Walt Disney said, “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” I definitely believe that courage plays a huge part in writing. First, there is the courage that is needed to go to the empty page. We have to silence the voices that tell us we can’t. There is courage needed to be authentic and vulnerable. As Ernest Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at the typewriter and bleed.” If a scene I write doesn’t make me feel, then I know I need to work harder, go deeper, explore more. My particular rule for writing—If it doesn’t scare me, there’s no power. When what you’re writing starts to scare you, it’s usually a sign that you’re being real. When you start to worry about what others will think, that is the writing that will affect people the most. You’ve finally tapped into raw emotion and that’s a really good thing in fiction.
Next, there is the courage it takes to get better. Critique groups and conferences are usually involved. But if you take this leap of faith, you’ll find that you really enjoy it. You’ll meet people just like you—your tribe. These writers will become your friends for life and be your best ledge talkers. Because every writer needs to be talked off the ledge at one point or another. They help you believe in yourself when you’ve lost hope and the road is long.
There is also courage needed to finish a book. Sometimes you have to get up early just to write. Sometimes you stay up late. Months go by and people question what you’re doing. You start to wonder if all the hours you’re pouring into your book will come to anything. Insane amounts of caffeine may be consumed. But then, there comes a point when you can’t live without the writing. You look up at the clock and the hours don’t matter any more. A smile comes when you get a phrase just right. You start to dream your story. It, and its characters come alive. The story is part of you now. You breath it and it breathes you. You begin to believe that someday it will make a difference. Amidst a feeling of unparalleled euphoria, you finally type THE END.
Now comes the scariest part of all, and a step that requires a great deal of courage. You know your story is good. You’ve laughed, you’ve cried . . . In other words, your writing has made you feel, and therefore it will do the same for others. You’re going to put this baby out into the world and believe that something will happen. You know there’s a chance you’ll get rejected, but hey, you’ve read accounts of how all the greats went through that too. And now, since you went through all those dark hours that required courage, your finger hovers over the send button and you know that you can. So you press it. And then you’re feeling all happy and light, but then in about 2.5 seconds you’re kind of terrified. And then you have to go gather your courage again.
But, this is what we do. We’re the brave ones. We tell stories, and that is no small thing. If you’re on the fence about submitting, just employ that thing you’re so good at already—courage. Here’s a secret: I almost didn’t enter Operation First Novel last year, but at the last minute, I hit send.
You can do this. Go change the world.