In writing, we always want the stakes to increase over the course of a story. The problems get bigger, the risks get bigger, and the reasons the characters need to succeed get bigger.
The same concept can apply to real life. When we first start a blog, it doesn’t matter if we fall flat on our face because no one is watching. Who’s going to know? The problem comes if we artificially try to keep the stakes low, even as time goes on, or when higher stakes make us afraid of taking new risks.
For example, some authors try to minimize the stakes when they publish their stories, even though publication should be a time of raising the stakes. I’ve seen authors slide their book onto Amazon and slink away with barely an announcement. Anonymity can feel safe. They’d rather reduce their chance of success than risk a public failure.
Success and stakes and risk all work together. And sometimes we might not like that.
Success Creates New Fears
Last time, we talked about the fear and self-doubt that causes us to think that bad news is deserved and good news must be a fluke. Any success added to the mix raises the stakes.
The more blog readers we have, the more people there are to be disappointed when we write a “dud.” The more readers of our books, the more witnesses to that bad review. The more good reviews, the higher the expectations for future readers.
I know this fear quite well. Every blog post that people praise in the comments makes me wonder how I can possibly meet expectations the next time. (And the time after that, and the time after that…)
Successful authors speak of this fear as well. After a string of well-received books, rather than feel good, they instead worry about having that many more readers to disappoint. The higher we rise, the further we have to fall.
Succumbing to Fear Freezes Us in Place
Many of us are people-pleasers in some way. If people have expectations, we want to meet them. Fear of disappointing others can be a powerful force.
We might not want to experiment on our blogs or in our stories. Authors sick of a series or genre might feel stuck. Once we have success in one area, it can be a risk to “throw away” what brought us that success.
I suspect this fear leads some bestselling authors to take less risks with their writing over the years. Were they simply experimenting to find a formula that works, and now that they did, they’re happy to repeat themselves? Or do they not want to risk the livelihood of their family, their assistant’s family, their agent’s family, and their editor’s family by trying something new and different?
We Shouldn’t Fear Risk
We can’t let fear keep us from trying. Just as I still write new blog posts week after week, we need to push ourselves and our writing.
Sure, some blog posts or stories might resonate stronger than others, but the vast majority of the time, people forgive us for occasional “duds.” Readers tend to remove authors from their auto-buy lists only after several duds in a row.
This type of risk isn’t about jumping out of airplanes or swimming with sharks. This risk doesn’t have the inherent potential to kill us. *grin*
Writing Isn’t about Being Comfortable
Stories are at their most powerful when we delve into those dark corners of our minds to find the nugget of truth. Poking around in our insecurities and fears isn’t comfortable. It’s not supposed to be.
I’ve seen the advice from many writers that we’re not doing our job with a story unless something about it makes us uncomfortable. That’s true for life in general. Oodles of sayings about “not resting on our laurels” and “pushing the envelope” make that clear.
So while we might dream simply of being successful enough with our writing to be “comfortable,” we shouldn’t get too comfortable with our actual writing. We’ll be better able to write stories about risk and fear and stakes if we’re confronting those issues head on in our real life too. If we embrace the higher stakes that come with success, we might even be able to write our way to our happy ending. *smile*
Have you experienced success that raised the stakes? How did you react? Have you ever been afraid of change because of success? What other ways can this fear hold us back? Do you agree that writing isn’t about being comfortable?Pin It