If you’re a basketball fan, you may have witnessed a player who gets in such a groove that they can’t miss. They’re so “in the zone” the basket looks a mile wide and the ball just released effortlessly from their hand as they shoot – a pure unconscious act of poetry. Whether it’s Lebron James, Kevin Durant, Larry Bird, or my favorite, Michael Jordan, those are the nights the player can’t go wrong – every shot is falling on their way to 50 or 60 point explosions. But in the midst of these games you’ll see something unconventional – at a certain point they inevitably pull up from ridiculously far out – only a few steps from half court it seems – and let a shot fly. Those low-percentage long distance bombs, called “heat checks” actually serve a purpose. It’s their measure of just how in the zone they are, an exercise in testing just how much the basketball Gods blessed them on that given night. Confidence breeds confidence and when the mind and body are working in perfect harmony, it’s great to let a heat check fly at some point.
Authors, bloggers, and marketers should do the same. No, I don’t mean go outside to embarrass yourself on your driveway hoop, I’m talking about throwing up a heat check for your writing. Whatever your goal, do something so impossibly audacious and such a long shot that it’s a little crazy. Are you trying to increase sales on your recently released book? Call the CEO of Barnes and Noble to ask they put it on their shelves and even feature it. Do you want to garner media attention? Write in to the Today Show or Oprah, pitching your book as part of a story. Are you trying to grow your audience? Email the White House and ask if you can interview the President.
Will they say ‘yes?’ Who knows? Probably not, but what do you have to lose? You’re already having a fantastic game, so this heat check is basically a throw away just to tempt fate because maybe, just one in a million, your long shot might swish and hit nothing but net. The point is that you’re not worried about the outcome – the poetry of the act itself is the reward. Even if you never hear back from anyone, it will do a lot for your writing career.
First off, it’s damn fun, and after overcoming your awkward reservations the first time you try it, you’ll look forward to this heat check hour every week. It will also bolster your confidence in ways you’d never imagine as you go back to your normal workweek. Scared of approaching the owner of an Indie bookstore? I just emailed the President of the United States, for Pete’s sake! It will dawn on you that an email is an email no matter which human being you send it to, and your intimidation of playing a bigger game will soon go right out the window. Finally, the fearless energy you put out into the universe will be rewarded some way, some how. Maybe the Today Show doesn’t need you right now but they keep your info on file and email you down the road to contribute to a different story? Perhaps Barnes and Noble can’t stock your book but they retweet one of your blogs, helping it go viral? You never know how it’s going to come back to you, but I promise you, it will open up opportunities and help you make great new relationships.
Make sure you set ridiculously brazen goals, not just medium sized ones – let your heat check go from half court. I’ve contacted the President of Costa Rica, emailed David Hasselhoff, and efforted Miss America to retweet a blog I wrote about her. Actually schedule this heat check (maybe on Friday afternoon as a reward for a good work week?) and for that one-hour, think big – no, think huge! Go for it! You’re completely free to fail on this one with a big smile on your face and you never know – maybe, just maybe your shot will go in…and they’ll say ‘yes.’
Norm Schriever is an author, pro blogger, cultural mad scientist, and enemy of the comfort zone. His latest book, “South of Normal,” is a gonzo blast of laughter and adventure about a year living in the tropical paradise of Tamarindo, Costa Rica that has earned him a place on the Amazon.com best seller list and won a silver medal with the Nonfiction Book Awards. His first book, “Pushups in the Prayer Room,” is a wild, irreverent account of a year spent backpacking around the world. He currently lives in exotic southeast Asia, writing his heart out to tell the stories of the wonderful people there.
He sees his words as a way to illuminate the commonalities of human existence, and thereby hopes to leave this planet a little better than how he found it.
You can find him on Twitter @NormSchriever or visit his blog at NormWrites.com/blog.
If you like this blog post, you’ll love the recordings from our previous Nonfiction Writers Conference events. Check it out!