Scared? Nervous? Good.

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage. -Anaïs Nin

For my inaugural Inkpunks post, I wanted to talk about something that every writer struggles with, probably at every stage of their career.

Courage.

I bet at this point, you’re nodding sadly. If only you were a little braver, you’re thinking, your path would be clear and fame and fortune would come flooding your way.

Maybe. But I’d like to offer a different perspective. If you’re setting out on a writing career, you’re a lot more courageous than you give yourself credit for.

We writers dig deep down into the loam of our souls and drag up things most people prefer to leave buried. We unearth misshapen dreams with nasty dangling bits and let everyone know what we find. With as much honesty as possible. Oh sure, we fix it up, change the names of the guilty, process it through many filters — but we commit how we see the world to paper, and fervently hope that millions will read it. Don’t tell me that doesn’t take guts.

Making the time to write is no picnic, either. Developing your ideas and honing your craft means saying “no” to a lot of other things. Friends don’t always get why you want to spend some Friday nights at home. Even your family may weary of your long hours at the keyboard. You’ve negotiated, cajoled, and compromised to get that time to yourself. But even if you have the most understanding partner in the world (and I do) you’ve had to look them in the eyes and say “I can’t go out for ice cream tonight. Not if I want to hit my wordcount.”

Many of us writers are introverts, distinctly uncomfortable in a crowd or among a group of unfamiliar people. Yet we’re driven to seek out others in our community. We form writers groups and expose our darlings to critique. We attend workshops where the pressure is intense, and give readings where we—gasp!—share our work with complete strangers. We even submit our work to editors despite the odds that we’ll probably just hear “no thanks,” this time. Then we take that story and send it back out to find a different home—again and again until it does. If we’re lucky, an editor will buy our stories, and then everyone in the world can read our words.

And some of them write reviews.

If you’re reading this blog, then you’ve probably done most of these things already. That means you’ve got the chops. So push the boundaries. Do more. Find new opportunities. Scared? Nervous? Good. It means you’re doing it right. Dig deeper with every new story you write. Attend a convention even if you don’t know anyone. Submit your stuff to that top market. Introduce yourself to your favorite author at a reading. Write despite the obstacles. Your courage will be there when you need it.

You’re braver than you think.

 

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  • Seconded! I think I’ve done everything on that list at the end – and more – over the past few years, despite being quite introverted, and it’s been a huge boost to my fledgling career. Fortunately the SFF community is very small and friendly, so don’t be scared – dive in!

    • Excellent point, Anne! The SFF community has been an amazing source of support for me. I don’t think I could be half as brave without it. 🙂 

  • I think this is an enormous part of it all. You’d have to be foolishly courageous to even think of being a writer. It’s a terrible decision — financially, emotionally, and socially. And yet we go on, looking for that glimmer of light. Perhaps none of us really have a choice; that’s what I keep telling myself: You’d be doing something else, if that’s what you were supposed to be doing.

    • Thanks for you comments, Alex! I certainly wonder sometimes if wanting to be a writer is some sort of mania! 😛 But in the end,  we still have to make reasoned choices about how proactive we’re going to be in our careers. All dreams and passions carry significant risk (creative or otherwise), and it’s worth remembering those reserves of strength we forgot we had. Good luck with your writing!

  • RudeMorgue

    Well said!

  • Great post, Andy! (and again, welcome to the Inkpunks!!) <3