The definition of the word escapes us. We think bravery and courage are the warrior, cop or firefighter charging in, kicking ass and taking names, leaping into action at the slightest hint of danger, to serve, save and protect.
In truth, courage doesn’t mean fearless. Courage is what we show when we are afraid but we do it anyway.
Courage in daily life can be large, as in pulling someone from burning wreckage, or small, when you make an effort to smile at a coworker instead of snapping on a hellish day. Courage is standing up for your beliefs, even if it makes you unpopular. It’s saying “I don’t like what you said” when someone makes a remark you find offensive. It’s apologizing when you do that yourself, and admitting you made a mistake.
Writers have to have courage to start their careers. Countless writers never send in their work, or even show it to anyone because they are afraid. They make up excuses not to do so, and sometimes they even write secretly to avoid the questions. It’s perfectly okay to do it for yourself if that’s what makes you happy. But if you have any intention of being published, then you must take yourself in hand and do what you can to improve your work, and put it out there. You have to, because no one ever published a trunk novel that stayed in the trunk. I must say, I’ve read a lot of novels that should have stayed in the trunk!
I talked to someone recently who writes and shows it to no one but her husband. He thinks she’s great. She has the fear greeblies, however, and some of them look like the following. To her and others who may be on the fence, here are my recommendations:
- It’s not edited. Some people think they need a professional editor to work on their material. That’s an option but it’s an expensive one, if you want to hire someone good. Learning to edit is part of your craft and there are numerous books out there that can help you. Do your research and acquire this valuable skill. You don’t need to pay anyone; you can (and should) polish your own work.
Check out Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown and Dave King and Write Tight by William Brohaugh. I noticed you can get a used copy of the first one for $1.23. Even I can afford that, and I’m flat broke right now. These books are a good start.
Eventually, you may join a writer’s group and put your work out there for critiquing. There are writers’ forums online if you can’t find a group in your area. Scary, but necessary. A good group will help you grow and can point out things you don’t see, in a nonconfrontational manner.
- I don’t know anything about publishing. Again, there are tons of source material out there. I have recommended several websites in other posts. Google it; no one is keeping this information from you.
- I don’t know anything about marketing. Well, neither do I, but I’m trying to learn. You don’t need a degree in it to build a platform for your writing career and again, there are tons of helps. How to Get Happily Published by Judith Applebaum has a great deal of marketing information for writers. I actually had to buy this for a class and hung on to it.
- I sent out a query and no one replied / they said no / I got a form letter. Yes, this happens. You can learn how to do this too. Even a great query might not sell your book. Maybe it’s not the right time for that book, or maybe it’s not the right book for you. Go on to the next one and try again.
Most of the fear comes from ignorance. The more you learn, the more confident you’ll become. Fear can’t control you if you know how to handle it. Things aren’t as scary if you know what to do. That’s why people are urged to practice disaster preparedness. And it applies to any situation, not just writing.
If there was a time when you managed to do something despite your fear, please share your tale of courage with us in the comments.
Can’t argue with anything you said here. These are very good observations and good suggestions about what to do.
Tossing It Out
Arlee, I haven’t read any of this person’s stuff, but she says she loves to write. I did tell her that if she likes writing only for herself, that’s fine too. No one HAS to publish anything. You should do what makes you happy and fulfilled. But if you want to, there’s plenty of how-to out there, thanks to other writers who have made the journey and share tips with the rest of us, and agents who do the same.
Totally agree with your explanation of courage.
Thank you Wanda!