Questions and Chaos

Life in the 21st Century

The Courage to Write

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


“Be a writer.” has always been my answer to the question “What do you really want to do?” It was my real answer, even when different words came out of my mouth.  However, I didn’t really believe this was genuinely possible for me and there were plenty of people to tell me so. I once even took a writing class from someone who spent most of the class talking about how little money we would have to learn to live on if we wanted to write. I stayed with typing for a living.

Then along came the internet. It was free. Writing a blog was simple – no publisher, editor or permission needed. This was when I discovered the real reason for not being a writer. It was fear, big fear. I discovered I was afraid of writing in public even more than speaking in public. When you speak in public what you say may be forgotten in a few hours. When you write in public it is there forever. Even compliments made me feel queasy. I went back to typing. I believed that “Fear means I am not a writer.”

At some point in the last few years I read the book:

The Courage to Write – How Writers Transcend Fear  — by Ralph Keyes

He writes about all the various fears experienced by writers both famous and beginner.  He illustrates real life examples of  fears about beginning a project, fears about publishing, fears about critics, fears about being ignored, fears about success and fears about failure

Even Margaret Atwood, icon of Canadian literature is quoted in the book:

“You need a certain amount of nerve to be a writer,” said Margaret Atwood, “an almost physical nerve, the kind you need to walk a log across a    river.” 

Now, here is a whole book that contradicts my belief, “Fear means I’m not a writer.”

We’re taught in writing class that clarity, truth and personal honesty are what make good writing – precisely the characteristics that make one feel exposed in public. I realize this statement  could be equally true: “Fear means I am a good writer.” Honestly, fear doesn’t mean anything about what kind of writer I am. What matters is what I believe and how that affects me.

There is one particular line from the book that has been haunting me:

“…you should write as if you were already dead and it no longer mattered what anyone said about you.”

 I’ve reached an age where I can no longer pretend that I have my whole life ahead of me. Each year I feel the possible allotment shrinking. Now it comes down to the simple — do or not do. How do I want to spend the rest of my days?  Someday I will be dead anyway. Here’s to living and here’s to writing.


Spring 2013

Saturday, May 18, 2013