of failure and pain of rejection. Kneecap an extra hour of sleep or the urge to sit on the couch and watch 30 Rock reruns.
Don’t be afraid. Join me with now. Grab your tire iron and tell me, what do you want to kneecap?