Courage

It seems like, lately, I’ve been having a lot of conversations with writers–online and off–about how to deal with all the unknowns of this writing thing. In particular, Mary-Francis Makichen’s blog post “You Can’t Win if You Don’t Play” really caught me.

What unknowns am I talking about?

  • Whether your story idea is any good
  • Whether you can turn this story idea into a FINISHED book
  • If you’re even working on the right project
  • Whether that book will be good enough to get an agent or editor
  • Whether, even if that book is good enough, it will find a home
  • How long you should keep querying (see Jessica Faust’s post on this topic)

I could go on. I do believe that it isn’t only pre-published authors who deal with these questions. Yes, maybe, the belief in possibilities comes a little easier once you’ve done it before, but I don’t think it completely wipes out the worry.

You hear all sorts of ideas/opinions about how to get through or around these worries, how to keep writing despite them. Determination. Education. BIC. I’d like to add a new word to the pot.

Courage.

Yeah, I know, in some ways we have it good. We are doing something we love, playing with words, fashioning something new out of the ones we put on the page. I’m lucky–I get to spend the bulk of my day’s hours in this pursuit, sometimes in pajamas, sometimes on the couch. And, even when it’s exasperating and frustrating and confusing, there really isn’t anything else I’d pick. I think most writers feel this way.

This doesn’t mean it’s easy. One of the hardest things about writing is NOT having short-term positive feedback. Sometimes, we don’t even have long-term feedback.

It’s kind of like when Wile E. Coyote runs off the cliff. Except we’re not clueless like Wile. We actually know the cliff is there. We hope that when we step off, we’ll keep going, maybe even climb higher into the sky, but we know there’s a real risk this won’t happen. Yet we keep running.

This takes courage.

So, for today, pat yourself on the back and give yourself a treat. An extra piece of chocolate, a hot cup of tea, a new book. And then take a breath of bravery and get back to work. πŸ™‚

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26 thoughts on “Courage

  1. Beautiful blog post. My coauthor and I know exactly how you feel. We’re able to give each other feedback and that helps – but we too know we’re running towards a cliff. We’re just planning to do the “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” thing.

    Good luck with your writing!

    Evelyn

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  2. Great post! I’ll add another word: TRUST. It is far from easy. But at some point, you just have to trust what feels right and go for it. And maybe that won’t be the one that gets published, but maybe it’ll lead you to the one that does. And even after you’re published, there’s a lot you don’t have control over, and so it keeps coming back to TRUST. If what you’re doing feels right in your gut, keep doing it!

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  3. I’m fortunate to have a great writers group to critique what I’m writing. They’ve saved me from stubbing my toe on many occasions. Courage probably says it well, but what would I be doing if I wasn’t writing?

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    • beckylevine says:

      Yes, obviously,I think critique groups are wonderful! And, right, I’m not sure I could stop writing–life would be pretty dull. πŸ™‚

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  4. For me courage is not the writing part—the starting, continuing and finishing. Instead it is more about having the personal drive and willingness to take the next step of trying to get the product on the street. You know, the querying, submitting, refining, re-submitting, in hopes of publication, without knowing whether a single copy will be bought—well, at least after the ten copies my Mom buys to place in a time capsule in her backyard.

    I suppose there is a risk of sending something out that should never see the light of day, much less an editor’s desk. Maybe after the 300+ rejections, my previously thin skin has thickened to the point where I’m not paying enough attention to the things that would improve my chances. Maybe I’ve grown so insensitive to critical feedback about some obvious flaw in my plot line or that I have somehow neglected to introduce my mc, that I am stuck in my own time warp, hurling through space on a two-dimensional pane of glass, like the villains in the last Superman movie—or it may have been the one before that one….

    Back to reality. In truth, the thing I fear most is the realization that time is a far too limited resource and that I’m not using it effectively. Perhaps the courage I need is to be surgically selective in how I spend my time in the pursuit of my writing craft—including all the networking and promotion—without feeling like I am shorting my many associates by not giving them their due.

    Should I set all my groups on “digest”? If I do, will I ever actually take the time to catch up with everything going on in the lives of my writing posse? Should I respond to every comment on Facebook and Jacketflap and Authors Den? Should I take the plunge into Twitterville and tweet my last remaining moments of creative time into international cyberspace?

    I suppose a presumptive leap may be required about whether I still have some modicum of creativity left. Then, again, what’s to doubt? After all, I did start a blog a few months ago although, come to think of it, I can’t recall when I blogged last.

    That’s a little disturbing. How could I let my blog slip away like that? Don’t I owe my readership some thoughtful commentary from time to time? I do have readership, don’t I? Pardon me while I muster the courage to check on that….

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  5. beckylevine says:

    Wow, your mom buys TEN copies??! πŸ™‚

    Yes, Bill, I get that sense, too, that time is too short and what if I’m using it wrong. I think this may go back to what Cheryl said above, trying to listen to yourself and trusting that you might (sometimes!) be on the right path. Good luck!

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  6. Suzanne Morrone says:

    I call it jumping off a cliff. I’ve heard others call it “showing up”. To live a life devoted to art one must try and try again even where there is no evidence that trying will lead anywhere. Even a person who has written a best seller must once again face the blank page, and worse, face the fact they may never have the same success again.
    But then we have to define success. And to me it’s those with the courage (or we sometimes wonder if it’s stupidity) and the faith to blindly fly into space, following that story, that image that must be brought to life.

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    • beckylevine says:

      That’s what Mary-Frances’ post was about–how to define success. She’s defining it, for now, as staying in the game. Which I think is pretty on target.

      Thanks for coming by, Suzanne.

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  7. Avigail Halberg says:

    I love the coyote analagy and yes my spelling is atrocious but then we don;t have coyotes in New or Australia. Its the analagy I’m concerned about. Like my writing. I find its so easy to obcess about stuff which may not make that much difference. Just do it jump off that cliff. You know he always gets up again.

    When I was facing something huge once I was coming down an elevator in a shopping mall saw the National Geographic shop decided on a peak just in case there was something I needed oh the ways I can procrastinate. Nothing until I was leaving when a huge poster of a lion faced me. The caption read : Courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to move anyway.

    I woke the other day determined yet mid afternoon was back in bed feelign scared. The phone rang. A chat with a friend sorted me its rejection you’re afraid of. He was right but like the coyote who always gets up again so will I. The phone did it that time, another time it will be something else.

    Today I leave a dream house for any artist and I am not a little sad. I found myself crying on the back deck. But there are other dream houses out there, other places to write. I decided this morning to buy a car and do some travelling get out of Melbournes winter for a while (whenever I feel like it really). I could even sublet my little writing room there are ways to do anything. Write my own script. Maybe ultimately thats what courage is. Its the owning it which takes the real courage. A writer though can write their way out of anything.

    Bon voyage
    Avigail

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    • beckylevine says:

      Avigail, the coyote does keep getting up, and I think you’re working hard at doing the same. Good luck and best wishes!

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  8. Shawna says:

    What a great post. Thank you. We all need this reminder from time to time.

    Sometimes I wonder why I ever started doing this… and then I remember there is nothing else I’d rather be doing. Besides, I can’t not write, you know?

    All you can do is take that next step.

    Thanks again.

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    • beckylevine says:

      I started doing it, because I held a book I loved in my hands and wanted to create one of my own. That’s never changed.

      Next step, and the next one…

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