As we approach the final pages in this series of tips for new writers, I’ve been pondering what the last two most important tips should be. Topics so far have been:
- Write for Yourself First (and others second)
- Getting the Writing Done Is Your Responsibility
- Quantity Rather Than Quality (Initially)
- Expanding Your Creative Horizons
- Read, Read and Read Some more
- Invest In Some Good Books On Writing
- Find Some Writing Buddies
- Feed Your Creative Soul
So this is as good a time as any to raise the issue of courage. Writing – and continuing to write – requires loads of it. According to the Oxford Dictionary, the meaning of courage is what is in one’s mind; purpose; desire; inclination. It also mentions boldness and spirit and finally, The quality of character which shows itself in facing danger undaunted or in acting despite fear or lack of confidence.
All these definitions relate to writing. When we write what is truly in our hearts and minds, when we follow our true desires and inclinations with a sense of boldness and with great spirit, it shines through in the words we put on the page. We have to be courageous enough to be honest, to write what we feel and see rather than what we think we should write. We have to be strong enough to weather any storms our writing creates in our relationships or in our readership. This can be difficult. Writing memoir, or describing something that is painful for others to read can be daunting and we may have to weigh up whether the impact of our words is more than we are prepared to handle. But being open in our writing can sometimes give others the permission to be open too and can encourage them to share their own memories or experiences.
Writing our way through our own memories can be harrowing but it can also be cathartic and can help to give us a new perspective on our lives. Exploring painful issues in our fiction can create a deeper understanding for ourselves and for others.
While writing is not in itself a dangerous exercise there are very few writers who haven’t faced a crisis of confidence or who haven’t had to steel themselves before showing their words to others, whether that be a few carefully selected individuals or a wider group of readers. It takes courage to share our writing, courage to listen to the feedback we receive and courage to choose the advice that resonates with us and discard the rest. But if we take the leap we reap the reward of connecting with our readers, and of improving our craft which is (or should be) our ultimate goal.
And then there’s the courage needed to pick ourselves up and get our work back out there after it’s been rejected. Reading those words it’s not what we’re looking for right now from a publisher or agent never seems to get any easier. Nor does the suggestion that this is one person’s opinion and others might see it differently. While this is absolutely correct, it never seems to be anything but conciliatory on the first reading. Some wallowing time – and a good glass of red – usually helps and if we do want to see our words in print we have to muster up the courage to send off another submission while we get on with our writing life.
Writers are some of the most courageous people I know.
How do you find the courage to keep writing despite the perils?